U.S.-Chinese Relations: Perilous Past, Pragmatic Present by Robert G. Sutter; Plymouth: Rowman and Littlefield, 2010 ; 340 pages.
The Dragon and the Elephant: China, India and the New World Order by David Smith; London: Profile Books, 2007; 272 pages.
China in Africa by Chris Alden; London: Zed Books, 2007; 176 pages.
“Let China sleep, for when the Dragon awakes, she will shake the world.”
– Napoleon Bonaparte
The Twenty First century is often hailed by many as the Chinese century because of its economic, political and military rise. It has become the largest economy in the world with the GDP worth $17.6 trillion. So for the first time since 1872 the US has been knocked off the top spot. The rise of China has raised many eyebrows and lots of scholars these days are interested in examining the reasons of its progress and its relationship with other countries. After the death of revolutionary Mao Zedong, China has adopted liberal economy and it is becoming more open to other countries. China is no longer indifferent and arrogant towards world politics. Slowly and gradually China is trying to exert its influence to other countries. China not only reacts today but also tries to act. As a rising power its relationship with other countries largely shapes the order of world politics. So, many scholars have written articles and books regarding the relationship of China with other countries. The books which are going to be discussed in this review are U.S.-Chinese Relations by Robert G. Sutter, The Dragon and the Elephant by David Smith and China in Africa by Chris Alden.
The relationship between China and America is neither that simple it appears nor that complex it is believed. China and America regard each other as competitors in some issues whereas partners on other issues. The relationship between these two countries becomes antagonistic when their national interests are under threat and they become cooperative for their shared interests. Robert G. Sutter, in his book U.S.-Chinese Relations, provides us with the multiple facets of Sino-U.S. relationship. He shows how engagements between these two countries have undergone various ups and downs in the course of two hundred years of formal or informal bilateral relationship. He brings forth the idea that though they have huge differences and suspicions, they have been able to skilfully handle the situation to avert any untoward situation. The book is full of historical details and its assesses the relationship and engagements between these two in the most important point of time like World War II, Cold War, Tiananmen Square killings of anti government protestors etc. The book also analyzes the contentious issues of security, environment, economics, Taiwan and human rights. The author claims that though they have differences in many issues, officials from both countries don’t get involved in public discussion of contentious issues between them two. China is suspicious of American role in Tibet, their attempt of splitting Tibet from mainland China and their effort to promote regime change whereas America thinks China as a currency manipulator which is trying to have upper hand due to unfair trade means. This book gives the historical accounts of the relationship, its present status and future prospects in a very comprehensive and insightful analysis.
Robert G. Sutter begins the book by tracing back the historical accounts of the relationship between the two nations. Christian missionaries and tradesmen were the first American visitors of China in the late 18th century and the beginning of 19th century. American interest on China at that time was largely shaped by profit in business and they were able to get advantage of the Treaty System which provided them the privilege of staying in China under the American law and jurisdiction. The Great Britain and France had earlier forced the ruling Qing dynasty to agree on giving the rights of extraterritoriality to foreigners by which Americans were also benefitted. During the World War II America supported the nationalist government of Chiang Kai-shek against Japan. The nationalist received every types of support from America like training, funding, logistics etc. Japan was defeated in World War II and America did not pay any attention on China. As a result the Communists under the leadership of Mao Zedong found it very easier to wage a violent revolution against Nationalist government. The Nationalist government was already weak by war and other domestic problems. It could not resist the Communist revolution and collapsed. After the establishment of People’s Republic of China, the communists saw America as an “imperialist force’’ and strengthened relation with Russia. Soon after a decade there came a problem between China and Russia on ideology. Chinese establishment did not like the “revisionist” strategy of Khrushchev who denounced Joseph Stalin. Then there was an ideological war between Soviet communists and Chinese communists. At the same time there was Cold War between America and Russia. Amidst this scenario the then U.S. President Richard Nixon tried to cash the differences between Russia and China. President Nixon tried to normalize the hostility between America and China and was successful to a larger extent.
China’s foreign policy is often guided by the strong sense of nationalism and it is suspicious that America is trying to impose its policies in China’s internal politics.
These days they have economic interdependence and huge trade between these two nations. Though they are economically connected these both countries still see each other with suspicion and they both try to maintain their influential position by trying to reduce others power. The author says everything is running smooth between these two on surface but there is a hidden trust deficit. In this tug of war China is aggressive building military capabilities for warfare with the facade of peaceful military modernization and America is defensive contemplating only on how to engage China if confrontation happens. The author asserts his notion that the problem of America with China is that it tries to impose its norms and values which are in stark contrast with China’s realities. He says this approach as “value based American approach”. The historical experiences show that “U.S. exceptionalism”, the tendency of seeing every activity in morally correct terms, undermines the negative impacts of America’s action on Chinese interests. Another problem Sutter sees is that American policy on China is influenced to a larger extent by non-state actors. Non-state actor’s role in policy formulation is sometimes a hindrance for the smooth functioning of sound relation between these countries. On the other hand America’s presence in its periphery worries China. It sees America as trying to interfere in its internal affairs particularly Tibet. China’s foreign policy is often guided by the strong sense of nationalism and it is suspicious that America is trying to impose its policies in China’s internal politics.
In the last part of the book, the author talks about the issues of security, environment, economy and human rights in the contemporary Sino-US relationship. The author opines that America has been successful in convincing the Chinese authorities to conform to international norms and practices in security, economic and environmental issues. For example, China has adopted free market economy and has joined WTO reforming the major economic policies. It is also signatory to various environmental pacts and conventions. But, the author brings home the idea that Sino-US relationship for a long time has been overshadowed by the characteristic differences on the issues of human rights. America has not been able to convince China for the proper treatment of human right abuses. Since the starting of Sino-US relationship, both countries have managed to sort out the differences on the issue of human rights and have not let it to hinder the bilateral relationship. There are some exceptions as well. The author says at times when one of them has raised the issue of human rights their relationship has become sour. He gives the example of America’s criticism on Tiananmen crackdown in 1989 followed by a very tense relation between these two for some time. So, they have the thrown the issues of human rights in backburner in the name of maintaining healthy relationship. The author has very artistically presented the every aspects of Sino-US relationship with the in depth study of inner realities. I found the book to be balanced and impartial though it is written by an American writer. As both countries are engaged with their internal and external problems, he does not see any major breakthrough in their relationships in some of the decades to come.
David Smith in his book The Dragon and the Elephant examines the economic rise of China and India and their influence in the global arena. The rise of these two economic heavyweights has become a matter of concern and at the same time people are questioning on the sustainability of their growth. The author brings forth the explanation of their growth, the curiosity among the Americans and the Europeans on the impacts they have created and the challenges it poses to the west. He also tries to project on how the future of the world order will be shaped, the inherent contradictions in their growth and the how they will be able to manage their economy. As power is gradually tilting towards east, people should be able to grasp the basic opportunities, challenges and implications of the rise of these two countries.
The author begins by the assessment of Chinese rise in the decade of 1980s and Indian rise in the decade of 1990s. In the leadership of Deng Xiaoping Chinese economy grew rapidly. The economic growth rate since that time has been consistently about 10 percent every year. The world saw the China’s entry into the world market economy and its industrialization. China’s import and export in the year 1978 was only 10 percent of its GDP in comparison of 30 percent in 2002. Now it is the largest economy in the world in terms of GDP. India became the leading IT service provider towards the end of 1990s. India’s rise in IT sector gave enough room for the debate of business outsourcing by which American labour market was severely threatened. The author goes on to provide the scenario of 2004 US presidential election on which the problem of outsourcing became a topic for discussion. Smith tries to show how the political situation impacts the economic growth of a particular country. He brings the reference of Deng Xiaoping’s policy for more open economy and its undercurrents in Chinese economy. Similarly, after the killing of Rajiv Gandhi in 1991 followed by an economic crisis and political instability, the Indian general mood was so depressed that it had hindrances in the Indian economy. They managed to cope with the situation and gradually India was heading towards economic growth.
Taking China as dragon and India as the elephant Smith goes on to make a claim that as 19th century was the century of Europe, 20th century was the century of America and 21st century will be the century of Asia. Then he goes on to consider various factors to assess the future of these two economies and their impacts on global economy. First factor he brings forth is the demography. These both countries each have the population of more than 1 billion and in the 2050 also no other country will have the population of 1 billion. But, the patterns of population will be different in these countries. India will have more working age of population in comparison to China by 2050. In this sense, India has advantage over China but the condition is that they should be educated and more skilled. Then he goes on to doubt whether the people of China and India will be able to have enough purchasing power. If they do not have enough purchasing power the rapid economic growth will go in vain. It will increase the inequality of income which can be very much harmful for their sustainable growth. In the global level the very small number of their people will be able to interact if the people have a very low level of income. The next factor is the pressure on resources due to the increasing level of demand. As they will be heading towards more industrialization, that will increase the demand on natural resources especially oil. This will subsequently hinder their economic growth.
Most of the books on economics do not discuss the economic phenomenon of a very long time .They begin to lose the charm and vitality after some years because economics itself is a very vibrant and dynamic subject. This book is an exception. This book can be read after many years from now because it has given a very vivid historical account dating back to 2000 years and it has that futuristic appeal that this book can be read after many years of its publication. The author has given ample examples and data to validate his argument. He is consistent with the theme. He is not deviated from the main vantage point. He uses the predictive tone in telling what will be the scenario of global economy in 2050 and in what ways China and India will impact the world. The language is simple for even a layman to understand the book. It is a must read for those interested in the rise of two Asian giants.
Chris Alden’s China in Africa provides us with a new viewpoint on the growing interest of China in the African continent. West often criticizes the China presence in the region as being motivated by the natural resources and the market for its growing economy. The West sees it as a growing threat on their hitherto influence and domination of the region. The African region is also happy with the Chinese aid and investment in the region. What is behind all these Chinese- African partnership? How can we characterize the relationship between them- as of partner, competitor or colonizer? What is the real intention of China’s presence in the region? The author tries to answer all these questions in a detail. He says that China’s growing interest in the region is for balancing the western influence in Africa and all these three categories overlap. We have to see it on the basis of every singular context.
The author is of the opinion that China’s carefully constructed foreign policy of “rayonnement” or overarching brilliance is the employment of diplomatic channels and investments in Africa with the aim of mainting balance with western powers in the region. China also wishes to develop a long term relationship with Africa for it has a huge market. For this China puts the relation between them in term of historical associations and ties of solidarity distinguishing it from other Western powers. The Africa has positively taken this Chinese generosity and they think that they will be benefited without compromising their sovereignty. This has led to the breaking of western monopoly in the region. Chinese think the relationship is based on mutual cooperation and they have found a good market for their goods and the environment is investment friendly. The author even goes on to claim that China has got “a degree of apparent impunity” in Africa as the region is comfortable in accepting China as they think that aid from China is without any form of neo colonialism or the intervention on their sovereignty.
In the title of the section entitled “The Chinese in Africa: capitalist, comrades and carpet-baggers”, the author says the Chinese presence in the region is an easy access for Chinese goods in the African region. Africans are getting cheap goods although they are of not so good quality. The Chinese Multi National Corporations have invested a huge amount of money in Africa. Over eight hundred Chinese forms are now active in the African economy with the investment of billions of dollars. This has led to the export of Capitalism in the words of the author. The figure of trade between Africa and China in 2000 was 10 billion dollars. In 2006 it was increased to 55 billion dollars and in 2013 it was 200 billion dollars in comparison to the trade of America with Africa which was 85 billion dollars. The Chinese investment has also brought many negative impacts in the region like environmental destruction, rise of corruption, obstacle in the effective implementation of new law etc. Similarly, the flow of Chinese migrants has increased rapidly in the African region. This has posed a great threat in the cultural environment of the region. The author questions the Chinese doctrine of “non interference” and adds that this flow of migrants has drawn China into African politics.
China has got “a degree of apparent impunity” in Africa as the region is comfortable in accepting China as they think that aid from China is without any form of neo colonialism or the intervention on their sovereignty.
The Africa is gradually becoming dependent on China for trade and investment. China’s foreign policy on Africa is designed in such a way that they try to capture the elites and resources in a very subtle manner. They portray themselves as “noninterventionist” and the Americans as “interventionists”. This portrayal of themselves as noninterventionist is their strategy of breaking Western domination in African market. African response can be roughly divided in three types with as many regime types in the region. Three types of regimes- dictatorship(pariah regime), illiberal regime or weak democracy and democracy with diversified economy- see the Chinese involvement in the region very differently. For dictators, China is a welcome force as it is the easy source of foreign investment and assistance. China does not care about the type of regime as they say they have the policy of non-intervention whereas America does not find it comfortable to deal with dictators. This policy of China has given it an advantage over America in the African market. For example, since 1996, over 15 billion dollars has been invested by China in Sudan, mainly in oil industry and infrastructure related projects. Another example is Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe’s “look East Policy” in 2005 was an attempt to lure Chinese and other Asian investment in their country as it was facing International sanctions since 2002. As Robert Mugabe was not willing to have political reforms, America and its ally’s implemented sanctions followed by the freefall of Zimbabwean economy. The investment dried up and the regime began to search for new partner and got China as it does not have any problem with the authoritarian regime.
Regarding the reaction of the west, the author says that America is not happy with the involvement of China in Africa. They not only see it as their competitor’s growing influence in the region but also as the strategic policies of China. America views China as being interested only in the natural resources of the region and its support for the dictators will harm the progress made in democratization and good governance. The countries like Britain, France, and Japan also share the same views as of America. Not only the countries but also the NGOs and INGOs like World Bank, European Development Bank, OECD are shocked and amazed by this “sudden” and “unexpected” involvement of China in Africa. So for all the Sceptics in the West, the involvement of China in Africa is the signal of weakening dominance of the West in global arena. On the future of Chinese and African partnership, the author says it is all up to China on how to lead forward this relationship. If China is willing to adapt to African concerns and tries to make broader aims in the continent then the relationship will flourish in days to come. If china becomes guided by the narrow self interest then the relationship will perish. The language of the book is simple and artistic. Facts and figure are abundant which makes it easier for a reader to understand. The author also relies on charts and there is the clear division of chapters. Those who are interested on Chinese involvement in Africa and wants to know the multiple facet of this relationship, this book is the must read.
In a nut shell, the economic, military and political rise of China has made it interesting to see its relationship with different actors in the world. Its relationship with America is that of cooperation as well as competition at the same time. These both nations want to engage each other and want to become number one. Apparently there is smoothness in their relationship but in a latent level bitter rivalry is in progress. They are in fierce competition to influence the rest of the world. Likewise, China and India are the two Asian giants with a huge demography. Their unexpected and consistent growth has amazed many western countries. The westerners feel threatened by rising Asia. The relationship between China and India is going to shape the future world order to a very large extent provided that they are able to cope up with their inherent contradictions. The relationship between them two is also determined by mutual trust and the annihilation of interest. The Chinese presence in Africa is seen by the Westerners as the rise of new hegemony in the region but it is also guided by the motive of shared benefits and cooperation. The declining influence of the West in the African region is characterized by the growing investment and assistance of China. Is it the beginning of China’s on field diplomacy and openness gaining some results which will head it to the direction of becoming the number one power in the world? The answer is probably yes and there are many reasons to say so.
Binod Dhakal is a guest editor at Kutniti. He is a freelance researcher and has interest in post colonialism and new historicism.