Former Deputy Defense Secretary John Hamre says a “raging” debate is under way in Chinese academic circles over Beijiing’s power and influence and when to declare Beijing a world leader.
In a private memorandum for Center for Strategic and International Studies trustees, advisers and friends, Mr. Hamre, CSIS president, stated after a visit to China that Beijing’s communist leaders are encouraging the debate on China’s rise. Nationalist “lowerlevel bureaucrats want to challenge official orthodoxy,” he said.
The debate is about whether China should continue following the 1980s advice of late reform leader Deng Xiaoping and “maintain a low profile,” or whether China should declare itself a world power now, with the Beijing Olympics in August as the coming-out party.
The official Chinese view, Mr. Hamre stated, is still to portray China as poor and weak but confident in the future. That view fits with what U.S. intelligence officials have called China’s “denial-and-deception” efforts to mislead the West.
The current debate is whether China should join the global sys- tem now as a low-ranking power in a fixed system dominated by opponents like the United States, Japan and the European powers, or stick to its goal of being the dominant leader in Asia.
Mr. Hamre said one academic cast the debate as “is China going to be the tail of the ox, or the head of rooster?”
The former deputy defense secretary is betting China will stay on track to be a rooster head in Asia and “inspirational leader in Africa and South America.” It could be a global power in 40 to 70 years.