The China-Russia Alliance

| Thu Jul. 7, 2005 3:10 PM EDT

From the Jamestown Foundation, it appears that Russia and China are sneaking around trying to dream up ways to contain the United States:

In a joint statement on "the international order in the 21st century," which was issued after a three-hour-long summit between [Chinese President] Hu [Jintao] and counterpart Vladimir Putin on July 1, both leaders took a thinly veiled swipe at the U.S. The document stressed the opposition of the two "strategic partners" to attempts by any country to "monopolize and dominate international affairs." Hu and Putin criticized efforts by unnamed countries to "divide states between leaders and led," which appeared to refer to alleged attempts by the U.S. to "destabilize" dictatorial regimes in Central Asia and to spread democracy worldwide. The Chinese leader added in a press conference that both countries agreed to "further strengthen strategic cooperation, expand military exchanges and cooperation, and enthusiastically do well in the first China-Russian joint military exercise [due next month]."

Well, that sounds scary. The thing to note here, though, is that Russian involvement or no, there's still no good reason for us to fight China, or for China to fight us. Maybe the old party hands in Beijing don't like they way the Bush administration has been trying to spread democracy around Central Asia (it's hard to tell whether that's what Hu's saying or whether that's a Jamestown paraphrase), but the downside, for China, of war with the United States would vastly, vastly outweigh whatever gains they might get from less American meddling in the region. Conflict of any sort would be a disaster. As Daniel Starr says, the only conceivable reason China might try to risk this sort of disaster is if a) China's leaders need a war to whip up patriotic fervor and divert attention away from economic problems within the country, or b) Chinese leaders believe they can get some political gain from war. So the essence of a strategy to contain China should really be to make sure neither of those things need to happen. See Brad DeLong for more on this.

Unfortunately, the China-hawk faction within the Pentagon has persisted for quite some time, and shows no danger of abating. In a quote in a Wall Street Journal story a few weeks ago, Thomas Barnett contrasted the economic engagement strategy popular in Wall Street and Pentagon thinking: "the Wall Street participants concluded, 'When I think of the security issues I realize how a strategic partnership with China is all the more imperative,' and the military guys would say, 'Wow, realizing all the economic competition, war with China is that much more inevitable.'" One would hope that on this matter at least, Wall Street will continue to exert a stranglehold on White House thinking long, long into the future. (Ironically, prior to World War I many businessmen predicted, rightly, that great-power war would be a disaster and tried to avert it at any costs. Unfortunately they didn't quite have the ear of government.)

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