China seems to be the flavor this month being focused upon after President Obama’s recent visit to Beijing. Much has been read on China in the media commentaries that have followed suggesting that United States global power is on the decline and that China is emerging as a global power with political influence equaling that of the United States. Suggested also is that the United States perforce will have to be growingly deferential to China and co-opt China as the United States’ strategic partner. All such summations are hurried journalistic exercises and do not take into account the prevailing strategic realities. Such summations are also inspired by those in the current US policy establishment who do not wish Russia to take the center stage in global affairs again. No wonder many in the United States advocating a ‘China First’ line in US policy making are derisively termed as ‘panda huggers’.
United States global power is not on the decline even though it is going through a rough economic patch and which is reversible. Strategic analysts maintain and maintain correctly that China would not be in a position to challenge United States global supremacy till the year 2050. Even this estimate seems to be based on the assumption that China would be in a position to maintain its economic growth rates in a sustained high rate for the next forty years.
Too much is being read on China emerging as United States banker holding in debt more than US 800 billion and therefore enjoys a crippling economic and by extension a strategic stranglehold over American policies. The reverse is more truer in that the United States has more crippling economic leverages over China and could generate an economic crash of China.
All that the United States has to bring about an economic crash of China is to close the tap on Chinese imports into USA and thereby generate severe unemployment within China causing widespread unrest and threats to Chinese Government stability
The United States resorting to a devaluation of the US dollar in one stroke could bring down China’s so-called economic strangle-hold over America crashing down. These one is sure would be causing recurring headaches to the Chinese leadership and its policy mandarins.
The United States also presumably realizes this tremendous leverage that it enjoys over China and it would be wrong for the strategic advisory community in Washington to project that it is a one way street for China with the United States holding no cards over China. This leads to policy distortions and especially for a new US President in the first year of his office
China has many other significant vulnerabilities which could affect its national cohesion and stability and thereby its global power potential and global influence.
Tibet cannot be wished away under the carpet. Tibet’s clamor for independence has been contemptuously rebuffed by China for over half a century. The Tibetan independence struggle has so far been peaceful because of the current HH the Dalai Lama. But after his passing away the younger generation of Tibetans could be tempted to adopt the pattern of armed struggle for independence or the terrorism and suicide bombings route prevalent in the Islamic World.
Similarly there is already on in Sinkiang the East Turkistan independence movement which is slowly acquiring the contours of an insurgency. In this case the Moslem World which China courts is not going to remain silent? The Organization of Islamic Countries and Turkey have already expressed their concern to China.
China therefore has very marked and significant national vulnerabilities which need to be taken into account when sizing up China’s power potential on the global stage and it to be counted as a global power on an equal footing with the United States or for that matter even with Russia.