China de­bate

The Washington Times Weekly - - National -

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.

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