The Corner

Re: China

(1) Yes, the Newsweek piece on China was well done. Nobody knows which way

China will go, so a commentator’s opinions tend to reflect his own

temperament and recent experience. I myself would not have written quite so

breezily. Next year marks the 100th anniversary of Sun Yat-sen’s “Three

People’s Principles” — Sun’s statement of the three areas in which the

China of 1906 needed to concentrate her modernization efforts. In a

nutshell they were: economics, politics, and the national question. On

economics, I think China has done well — has probably reached a point where

economic stability can be taken for granted. There will be ups and downs,

of course, and probably booms and crashes, but they are on the right path.

Politics, however, remains “unresolved.” So, even more so — though it

doesn’t get so much coverage — does the national question. What **is**

China? The so-called People’s Republic is in many ways a very artificial

construct — essentially, the old Manchu empire reborn, held together by

force. It can’t be democratized in its present shape (the Tibetans, for

example, given a vote, would vote unanimously for independence). On the

other hand, a break-up would, given the intensity of modern Chinese

racial-national-imperial passions, be extremely ugly. So Newsweek left out

some stuff. If the PRC holds together though (which, in my opinion, it can

probably do, though only by remaining undemocratic), I think Newsweek’s

concluding paragraph is right: “A world war is highly unlikely… But there

is probably going to be a soft war, a quiet competition for power and

influence across the globe. America and China will be friends one day,

rivals another…”

(2) Several readers have asked me to comment on Mark Steyn’s piece about

China in Jewish World Review.

This looks like the piece he originally published in The Spectator last

month. Jonathan Mirsky, one of the greatest of all China correspondents,

had a letter in the following issue of the Speccie, pooh-poohing Mark’s

piece. Obviously I agree with Mark’s comment that “As a centralized

nation-state, [the People’s Republic] is as artificial an entity as the more

obviously appellatory crocks such as the ‘Soviet Union’ or ‘Yugoslavia.’”

Mark says that Russia, China, and the EU all have major structural defects,

but “if you were betting on only one happy ending, I’d take China.” I’m not

sure I would.

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