Shooting Down Peace: The Perplexing Chinese Missile Test
I wasn't planning to comment on the Chinese missile test, but after hearing the near-hysterical American reaction on the evening news, I'll throw in my two cents.
- China is not the Soviet Union, and this is not the Cold War.
- China does not share in the hegemonic goals that the Soviet Union had of spreading Communism and destroying capitalism.
- China has abandoned Communism in all but name. With the rapid erosion of the state's roles, China is by some measures even less socialistic than the United States is.
- China is even on the slow--though often uneven--path of political reform and is gradually creeping towards democracy and the rule of law.
- China has been historically pacifist. They like the boast that, unlike white nations, they have never invaded and occupied foreign soil. Additionally, over the course of the past several years, China has reduced the size of its armed forces by over half a million.
- China is all but drowning in growing domestic unrest and strife. The political instability of a war would likely put the ruling party at grave risk, especially since the only thing that is keeping China's head above the rising waters of unrest is the tremendous economic growth and income that comes from trade with the West. Any disruption in that trade would hurt both China and the West, but it would hurt China much more as their economy is less diversified and more dependent on trade and because of the importance of that trade on its political stability--something that the exceedingly self-preservationist ruling party is keenly aware of.
- The European Union was founded on the principle that economic trade would make wars all but unthinkable in a region that was once the greatest hotbed of wars. This is certainly the case with China. Strong economic ties and trade are the best and most permanent guaranteers of peace.
- Although American foreign policy has been less rational lately, it strikes me as very odd that China would see the West as any sort of military threat that it needs to compete with, especially given how very allergic to war the West has become. The only real potential flash point is over the status of Taiwan (to be sure, a point that is not to be underestimated), but it seems that both China and Taiwan have now comfortably settled into the status quo of Taiwan's de facto but not de jure independence.
- Right now, the greatest threat to American national security is Islamic terrorism, and the greatest threat to Chinese national security is also Islamic terrorism. Lost in all the news about Iraq is the fact that China, which borders a number of Islamic countries and whose western provinces are the home to a significant number of Muslims, was the victim of well over 200 Islamic terrorist bombings in 2005, some of which even happened in the capital Beijing. Like the bombings in Iraq, many were conducted by foreign fighters who infiltrated China's western borders. I trust that in the long term, the national security interests of both China and the West will be identical.
For all these reasons, the missile test perplexes me. It perplexes me how the Chinese government (which, by the way, is not a monolithic and single-minded entity, much like how the American government, divided between the two parties and the factions within the two parties, is far from monolithic and single-minded) ever got the notion that testing this sort of weapon would be in its interests. Political Islam and terrorists are China's newest and most immediate enemies, and they won't have have any satellites to shoot down. In fact, recent newscasts from China paid little or no attention to the missile test whereas the state of the conflict in Iraq and the battle against Islamic extremism seems to get much more spotlight and coverage. At the same time, the American overreaction is puzzling, too. Perhaps this is because most Americans are still stuck in a Cold War mentality and fail to realize just how different China is from the Soviet Union. In any case, I think that China and the United States are much more alike than either side would admit and that ultimately, I think that that it would be most sensible for the two to act as allies instead of rivals.