Sunday, May 15, 2005

Robert Kagan: "The Illusion of 'Managing' China"

The Illusion of 'Managing' China: "The United States may not be able to avoid a policy of containing China; we are, in fact, already doing so. This is a sufficiently unsettling prospect, however, that we are doing all we can to avoid thinking about it. We conjure hopeful images of a modernizing China that seeks only economic growth and would do nothing to threaten commercial ties with us -- unless provoked -- even as we watch nervously the small but steady Chinese military buildup, the periodic eruptions of popular nationalism, the signs of Chinese confidence intermingled with feelings of historical injustice and the desire to right old wrongs.

Which China is it? A 21st-century power that wants to be integrated into a liberal international order, which would mean both a transformation of its own polity and a limitation of its strategic ambitions? Or a 19th-century power that wants to preserve its rule at home and expand its reach abroad? It is a worthy subject for debate, because the answer will determine the future as much as or more than anything we do. But it is unlikely we will have a definitive answer in time to adjust, to "manage" China's "rise," any more than our predecessors did. As in the past, we will have to peer into the fog and make prudent judgments, informed by the many tragic lessons of history."

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