Sunday, December 12, 2010

HG's Anatomy of a Dragon

Chinese Dragon

Dragon Anatomy

The past couple of weeks I have been writing about Thomas Barnett's proposal for a bilateral plan that tries to eliminate the troublesome burrs and sharp thorns in the relationship between the United States and China; that history tells us has led to conflict in almost every case when two powers begin vying for economic dominance. I have been floating this proposal past a few of the astute minds I know, and have gotten a mixed bag of responses, ranging from guarded hope, to it will never lead to the kind of relationship we had with Great Britain. Nobody sees an open conflict since the old mutually assured destruction narrative looms over any nuclear armed power going to the mat. The best course of action at this time is let the idea percolate until it has had a chance to be tasted by the powers on both sides of the Pacific.

Gray's Anatomy

Part of understanding another country is knowing them from the inside. So taking my title and theme from Gray's Anatomy I will take a brief look at some of the major organs in the Sino-Dragon's body.

First of is the heart. in this case the heart of China is represented here in a new book Heart of Buddha, Heart of China by James Carter, Professor of History at Saint Joseph's University, in Philadelphia.

An excerpt of this work appeared on The China Beat: Blogging how East is Read and captures the essence of China's heart today.
The China of today, with its towering skyscrapers, high-speed trains and seemingly limitless economic potential, at first appears totally divorced from Tanxu’s world of ghosts and visions. As I retraced Tanxu’s steps, though, I found that the issues confronting China today are not so different from those that Tanxu observed one hundred years ago. Tanxu saw a weak and divided China, struggling to survive in the face of foreign invasion and internal division. Today, China is poised to be a world power, but the projection of strength disguises internal weakness. Dramatic changes to its economy, society, and culture threaten domestic stability, as coastal provinces develop rapidly but interior regions lag behind. In the past, Japanese invasions, European colonialism, and rural uprisings threatened social cohesion; today the threats are a frayed social safety net, masses of migrant workers, regional and ethnic tensions, and environmental degradation on an unprecedented scale. Now, as then, many Chinese find themselves wondering about their nation’s identity and future.

Read the whole excerpt
Heart of Buddha, Heart of China

Next we look at the gut of China, a visceral area best represented by the 1.4 billion souls whom claim heir to the middle kingdom's legacy. As noted, thirty short years ago 65% of the Chinese people were desperately poor, living on less than $1 per day. Today, that number has shrunk to single digits. Alongside that remarkable achievement came an effort to increase the number of college graduates to match the needs of an exploding economy. This next article looks at what happens when success in one area has led to growing pains as severe as any gastric cramp or gall stone.
....In 1998, when Jiang Zemin, then the president, announced plans to bolster higher education, Chinese universities and colleges produced 830,000 graduates a year. Last May, that number was more than six million and rising.
It is a remarkable achievement, yet for a government fixated on stability such figures are also a cause for concern. The economy, despite its robust growth, does not generate enough good professional jobs to absorb the influx of highly educated young adults. And many of them bear the inflated expectations of their parents, who emptied their bank accounts to buy them the good life that a higher education is presumed to guarantee.
“College essentially provided them with nothing,” said Zhang Ming, a political scientist and vocal critic of China’s education system. “For many young graduates, it’s all about survival. If there was ever an economic crisis, they could be a source of instability.”
Read the whole article to get an idea that having a degree in a country that has an excess in the millions, is no road to prosperity. The accounts of some of the estimated 100,000 college graduates living in conditions that almost rival their grandparents is sobering.

Read more:
China’s Army of Graduates Struggles for Jobs

No anatomical study would be complete without an examination of the brain. Our example is reflected in measuring how mature the Dragon's brain is in making decisions that reflect a mature country, or one still trying to find their tongue after being in a centuries long coma.

The remarkable crew over at Small Wars Journal, host Robert Haddick and the This Week at War column. Haddick presents evidence that China is still not the polished mature voice one would expect of a great power who spoke with the tone of self assurance and wisdom. This example is but several highlighting China's ham-handed diplomatic efforts.
On Dec. 6, the Washington Post's John Pomfret described Beijing's clumsy approach to South Korea in the wake of the North's hour-long artillery bombardment of Yeonpyeong Island. Four days after the attack, China sent State Councilor Dai Bingguo to Seoul, without an invitation or advanced notice. Upon landing, Dai demanded that South Korean President Lee Myung-bak abandon his schedule for the rest of the day in order to meet with him, which Lee refused to do. When the two met the following day, Dai told Lee to "calm down" and then delivered a history lecture on China-South Korean relations.
Dai's diplomatic bungling was startling. After his departure, Lee and his new defense minister adopted a policy of military retaliation against the North. Lee then sent his foreign minister to a policy coordination meeting with his U.S. and Japanese counterparts. The United States proceeded with large military training exercises with South Korea and Japan. Soon after that, the U.S. and South Korean governments unveiled a completed free-trade agreement. China's actions regarding North Korea have done wonders to bring together the United States and its Asian allies.
And this diplomatic brain fart, was revealed by Wikileaks.
China's self-inflicted diplomatic damage over North Korea now even extends to the Persian Gulf. According to a 2007 U.S. diplomatic cable revealed by WikiLeaks, the U.S. government requested that China stop a shipment of ballistic missile parts from North Korea to Iran that passed through Beijing. It is likely that the shipment identified in this cable was just one of many from North Korea that have passed through China on their way to Iran. Such shipments are in violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions targeting North Korea's weapons proliferation activities.
Read more:
This Week at War: China's North Korean Folly

I hope this little anatomy class has helped to understand what has been perceived as a dragon of such size and potential strength that history should quake with angst. But after one looks inside they see that the dragon is prone to ailments that prevent it from reaching it's full potential until they are cured.

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