naive?

July 4th, 2014

Well, I’m kinda hoping for David Shambaugh’s sake that there’s a bit of misreporting going on here, quotes being taken out of context, or something like that, because:

“Google is down. Yahoo is own Bing is down. You can’t access the outside world.”

And that, dear friends, is

BULLSHIT!

I have my gmail open in another tab, I just googled David Shambaugh and opened the Wikipedia article on him and his page at the George Washington University website, and all of that without a VPN or any other jiggery pokery to get me outside the tender embrace of Nanny and her Great Firewall.

Yes, censorship exists, and yes, many websites are blocked. No NY Times, Youtube, Vimeo, Le Monde, Guardian or Blogspot. And now Flickr has disappeared (at least, for me) since Tuesday. Gee, I wonder what could’ve happened somewhere in China on or about Tuesday, pictures of which the CCP would prefer people not to see? But news of the birth of the Great Chinese Intranet, though long rumoured, is still most appropriately filed in the “grossly exaggerated” basket.

I’m not quite sure what to make of Shambaugh’s reported comments on China’s foreign relations. I would’ve thought somebody who’s been coming to China very regularly for 35 years and makes a living studying China’s international relations would have a more nuanced view of things. But this article gives the impression he takes a Cold War-tastic Us vs. commie Them view, and he expects (as so many North Americans and Europeans do in that, “Oh, we just assumed…” kind of way) New Zealand to fall very firmly in the Us camp. Then he discovers New Zealand isn’t quite toeing the expected line:

“Australia is doing it, Asean countries are doing that, India is doing that, Japan is doing that, the United States is doing that so it seems to me that New Zealand is a bit of an outlier in terms of regional relations and even global relations with China.

“To have good relations is not a bad thing but you have to have multi-faceted relations. You can’t just have relations with a country based on economic interests alone.”

Well:

  1. I don’t see the necessity for any particular country to jump on the “arm ourselves up to counter China” bandwagon. I don’t have a problem with countries that have active territorial disputes with China keeping their militaries up to date with a view to countering the perceived China threat, but I don’t see why Australia or the US need to join in, and I don’t see how their taking sides helps matters at all. I’m also growing rather tired of the automatic assumption implicit in this and so much reporting of China issues that China must be in the wrong. So far as I can tell, China’s territorial claims are just as in/valid as everybody else’s. There are no Goodies or Baddies here, just a whole lot of waving about of historic documents of dubious origin and relevance and chest-puffing buffoonery.
  2. Yes, I would agree that John Key’s government seems to focus international relations on trade relations to a rather excessive extent, but I can’t help but feel Shambaugh has focussed on that excessive focus to a greater extent than warranted.

As for the more serious of Shambaugh’s reported claims:

He said the repression was the worst it had been for 25 years

Well, I don’t know how you quantify such things. There certainly is much to worry about. But the article goes on:

He noted positively some reforms including the loosening of the one-child policy, an enhanced role for the market in determined resource allocation, making Government budgets more transparent, more fully funding public welfare and establishing agencies such an a super environmental agency.

There were also suggestions from the plenum that there could be other reforms in the financial sector, the banking sector, an improved foreign investment climate, enhancement of property rights, the tax system and legal and judicial reform.

He said there was real potential for policy break-through but he anticipated great bureaucratic resistance.

“It is not very common in world history for those who have wealth, power and privilege to voluntarily divest it in the broader interests of the nation.”

He suggested the party itself could now be the greatest impediment to reform.

Which suggests to me that Shambaugh’s views actually are considerably more nuanced than it first seemed. Now, I need to run off and print a couple of things before lunch, so let me keep this short:

Yes, there is a lot I’m seeing, on the streets, on billboards and banners and posters, in the media, and online that has me, shall we say, concerned. But there is, as suggested in the above slightly too large quote, plenty going on that gives cause for hope. I’m finding it really hard to figure out how things are going. But the idea that “multi-faceted relations” means “beefing up the military to contain China while still trading with China”, as this article implies, seems to me to be only marginally less simplistic and considerably more dangerous and less responsible than simply trading with China.

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