Sublime and Beautiful

Mearsheimer Is Right about China…Well, Mostly

Posted in Uncategorized by chaoren on April 18, 2011

I recently read an interesting article by John Mearsheimer entitled “China’s Unpeaceful Rise“. In the article Mearsheimer takes a characteristically provocative stance. He dismisses any possibility of China growing robust while remaining the benign giant of East Asia. Rather, Mearsheimer asserts, China will seek hegemony in its region just as the U.S. did in the Western Hemisphere more than a century ago.
Although I appreciate Mearsheimer’s use of the United States as a hegemon case study, his overreliance on the single example mutes his otherwise incisive thesis. To me, the case for China’s unpeaceful rise could be made more cogently by pointing to the country’s outmoded political system. Authoritarian governments are flawed in many ways; and the 21st century, as we have seen, isn’t a hospitable milieu for such anachronisms. To put it tritely, history is not on the side of China’s Communist Party. It seems inevitable that the CCP will go the way of all Chinese dynasties. Corruption, irresponsiveness to its public’s needs, and outright incompetence will lead to the CCP’s demise either from within China or from outside the country. The latter possibility predicates a stronger China than currently exists. Hence, China’s rise, or more precisely China’s rise with the CCP at the helm, is what will lead to conflict. If China does not maintain its strong economic growth, the CCP probably won’t have the means or confidence to become involved in a serious international conflict (although, if it were in its death throes, it might use war as a means to distract its citizens from its own weakness).
At some point I will write more about this. I just wanted to give kudos to Mearsheimer for being ahead of the game. He published his China article in 2006 which was long before it became popular among political scientists and China hands to jump from the ‘economic engagement will solve everything cult’ to the ‘oh crap! What have we been doing for the past thirty years?! club’.

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