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The Great Debate Begins over America’s Strategy in the Pacific

As the banana war between the Philippines and China dies down, Max Boot has some strong words for the Obama administration’s handling of the incident. He criticizes the U.S. decision to remain neutral between a regional friend and America’s chief competitor:

The Chinese leadership must figure they have a better chance to assert their claim by force majeure because there is no way a weak state like the Philippines can stand up to them.

The Obama administration did not orchestrate an international campaign to rally support for the Philippines. And it failed to take the most dramatic step of all by not sending an American destroyer or other warship to Scarborough Shoal.

Max clearly agrees with the administration’s turn eastward; he just thinks they’re messing it up. Like most Americans this side of Ron Paul, he sees further U.S. involvement in Asia as a good idea.

During the Cold War, policymakers argued endlessly over the finer points of our “containment” strategy: do we slip our allies quiet support, or do we really poke the Soviets in the eye this time? For a long time, the debate wasn’t about whether to contain the USSR but how to do it. In the coming years, we at Via Meadia expect an equally intense and crowded argument over exactly what America’s new role in the Pacific should look like.

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  • Luke Lea

    I’ve just started reading Will the Boat Sink the Water: The Life of China’s Peasants by husband and wife team Chen Guidi and Wu Chuntao. They grew up in rural China and went back to their home areas (in Anhui and Henan Provinces) to gather the amazing stories they tell in this book. Here is a link to the first one. Here is a seven year old review.

    My question is: how much have things changed in the countryside in the ten years since they did their reporting? In Capitalism with Chinese Chracteristics MIT economist Yasheng Huang made the point that most of the improvement in peasant living standards occurred during the first ten years (1979-1989) of economic liberalization. He mentioned that living standards had actually declined in the 1990’s when the Party’s focus shifted to the cities and its new export-led growth strategy finance by direct foreign investment but he did not say by how much.

    We all know by now that Chinese statistics are not to be trusted. Nobody really knows what’s going on in China. But there are signs — as in the selling of all those black Audis with tinted windows favored by Party officials — of a serious downturn in the Chinese economy. If this happens it can only intensify the “eating of bitterness” among the farming population. It will be a moment of truth for the Chinese Communist Party.

    If you read these stories of corruption and exploitation I think you will come to the conclusion I did, that we in the West are complicit if we don’t start making future economic relations with China conditional upon, not democracy so much as fundamental reform in the rule of law. Read these stories and you’ll see why the rule of law must come first. As it did in Taiwan and Singapore for example, and also in South Korea I presume.

    We worked for the freedom of the Jews in the old Soviet Union. Remember American policy makers? Why should we, you, care less about the peasantry of China? There are nine hundred million of them. They need us. I think we have a responsibility, a Christian responsibility in Mead’s case, a Jewish responsibility for those who are Jews, and I hope we all, Christians, Jews, believers and non believers alike, reassess our thinking in this area. Sometimes right can make might, when even real politik-ers see the light.

  • Jim.

    We need to develop the military capabilities of our allies — Australia and Japan in particular, but the Philippines and New Zealand as well — to the point that it’s not just American assets that are able to react quickly to Chinese moves.

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