Everything old is not new again
From today’s New York Times news analysis on China’s role in the North Korea talks: Beijing’s decision to broker the nuclear talks reflects alarm in the top ranks of the Communist Party that the North Korean problem could spiral out of control, with both the North and the United States locked in polar positions. Experts ...
From today's New York Times news analysis on China's role in the North Korea talks:
From today’s New York Times news analysis on China’s role in the North Korea talks:
Beijing’s decision to broker the nuclear talks reflects alarm in the top ranks of the Communist Party that the North Korean problem could spiral out of control, with both the North and the United States locked in polar positions. Experts said China had decided that it was uniquely positioned to make a difference because of longstanding ties with North Korea, a neighbor and onetime political and military ally, and its improving relationship with the Bush administration. Yet its assertiveness may also reflect a new sense of engagement with the world that offers some parallels to the emergence of the United States as a dominant power nearly a century ago, experts say. “China is starting to act like a big power, with interests it has to defend even outside its borders,” said Yan Xuetong, a influential foreign policy expert at Qinghua University in Beijing. “I expect these talks to be remembered as an important milestone in history for that reason.”
This is a standard line among many Sinologists, pointing to China’s growing economic and military power. And indeed, the article gives several examples of China’s growing global influence — oh, wait, I’m sorry, every single example cited in the article takes place on China’s borders. By comparison, peruse Fareed Zakaria’s excellent first book, From Wealth to Power, and you’ll see that a hundred years ago the U.S. was projecting power far beyond its borders, including the deployment of U.S. forces on the Chinese mainland. My point here is not to denigrate China’s rising power, but rather to put things in the proper perspective. As a regional actor in Asia, Beijing can not and should not be ignored. As a global actor, its profile remains relatively small, even compared with the Unitred States a century ago.
Daniel W. Drezner is a professor of international politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University and co-host of the Space the Nation podcast. Twitter: @dandrezner
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