China & America's Emerging Partnership: A Realistic New Perspective Review

China and America's Emerging Partnership: A Realistic New Perspective
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China & America's Emerging Partnership: A Realistic New Perspective Review"Finally, we need to not only listen to what the Chinese and their proxies are saying about potential partnership with the United States, but judge their arguments without emotion and understand the honest feedback it represents. On that score, a recent book by American expatriate John Milligan-Whyte and his Chinese spouse, Dai Min, entitled, "China & America's Emerging Partnership: A Realistic New Perspective," is instructive. The couple writes a regular column for the online version of the Chinese Communist Party's official organ, the People's Daily. Milligan-Whyte is also an experienced -- and successful -- dealmaker when it comes to China's booming economy.
The book is unabashedly pro-Chinese, labeling every Chinese position a "reality" and every criticism of China a "fallacy." But don't read it for its lack of objectivity. Read it for its unvarnished expression of how we make China feel on the subject of prospective partnership. As always, the feedback speaks more about the deliverer than the target.
The Chinese remember well their "century of humiliation and hunger," and naturally harbor residual resentment of the West -- but not America per se -- on this score. The Chinese likewise remain ambivalent about Mao Zedong's reign, admiring him for fathering modern China while trying desperately to forget the dictator's many insane and murderous domestic campaigns. But Mao's timely death did make Deng Xiaoping's return to power possible, and therein lay the seeds of China's current economic greatness, of which the Chinese are understandably proud.
China's rightful return to its historic role as pillar of the global economy is overwhelmingly welcomed by the world -- including the United States, which has long feared China's weakness more than its strength. Alas, the recent Great Recession has reversed that equation, and our political leadership has not processed the resulting popular anxiety as well as it could have -- even if the Bush and Obama administrations have done their level best to draw the Chinese out on the subject of strategic partnering.
It is on that subject that Milligan-Whyte and Min's book speaks most eloquently, noting that the world can ill afford anything but a "win-win" approach -- from both the world's most powerful developed nation and its most powerful developing nation. Why? Given our already profound economic interdependency, armed conflict -- or even just another cold war -- would likely diminish both states' great-power status beyond repair. Simply put, America no longer has the superabundance of wealth needed for such a struggle, and China cannot afford to derail its economic development. As for the most likely negative path, a bilateral trade war, the implications for globalization's future are simply too dangerous for either side to consider seriously. Beyond all that, there lies the "ecological catastrophe" for humanity if these two most powerful engines of consumption do not collectively place the planet on a more sustainable path.
Is that a "realistic perspective"? Absolutely.
Given these shared interests and the profound good that China's rise imparts to the global economy, argue Milligan-Whyte and Min, can we not agree to disagree on the timing of China's movement toward political pluralism -- something its consensus-driven civilization has never truly enjoyed previously? Is not our shared passion for capitalism enough to avoid a self-destructive path of bilateral tension?
Again, don't read the book as anything but an accurate capture of China's best case for strategic partnership with America, with all the usual grievances and defensiveness tossed in -- along with predictable bursts of newfound chauvinism (e.g., the "genius" of China's system since 1978). It's not the only case being made inside China, but it's the one that best serves our strategic purposes going forward. That's why it deserves to be treated with the utmost respect for the historic opportunity it represents."
Thomas P.M. Barnett is senior managing director of Enterra Solutions LLC and a contributing editor for Esquire magazine. His latest book is "Great Powers: America and the World After Bush" (2009). His weekly WPR column,The New Rules, appears every Monday. Reach him and his blog at thomaspmbarnett.comChina & America's Emerging Partnership: A Realistic New Perspective Overview

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