Commentary Magazine


Topic: Gordon Chang

What Are They Getting for It?

Gordon Chang notes that observers and analysts across the political spectrum are dismayed by Obama’s human-rights approach regarding China — a crouch more than an approach, actually. He writes:

What Obama and Clinton fail to comprehend is that America derives its security because of its values.  Peoples around the world support our policies precisely because they share our beliefs.  And with the Chinese there is another dimension:  Beijing’s ruthlessly pragmatic leaders see our failure to press human rights as a sign that we think we are weak.  And if they think we are weak, they see little reason to cooperate.  So promoting human rights is protecting American security.

And like so many other ill-conceived Obama foreign-policy gambits (e.g., the Middle East, Honduras, Iran), the end result is to set back American interests and embolden our adversaries. As Chang writes, the Chinese were delighted when Clinton declared earlier in the year that we can’t let human rights “interfere” with other matters. The predictable result is that China’s human-rights behavior gets worse and we weaken our own bargaining position on other matters:

Since [Clinton’s remarks in February], they have been noticeably less cooperative on the great issues of the day. And in March, just one month after her statement, they felt bold enough to order their vessels to harass two of our unarmed ships in international waters in the South China and Yellow Seas. The Chinese even attempted to sever a towed sonar array from one of the Navy vessels. That hostile act constituted an attack on the United States.

It is unclear why, in the face of such uniform criticism and such dismal results, the Obama team shows no sign of reversing course. They believe what they believe, it seems, and no amount of real-world evidence is going to get in the way of their desire to throw human rights under the bus for the sake of ingratiating themselves with the world’s despots.

Gordon Chang notes that observers and analysts across the political spectrum are dismayed by Obama’s human-rights approach regarding China — a crouch more than an approach, actually. He writes:

What Obama and Clinton fail to comprehend is that America derives its security because of its values.  Peoples around the world support our policies precisely because they share our beliefs.  And with the Chinese there is another dimension:  Beijing’s ruthlessly pragmatic leaders see our failure to press human rights as a sign that we think we are weak.  And if they think we are weak, they see little reason to cooperate.  So promoting human rights is protecting American security.

And like so many other ill-conceived Obama foreign-policy gambits (e.g., the Middle East, Honduras, Iran), the end result is to set back American interests and embolden our adversaries. As Chang writes, the Chinese were delighted when Clinton declared earlier in the year that we can’t let human rights “interfere” with other matters. The predictable result is that China’s human-rights behavior gets worse and we weaken our own bargaining position on other matters:

Since [Clinton’s remarks in February], they have been noticeably less cooperative on the great issues of the day. And in March, just one month after her statement, they felt bold enough to order their vessels to harass two of our unarmed ships in international waters in the South China and Yellow Seas. The Chinese even attempted to sever a towed sonar array from one of the Navy vessels. That hostile act constituted an attack on the United States.

It is unclear why, in the face of such uniform criticism and such dismal results, the Obama team shows no sign of reversing course. They believe what they believe, it seems, and no amount of real-world evidence is going to get in the way of their desire to throw human rights under the bus for the sake of ingratiating themselves with the world’s despots.

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Politics Of The Olympics

In the substantive debate, aptly argued by Gordon Chang and David Hazony, over whether the U.S. should participate in the Olympics, I find myself searching for a clear middle ground. To my shock, Hillary Clinton steps forward to offer this:

The violent clashes in Tibet and the failure of the Chinese government to use its full leverage with Sudan to stop the genocide in Darfur are opportunities for Presidential leadership. These events underscore why I believe the Bush administration has been wrong to downplay human rights in its policy towards China. At this time, and in light of recent events, I believe President Bush should not plan on attending the opening ceremonies in Beijing, absent major changes by the Chinese government. I encourage the Chinese to take advantage of this moment as an opportunity to live up to universal human aspirations of respect for human rights and unity, ideals that the Olympic games have come to represent. Americans will stand strong in support of freedom of religious and political expression and human rights. Americans will also stand strong and root for the success of American athletes who have worked hard and earned the right to compete in the Olympic Games of 2008.

This strikes me, aside from the argument’s merits, as just plain smart politics. It shifts the focus off Penn-gate. It sounds a note simultaneously likely to appeal to those on the Right (who like standing up to dictators) and Left (who want more attention to human rights). She was first of the candidates to speak up on this issue and now looks bolder than her opponents. If this is a sign of the post-Penn Hillary, things may be looking up.

In the substantive debate, aptly argued by Gordon Chang and David Hazony, over whether the U.S. should participate in the Olympics, I find myself searching for a clear middle ground. To my shock, Hillary Clinton steps forward to offer this:

The violent clashes in Tibet and the failure of the Chinese government to use its full leverage with Sudan to stop the genocide in Darfur are opportunities for Presidential leadership. These events underscore why I believe the Bush administration has been wrong to downplay human rights in its policy towards China. At this time, and in light of recent events, I believe President Bush should not plan on attending the opening ceremonies in Beijing, absent major changes by the Chinese government. I encourage the Chinese to take advantage of this moment as an opportunity to live up to universal human aspirations of respect for human rights and unity, ideals that the Olympic games have come to represent. Americans will stand strong in support of freedom of religious and political expression and human rights. Americans will also stand strong and root for the success of American athletes who have worked hard and earned the right to compete in the Olympic Games of 2008.

This strikes me, aside from the argument’s merits, as just plain smart politics. It shifts the focus off Penn-gate. It sounds a note simultaneously likely to appeal to those on the Right (who like standing up to dictators) and Left (who want more attention to human rights). She was first of the candidates to speak up on this issue and now looks bolder than her opponents. If this is a sign of the post-Penn Hillary, things may be looking up.

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Re: Re: Why We Shouldn’t Boycott the 2008 Games

In my last post I quoted former Israeli silver medalist Yael Arad, who made an impassioned plea against athletes boycotting the Beijing Olympics. One of the commenters, CONTENTIONS blogger Arthur Waldron, offered a dissenting view (as did Gordon Chang), cited a recently-revealed photograph from the 1936 Berlin Olympics of British athletes with their arms out saluting Hitler. This, he argues, shows how the Olympics serve to legitimize the rule of their host country, which is far worse than any good which can come out of it. It’s truly an amazing picture:

hazony-photo.jpg
(Photo credit: The Daily Mail.)

“Think about it hard before you make up your mind about what we do,” Waldron writes. I, for one, am still convinced by Arad’s argument against the boycott. But jeez. What this picture proves is that the Olympics really can become a source for legitimizing bad regimes. But does it have to? These were, after all, the British, who sought appeasement with Nazi Germany well after 1936. The American response was to strip-bomb their tracks with Jesse Owens’ speed, as a prelude to the real war.

In my last post I quoted former Israeli silver medalist Yael Arad, who made an impassioned plea against athletes boycotting the Beijing Olympics. One of the commenters, CONTENTIONS blogger Arthur Waldron, offered a dissenting view (as did Gordon Chang), cited a recently-revealed photograph from the 1936 Berlin Olympics of British athletes with their arms out saluting Hitler. This, he argues, shows how the Olympics serve to legitimize the rule of their host country, which is far worse than any good which can come out of it. It’s truly an amazing picture:

hazony-photo.jpg
(Photo credit: The Daily Mail.)

“Think about it hard before you make up your mind about what we do,” Waldron writes. I, for one, am still convinced by Arad’s argument against the boycott. But jeez. What this picture proves is that the Olympics really can become a source for legitimizing bad regimes. But does it have to? These were, after all, the British, who sought appeasement with Nazi Germany well after 1936. The American response was to strip-bomb their tracks with Jesse Owens’ speed, as a prelude to the real war.

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Flash of the Obvious

Gordon Chang’s recent post, with its circumstantial evidence that China played a major role in North Korea’s nuclear program, perhaps even supporting the creation of the secret uranium enrichment program so that the plutonium program could be traded away: this posting set off for me the proverbial blinding flash of the obvious.

If, as I have argued, our strong interest is that both Koreas should draw away from China in the direction of Japan and the free world, then by the same token, it is China’s interest that both Koreas should become her strategic partners. Aligned with the west, Korea denies China access to the Sea of Japan and keeps her far from Vladivostok, while flanking to the north the entire sea passage to Beijing and its port of Tianjin. Aligned with China, Korea puts the People’s Republic close to Russia’s most important eastern military base, gives her multiple bases from which to enter the Sea of Japan, and brings her to within a hundred miles or so of Japan, with only the sixty or so miles of the Korea Strait separating them. So Korea is a potential decisive weight in Asian strategy.

The issue is how to influence Korea. I have argued that our best policy is to support the universal Korean desire for unification, stop badgering the north about the nuclear program, and, without giving them aid, open up direct lines of communication. As for the south we must work closely with them, in particular with respect to their neuralgic relationship about former colonial power Japan.

China’s best strategy is the opposite: to keep Korea divided and play one state off against the other, in order to keep them weak. Nuclear weapons for the north might have been thought of as a way of cementing loyalty. Close ties with the south are designed to draw her away from the United States and Japan. Tactically it is in certain respects an easier strategy. Its potentially fatal flaw is that because it works against unification, it is bound to be rejected sooner or later, with malice, by both Koreas.

We Americans are thoroughly wrapped up in the Middle East these days. In Korea we are pursuing the fantasy of North Korean disarmament through Chinese assistance–in part because we lack the influence or the attention span, owing to Iraq, to want to get seriously involved. But in the long run, East Asia may well prove even more explosive than the Middle East.

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Gordon Chang’s recent post, with its circumstantial evidence that China played a major role in North Korea’s nuclear program, perhaps even supporting the creation of the secret uranium enrichment program so that the plutonium program could be traded away: this posting set off for me the proverbial blinding flash of the obvious.

If, as I have argued, our strong interest is that both Koreas should draw away from China in the direction of Japan and the free world, then by the same token, it is China’s interest that both Koreas should become her strategic partners. Aligned with the west, Korea denies China access to the Sea of Japan and keeps her far from Vladivostok, while flanking to the north the entire sea passage to Beijing and its port of Tianjin. Aligned with China, Korea puts the People’s Republic close to Russia’s most important eastern military base, gives her multiple bases from which to enter the Sea of Japan, and brings her to within a hundred miles or so of Japan, with only the sixty or so miles of the Korea Strait separating them. So Korea is a potential decisive weight in Asian strategy.

The issue is how to influence Korea. I have argued that our best policy is to support the universal Korean desire for unification, stop badgering the north about the nuclear program, and, without giving them aid, open up direct lines of communication. As for the south we must work closely with them, in particular with respect to their neuralgic relationship about former colonial power Japan.

China’s best strategy is the opposite: to keep Korea divided and play one state off against the other, in order to keep them weak. Nuclear weapons for the north might have been thought of as a way of cementing loyalty. Close ties with the south are designed to draw her away from the United States and Japan. Tactically it is in certain respects an easier strategy. Its potentially fatal flaw is that because it works against unification, it is bound to be rejected sooner or later, with malice, by both Koreas.

We Americans are thoroughly wrapped up in the Middle East these days. In Korea we are pursuing the fantasy of North Korean disarmament through Chinese assistance–in part because we lack the influence or the attention span, owing to Iraq, to want to get seriously involved. But in the long run, East Asia may well prove even more explosive than the Middle East.

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Cold War II

Gordon Chang’s post yesterday reveals the inroads Iran is making with anti-American elements across Latin America. This adds further credence to the belief that Iran is replicating the Soviet Union’s efforts to build global power and confront the United States on multiple fronts—and that therefore the proper response by the West is, as with the cold war, to confront and roll back Iran at every turn. Nor is it reasonable to respond that Iran is much smaller and weaker than was the USSR, and therefore should not be taken so seriously: It is through these methods that Iran becomes stronger and more powerful over time. The proper response to determined, implacable enemies (no matter how unpopular this may sound during election season) is to defeat them, especially when they are relatively weak, rather than waiting for them to become intolerably menacing. Call it a “Broken Windows” approach to international threats. For what it’s worth, here’s an essay I wrote on the subject last year, when such thoughts were still in fashion.

Gordon Chang’s post yesterday reveals the inroads Iran is making with anti-American elements across Latin America. This adds further credence to the belief that Iran is replicating the Soviet Union’s efforts to build global power and confront the United States on multiple fronts—and that therefore the proper response by the West is, as with the cold war, to confront and roll back Iran at every turn. Nor is it reasonable to respond that Iran is much smaller and weaker than was the USSR, and therefore should not be taken so seriously: It is through these methods that Iran becomes stronger and more powerful over time. The proper response to determined, implacable enemies (no matter how unpopular this may sound during election season) is to defeat them, especially when they are relatively weak, rather than waiting for them to become intolerably menacing. Call it a “Broken Windows” approach to international threats. For what it’s worth, here’s an essay I wrote on the subject last year, when such thoughts were still in fashion.

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South Africa’s Gall

Yesterday on contentions, Gordon Chang called for the United Nations Security Council to vote on a sanctions resolution against the Burmese military junta led by General Than Shwe. “It’s time to see who has the gall to vote against condemning the junta with words and sanctions,” he declared.

There are several countries that have such “gall,” though one of them might come as a surprise: South Africa. Back in January, the United States introduced a fairly innocuous resolution urging the Burmese junta to release political prisoners, enact democratic reforms, and halt violent attacks on ethnic minorities. South Africa, which had just assumed a temporary seat on the Council in January, joined human rights luminaries of China and Russia in siding against the Western democracies. How could the African National Congress-led government of South Africa oppose such a measure? This is a government that, during the apartheid years, called for similar international sanctions against the white-led regime, which was less repressive than the Burmese junta.

In response to a parliamentary question on the South African Security Council vote filed by a member of the opposition Democratic Alliance, the South African Minister of Foreign Affairs replied:

The adoption of this resolution would have set a precedent for the work of the Council, because any member of the Council could bring any country for consideration, even though it might not pose a threat to regional and international peace and security.

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Yesterday on contentions, Gordon Chang called for the United Nations Security Council to vote on a sanctions resolution against the Burmese military junta led by General Than Shwe. “It’s time to see who has the gall to vote against condemning the junta with words and sanctions,” he declared.

There are several countries that have such “gall,” though one of them might come as a surprise: South Africa. Back in January, the United States introduced a fairly innocuous resolution urging the Burmese junta to release political prisoners, enact democratic reforms, and halt violent attacks on ethnic minorities. South Africa, which had just assumed a temporary seat on the Council in January, joined human rights luminaries of China and Russia in siding against the Western democracies. How could the African National Congress-led government of South Africa oppose such a measure? This is a government that, during the apartheid years, called for similar international sanctions against the white-led regime, which was less repressive than the Burmese junta.

In response to a parliamentary question on the South African Security Council vote filed by a member of the opposition Democratic Alliance, the South African Minister of Foreign Affairs replied:

The adoption of this resolution would have set a precedent for the work of the Council, because any member of the Council could bring any country for consideration, even though it might not pose a threat to regional and international peace and security.

How is it that South African apartheid threatened “regional and international peace and security,” but the daily atrocities of the Burmese junta do not? The bizarre position of the South Africans is the product of much forward-thinking analysis on the part of the African National Congress, which has ruled the single-party-dominated democracy since 1994. South Africa has long opposed international and even regional efforts to stave off the humanitarian crisis in Zimbabwe, telling the world that the situation is one for the Zimbabwean people to deal with themselves. This is an abject impossibility, considering that one side to the dispute is a crazed tyrant who has no desire to negotiate any of his power away, and who controls the army, police force, and the distribution of scarce food supplies.

The African National Congress looks north to Zimbabwe in horror at what might become of its own political power in South Africa. No, South Africa is not about to become the nightmare situation for whites that Zimbabwe has become. Rather, the ANC sees that an upstart opposition—consisting of trade unionists, ethnic minorities, civil society activists, and white farmers—successfully challenged Zimbabwe’s legendary liberation hero in a series of democratic polls (only to be thwarted by physical intimidation and murder). The ANC worries, understandably, what precedent would be set if a liberation movement-cum-political party were thrown out of power in Zimbabwe, and what would happen if a similar fate were to befall them. It is for this reason that the African National Congress government allows Zimbabwe to fester, never approaching what can be the country’s only viable political solution: regime change.

Peter Vale, the Nelson Mandela Professor of Politics at South Africa’s Rhodes University, traveled to Burma over a decade ago at the behest of a Scandinavian government, in order to provide advice to opposition groups based upon the South African anti-apartheid experience. “Was SA’s experience instructive elsewhere?” he asks. This is what he reports:

But the high hopes that the African National Congress had promised for this country’s foreign policy had been largely muted. The cunning insertion of the 19th-century idea of “national interest” into the foreign policy agenda had emptied all high-sounding words of their content. In their place, a new procedural discourse purported to link SA to the “real world”—this held that the legal clause always carried greater weight than the liberation cause. . . .
It was both difficult and painful to explain this to the Burmese. Their understandings of this country glowed in the hype around the ending of apartheid and were embellished by Nelson Mandela’s commanding international standing. Surely, I was repeatedly asked, SA would do something that would both secure the release of Aung San Sui Kyi—who had been under house arrest for six years—and get conversations going between her and the junta.

Chang wants to know if any country has “the gall” to oppose sanctions on the miserable junta in Rangoon. South Africa, or, more precisely, the African National Congress, does.

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It’s a Bird! It’s a Plane!

As Gordon Chang points out on these pages, there is ongoing speculation on what Israeli aircraft targeted in the early hours of September 6, when they entered Syrian air space, flew all the way to the Syrian-Iraqi-Turkish border, and dropped a load of heavy bombs (perhaps aided by special ground forces who were safely helicoptered in and out of the area). Whether it’s a nuclear facility run jointly by Iran and North Korea, or a missile base, or an arms shipment for Hizballah, or a Russian-made modern air defense system, one thing is clear from all the reports: the Syrian military still cannot tell the difference between an Israeli F-15 and a seagull.

As Gordon Chang points out on these pages, there is ongoing speculation on what Israeli aircraft targeted in the early hours of September 6, when they entered Syrian air space, flew all the way to the Syrian-Iraqi-Turkish border, and dropped a load of heavy bombs (perhaps aided by special ground forces who were safely helicoptered in and out of the area). Whether it’s a nuclear facility run jointly by Iran and North Korea, or a missile base, or an arms shipment for Hizballah, or a Russian-made modern air defense system, one thing is clear from all the reports: the Syrian military still cannot tell the difference between an Israeli F-15 and a seagull.

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Time to Short China?

In China in Revolt in the December COMMENTARY, Gordon Chang took note of the turbulent nature of Chinese society. Three decades of reform have transformed a regimented totalitarian society into a dynamic hybrid: free and unfree, assertive and repressed, at once.

As these antimonies suggest, China is not a society in a stable equilibrium. What is more, its social, political, and economic system is under sustained pressure from many directions. One of the least noted but most significant sources of future trouble is the changing composition of the Chinese population.

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In China in Revolt in the December COMMENTARY, Gordon Chang took note of the turbulent nature of Chinese society. Three decades of reform have transformed a regimented totalitarian society into a dynamic hybrid: free and unfree, assertive and repressed, at once.

As these antimonies suggest, China is not a society in a stable equilibrium. What is more, its social, political, and economic system is under sustained pressure from many directions. One of the least noted but most significant sources of future trouble is the changing composition of the Chinese population.

As of this month, China is estimated by the CIA to be inhabited by 1,321,851,888 people. The CIA’s precision here can certainly be questioned—indeed, it is preposterous—but what is not at all in doubt is that these 1,321,851,888 people, like the rest of us, are getting older every day. But unlike the rest of us—or at least those of us here in the United States—they are not being replenished.

Thanks in large measure to China’s one-child policy, the Chinese population growth rate has fallen to a low of .606 percent annually. (The U.S. rate, by contrast, is .95 percent). While the total Chinese population will continue to expand, in about fifteen years, unless some unforeseen factor intervenes, it will begin to contract. And as it contracts, it will also begin to age. In fact, according to the CIA, China will come to have ”one of the most rapidly aging populations in the world.”

What are the implications of that? Testifying before the House Armed Services Committee on July 11, Thomas Fingar of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, notes that with “a couple of generations of one-child families, no social-security safety net, a shrinking pool to support an ever-larger group without the normal family—[the] one-child family [policy] means there aren’t aunts and uncles and cousins and others that will be part of the support system.” All this will serve to inject “at least the potential for fragility to the social system.”

That may well be an understatement. Writing in Policy Review, the demographer Nicholas Eberstadt calls the problem a “triple bind”:

Without a broad-coverage national pension system, and with only limited filial resources to fall back on, paid work will of necessity loom large as an option for economic security for many older Chinese. But employment in China, today and tomorrow, will be more physically punishing than in OECD countries, and China’s older cohorts are simply less likely to be up to the task. The aggregation of hundreds of millions of individual experiences with this triple bind over the coming generation will be a set of economic, social, and political constraints on Chinese development—and power augmentation—that have not as yet been fully appreciated in Beijing, much less overseas.

Is this good news for the rest of the world, or bad? The composite index of the Shanghai stock exchange was up 130 percent last year and is rising still. One question is: should one sell Chinese stocks short now, or wait until the population implosion begins in about fifteen years?

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Weekend Reading

This week the United States is engaging in its first direct talks with North Korea in over five years—apparently, according to the New York Times, to “persuade” the North Koreans to fulfill their part of February’s “initial actions.” This plainly dubious agreement was exposed at the time on contentions by both Max Boot and Joshua Muravchik, and yesterday by Gordon Chang.

According to the Times, The State Department says that the direct talks are meant only to “speed up” the inception of multilateral talks. But is it a surprise that the North Korean government must be “persuaded” actually to abide by its commitments?

North Korea has been a large subject for COMMENTARY. For this weekend’s reading we offer a few of our best recent articles on the topic.

A Korean Solution?
Arthur Waldron – June 2005

Our Game with North Korea
Arthur Waldron – February 2004

Facing up to North Korea
Joshua Muravchik – March 2003

This week the United States is engaging in its first direct talks with North Korea in over five years—apparently, according to the New York Times, to “persuade” the North Koreans to fulfill their part of February’s “initial actions.” This plainly dubious agreement was exposed at the time on contentions by both Max Boot and Joshua Muravchik, and yesterday by Gordon Chang.

According to the Times, The State Department says that the direct talks are meant only to “speed up” the inception of multilateral talks. But is it a surprise that the North Korean government must be “persuaded” actually to abide by its commitments?

North Korea has been a large subject for COMMENTARY. For this weekend’s reading we offer a few of our best recent articles on the topic.

A Korean Solution?
Arthur Waldron – June 2005

Our Game with North Korea
Arthur Waldron – February 2004

Facing up to North Korea
Joshua Muravchik – March 2003

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Will China Collapse?

My May 16 post, “Trade Showdown with China,” attracted a comment from one “Tongluren,” who asked, “Is this the same Gordon Chang that insisted that China will collapse in 2007?” It’s a fair question.

My first book, The Coming Collapse of China (2001), predicted that the Chinese Communist party would fall from power by the end of this decade, that is, by 2011 (not 2007). One of my principal arguments was that international commerce would remake Chinese society in ways that the country’s collective leadership—now composed of nine aging engineers who all favor blue suits and red ties—would not be able to handle.

Most people, like my new friend Tongluren, believe the Chinese one-party state is durable. If there is any consensus about China’s trajectory at this moment, it is that the Communist party will lead that nation to geopolitical and economic dominance in a few decades, perhaps sooner. “Resilient authoritarianism,” championed by Columbia University’s Andrew Nathan, is the latest intellectual flavor.

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My May 16 post, “Trade Showdown with China,” attracted a comment from one “Tongluren,” who asked, “Is this the same Gordon Chang that insisted that China will collapse in 2007?” It’s a fair question.

My first book, The Coming Collapse of China (2001), predicted that the Chinese Communist party would fall from power by the end of this decade, that is, by 2011 (not 2007). One of my principal arguments was that international commerce would remake Chinese society in ways that the country’s collective leadership—now composed of nine aging engineers who all favor blue suits and red ties—would not be able to handle.

Most people, like my new friend Tongluren, believe the Chinese one-party state is durable. If there is any consensus about China’s trajectory at this moment, it is that the Communist party will lead that nation to geopolitical and economic dominance in a few decades, perhaps sooner. “Resilient authoritarianism,” championed by Columbia University’s Andrew Nathan, is the latest intellectual flavor.

So it is no great surprise that people often ask me, in light of the spectacular performance of the Chinese economy in the last half decade, whether I have changed my opinions on the stability of the modern Chinese state. I have, in one important respect: I am surprised that China’s trading partners have been so tolerant of its failure to meet its World Trade Organization obligations. China’s economic success is based not only on structural factors like cheap labor and extreme environmental degradation, but also on widespread violations of trade promises. WTO membership limits the Communist party’s ability to continue those violations—and therefore to rack up enormous trade surpluses—but only if other nations enforce their rights.

At first, other nations were tolerant. America waited until March 2004 to file the first WTO complaint against China. Then Washington gave Beijing a private warning in February 2006 that its informal grace period was over. After more Chinese intransigence, Washington and Brussels took the unprecedented step of joining in a complaint the following month. Finally, Americans lost patience and filed three cases this year. In one of them—concerning intellectual property violations—we have been joined by Canada, Japan, Mexico, and the European Union.

China’s trading partners have just begun to scratch the surface with cases like these. Undoubtedly, additional complaints are on the way, as even more nations lose their patience with Beijing’s predatory trade practices. So WTO membership can eventually lead to major dislocations in the Chinese economy. Before joining the global trading organization, Beijing set the rules and administered the game. Now, however, it has submitted itself to external requirements and foreign tribunals.

Sensing American frustration, Beijing is approaching next week’s trade talks with the Bush administration with a hint of desperation. It is making pugnacious pronouncements, purchasing large quantities of American technology and soybeans, and pleading for more patience. It is, in fact, doing everything but complying with its trade obligations. Chinese leaders know that their economy cannot compete according to the rules. And that is one reason why the Chinese one-party state, which is overly dependent on exports to deliver prosperity, might just yet collapse.

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