A number of unfortunate stories out of Beijing these days, two being China promotes Taiwan-focused military officers and China rejects use of sanctions to resolve Myanmar crisis. While neither are new developments (the Communist Party has protected the Burmese junta and opposed Taiwanese democracy for some time), the decision to look to the past says little about the strategic wisdom of the Hu Jintao Presidency.
President Hu has not lived up to the high expectations set for him. In spite of personal squabbles with former President Jiang Zemin that just don’t end, the current generation of Chinese rulers are no more imaginative than the last. Things aren’t getting better with respect to China’s international behavior, but they aren’t getting worse, either.
A sensible approach would be to assume that China’s cautious glidepath toward development will remain unchanged. So we should keep growing trade links with China, and of course encourage helpful behavior from them. But we shouldn’t have naive dreams, either. China is developing, but she is not a democracy. She has people, but does not have the security experience of India. She has wealth, but does not have an ocean of free capital like Japan. She has culture, but nothing like the vibrant democracy of Taiwan or the captive city of Hong Kong.
American policy in western and central asia should focus on the economic integration of China and the security integration of Japan, Taiwan, and India.
In both cases, the prime obstacle is the Democratic Party. But that is a post for another time…