Friday, February 01, 2013

The New Extraterritoriality

The Chinese believe they have a right to compel other countries to view China the way Peking wants us to view them. That's a path to war.

Yes indeed, all your opinions are belong to us:

A “well-known” general with the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) answered [Christopher Ford's question about why China interferes with other countries' internal affairs when China is so prickly about others doing that to them]. He said, according to Ford’s paraphrases, that it’s “not ‘interference’ in another state’s ‘internal affairs’ for Beijing to make demands about how other states view and depict China and their own history in the Asia-Pacific region, because these things affect China.” In other words, the perception of China abroad, he argued, is such a central national interest for China that it is within Beijing’s prerogative to change it, even in other countries.

It's a very different way of looking at the world. For those who think "what's the difference, at this point," whether America is the dominant power or China is, here's one difference we should all care about. Just because China has benefited economically from the global system we've built doesn't mean they'll just continue defending the same system if we don't defend it.

And if we don't want to lead and Europe doesn't have the power to lead (and they don't), who's left?

China's growing power is leading them to be more aggressive in foreign policy just when Western ability to resist is in question. We think it makes no sense for China to risk their economy by risking war, but can we even appreciate the way of thinking that leads Chinese rulers to get worked up over a mural in a small American city?

Can we really define what is rational for China to go to war over?

Do we even know who can order the Chinese army to war? Or just drag them into war?

China has long said that Taiwan is an "internal" issue. Many would like to sell out Taiwan in the belief that if we can get our relations to just inter-state issues (as China defines them), we can work them out rationally. But what if Taiwan isn't a unique stumbling block to calm? What if Taiwan's independence is merely one example of how China thinks in very expansive (and non-Western) terms of what is an internal interest?

God help us if that becomes a 'core interest."