Has China encountered the security dilemma?
Over at the German Marshall Fund’s blog, Andrew Small articulates an interesting thought on the recent spot of trouble between China and the west: The mood on China in Western capitals is beginning to darken. From cyber-attacks to obstinacy in Copenhagen, Beijing’s assertiveness and the hardening tone of its diplomacy are prompting a rethink. If ...
Over at the German Marshall Fund's blog, Andrew Small articulates an interesting thought on the recent spot of trouble between China and the west:
Over at the German Marshall Fund’s blog, Andrew Small articulates an interesting thought on the recent spot of trouble between China and the west:
The mood on China in Western capitals is beginning to darken. From cyber-attacks to obstinacy in Copenhagen, Beijing’s assertiveness and the hardening tone of its diplomacy are prompting a rethink. If the competitive aspects of the relationship with China are going to dominate in the years ahead, have the United States and Europe got their strategies right? And if not, what are the options?….
Many Western officials believe, however, that China has miscalculated — and is shooting itself in the foot. Talk of giving Beijing more space on sensitive issues has evaporated. Support from business lobbies has weakened. Heads of government who would happily push China into the “important but not urgent” file have begun to review their strategies.
Already, Beijing is feeling the effects of this pushback. Recent weeks have seen the announcement of arms sales to Taiwan, confirmation of a U.S. presidential meeting with the Dalai Lama, and public criticism from President Obama and Secretary Clinton of China’s currency policies and its stance on the Iranian nuclear issue. The West hopes China will realize it has overplayed its hand and will make some conciliatory moves — such as a modest revaluation of the yuan and acquiescence to tougher sanctions on Iran — to reverse the political dynamic. For all the noise in the last week, Washington has made only a modest tactical shift. But the United States and Europe may yet see this as a wake-up call and make a more serious set of changes to their China policies.
Indeed, for all the wailing about how America can’t commit to certain policies for fear of angering the Chinese, the United States seems to be doing whatever it wants. Hmm…. that sounds familiar.
As I keep saying in this space, China is a rising power, but they’re still not in the same league as either the United States or the European Union in terms of material wealth, military infrastructure, or soft power. Joshua Kurlantzick provided a concise summary of this point in yesterday’s Boston Globe which is worth reading.
The question I have is whether any of this will matter. My hunch is that China’s various actions play well domestically — and that has top priority for Beijing’s leaders. China is not a superpower, but it is still powerful enough to "go it alone" if it so chooses on a number of policy dimensions.
Question to readers: will the U.S. and China continue to pursue the status quo, or will they respond to each other’s actions by dialing the conflict down?
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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