Creating Enemies: A Self-Fulfilling Prophecy

There was an earlier comment to my post on ” China: an Indispensable Enemy?” It said: “Wrong. China surely has been behaving like an enemy and should be viewed as such. It’s time to quit pretending they’re not a hostile power.”

That short and brutal comment said, in effect, that we should create China as an “enemy.” Let’s be clear China is neither a shining light of democracy nor totally committed to a benign policy of engagement with the rest of the world. But at the same time, it is not a committed “enemy” or even fully a “hostile power.”

In fact, there is a internal debate in China about its role in the world and long-term relations with the West. There are those in China, like our blog commenter above, who also wish to create an “enemy” out of our country. They too are the “right wing” of their country.

But there are many within China, common citizens as well as key leaders who recognize that an antagonistic stance towards the world is not in China’s interest.  Increasingly as more and more Chinese experience the world and study abroad in the United States, they realize that such a negative stance does more damage to China’s place in the world than any gains following a conflict.

As we learned during the Cold War, policies of unremitting hostility lead only to death and destruction. In the case of the Soviet Union, forbearance, patience, and seeking areas of mutual cooperation and advantage especially in the areas of arms control and non-proliferation, resulted in avoiding an outright war and all its horrors. George Kennan the former Ambassador to Moscow who wrote the famous “X Article” for Foreign Affairs on how to deal with the former Soviet Union, made it clear that containment, and later in life constructive cooperation was the best approach. He was right.

The lessons here are a good option for America in dealing with China.  They are competitors clearly, but for this we have ourselves largely to blame as Secretary Hillary Clinton noted when she said: “If we stand on the sidelines and just complain and try to oppose whatever China is doing….and don’t deal with our own issues at home, I don’t know what the future will hold.” (Clinton in an interview with historian Michael Beschloss.)  Those who vote against an added stimulus, who don’t want to be taxed to advance productivity or put Americans back to work are the real enemies of American leadership and growth.

A number of mutually beneficial issues exist that require American and Chinese cooperation, including global climate change, non-proliferation, and global economic prosperity. China opposes us on some issues and supports us on others. They are helping on North Korea and they voted with us in the UN on enhanced sanctions against Iran and North Korea.  But they are also exerting their own prosperity and influence. The issue is finding a way to make our relationship benefit both sides through incentivizing responsibility and cooperation on global cooperation. We can be tough on some issues and cooperative on others. Using only the stick and never the carrot creates mutual antagonism and puts us on the path to war. How stupid can a policy be that goes down that road!

3 thoughts on “Creating Enemies: A Self-Fulfilling Prophecy

  1. Chuck Woolery November 6, 2010 / 1:54 AM

    China doesn’t need to be aggressive militarily. It is an extremely patient culture…and recognizes time is on it’s side. US domestic and foreign policies and planning that don’t go beyond a two year election cycle is our greatest weakness. Their form government can turn on a dime changing it’s policies immediately as needed, but sets it’s policy looking at the long run. Ours is just the opposite.
    Which one will win in the long run shouldn’t isn’t in question. The only question we need to answer is how will we change…or work for a global system that establishes a balance of power through the force of law…instead of continuing to rely on the law of force to solve problems.

  2. Richard Wright November 5, 2010 / 2:48 PM

    You are correct of course. Its, I think, a fact of life that China, like any other country will execute agendas that are not always in the best interests of the U.S., but this does not make China an implacable enemy. We just have to realize when dealing with other countries, their intersts and ours will not always be in sync.

    • Harry C. Blaney III November 10, 2010 / 4:10 PM

      I strongly agree that the Chinese agenda, first and foremost, will be tailored towards their own interests, not ours. Our task, overdue by decades, will be to help align their personal interests with that of the rest of the world.

      I do not ascribe to the theory that China will, in our lifetime, overtake the US and the West to become the most powerful nation with a hegemonic reach over the rest of the world. Their problems with uneven development will act as a major stumbling block in the near future. This is our game to lose; our relative influence will diminish compared to up-and-comers like China if we continue to turn our backs on the major global challenges of today and tomorrow.


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