There are times in listening to world leaders that one wonders whether they are being simplistic, blind, naive or even duplicitous in their assessment of the world and its economy.
A recent case in point was when Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd visited Washington, chatted with US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and then spoke at the Brookings Institution. In his speech, Rudd stressed the importance of bringing China into international institutions. Rudd’s reason, of course, was that the world economy depended on it. This bears deeper examination.
First there is the question of why China needs to be brought into international institutions. China is not an international waif in the wilderness; China is already very actively involved in the world, spending billions to spread its influence and to gain access to oil, raw materials, etc. It is also already in most international institutions and if it is not, it at least has influence and leverage therein. So what does Rudd mean?
Rudd added that the world economy depends on China. What does that mean? Let’s leave aside for the time being that there are many other trouble spots that affect the world economy, like the Middle East, Afghanistan, Iraq, etc.
Rudd put it this way: “-Continued regional and global economic growth will depend on maintaining for the next 40 years the sort of strategic stability in the East that we have seen in the last 40 years.”
Again, while it remains open to question that there has been strategic stability in the East for the past 40 years, examine the question of why the dependence on China. The reason that the world economy depends on China is that other nations have created it that way. Somehow the world wants to have its cake and eat it too. China’s politburo offered China’s cheap labor and cheap manufacturing and everyone made money. China’s rulers made so much that they could buy US debt.
And now, of course, companies want also to have access to the 1.3 billion-person market in China; you know the slant: “If 1.3 billion people in China buy a toothbrush from you, you will be rich.” Is there a naivete here that this behemoth will then do the bidding of its creators?
Yet after creating a metaphorical 800 pound gorilla controlled by China’s politburo, Rudd states that bodies like the G20 and the East Asia Summit could put Beijing on the right path as its power grows and China has a formidable military force. Will China willingly listen to and allow weaker countries to put it on the right path to power?
Rudd answers again that all the world needs is to talk to China in terms of its philosophical tradition such as the nebulous word “harmony.” Ah yes, harmony; that is the word that Beijing’s leadership uses to squelch any dissenting voices to its autocracy.
Rudd seems to think that China’s idea of “harmony” is based on the same principles on which the word “harmony” is based in the West. Not so; the word may be the same and have the same spelling, but the paradigmatic assumptions on which each side bases the meaning of the word are worlds apart. Harmony for China is based on the hegemonic and hierarchical position of a central China dictating to vassal states around it. That is not the same world vision by which others incorporate the word harmony.
Rudd then says that China does have some issues regarding its assertiveness in territorial disputes in the South and East China Sea. Hello, go back and read China’s definition of harmony. This is only the tip of the iceberg.