Well as many of you all know, Chinese President Hu Jintao arrived in the US this week for a summit with President Barrak Obama. What did this summit accomplish? Absolutely Nothing, which is about as much as these things usually accomplish. A summit is in many ways little more than pageant, a means through which individual leaders can look good in front of each other and their constituents with some photo ops to make everyone know they are doing something.
That being said, it is important to note that this summit is indeed a big deal, since it involves, well, China. The US likes to claim that every one of its international relationhips is its most important one. With China, however, this statement is actually true. The US is the world’s largest importer of Chinese goods. China is the largest expanding market for US business. China has a near monopoly on rare earth metals that supply most of the world hybrid electric batteries. China also finances a good portion of the US’s national debt. In short China and the US depend on each other, a lot.
At the same time however, China is also one of the last Communist regimes in the world. It is clear, however, that Marxist ideology gets little more than lip service these days. However what has remained in place is a very oppressive authoritarian regime that controls many aspects of life in China. For one thing the worlds fastest growing website Facebook, is not available in China because the Chinese government is afraid of that dissidents might use to communicate with each other and with people abroad. Also the Chinese government has tendency to deal with people they do not like by locking them away in prisons. And let us not forget a little incident that happened about twenty years ago in a place called Tiananmen Square. There is also the issue of their treatment of the Tibetan people as well as the fact that the have pretty much bullied one of East Asia’s most stable and thriving democracies, Taiwan, into an peculiar state of international limbo. Oh, and they also are the only reason why ongoing crisis on the Korean peninsula did not end with us running Kim Il Sung across the Yalu River sixty years ago.
In short, China is neither really a friend nor an enemy. Both of our economies depend on each other, while at the same time. It is a very complicated relationship that offers no simple answers in how to deal with them. There are some who say the China is destined to take over the world. However those people seem to ignore that twenty years ago, people said the same thing about Japan. China already seems to be showing signs of slowing down. The gap between the wealthy coasts and the poorer inland is becoming more pronounced. There are also concerns that China’s economy will not expand enough to spread the prosperity around to all, to say nothing of the fact that China’s new middle class might find itself longing for new freedoms. All in all, it is hard to say for certain what the future holds for the world’s oldest continuous civilization.