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China and Russia [Copy link] 中文

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Post time 2007-10-24 09:35:53 |Display all floors
London Financial Times
Gideon Rachman

Russia and China's Challenge for the West

Dmitry Peskov, official spokesman for the Russian president, likes a joke. Visitors to his Kremlin office last week noticed that the screensaver on his computer is a series of revolving quotes from George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four: “Big Brother is watching you”, “war is peace”, “freedom is slavery”, “ignorance is strength”.

Since Mr Peskov works from the same building from which Stalin operated – and now speaks for Vladimir Putin, who is often accused of establishing a new Russian autocracy – this is all rather daring. Or tasteless. Possibly both.

Mr Peskov speaks with the relaxed good humour – and even the accent – of an American spin-doctor. But listening to some of what he had to say, I experienced a strong sense of déjà vu – and it was not the US that was brought to mind. It was China.

During the cold war, it was natural to lump Russia and China together. Now the two countries are once again occupying similar ideological terrain. They no longer espouse communism. But both Russia and China have nonetheless separately arrived at very similar political doctrines. At home, the formula is authoritarianism, combined with rapid economic growth and nationalism. Internationally, both see their rising economic power as the basis for righting past humiliations. They preach a doctrine of absolute respect for national sovereignty.

America’s setbacks in Iraq have given the Russians and the Chinese new confidence in the battle of ideas. But the real foundation of their new assertiveness is economic. China is a manufacturing powerhouse. Russia’s boom has a more fragile base: the rising price of oil and gas. But both countries are flush with cash.

The fact that they are doing well – without embracing liberal democracy – leads to an increasingly confident rejection of western political models. In both Russia and China, the official emphasis is on stability. Rapid political liberalisation is dismissed as a trap that could create social chaos.

When the cold war ended, many in the west assumed that the ideological argument was also over. History had ended. Russia and China had embraced capitalism. That, in turn, would create a middle class that would demand political freedom.

Almost 20 years later, things do not seem to be working out like that. An affluent bourgeoisie is certainly very visible in the big cities of both countries. But, at the moment, the Russian and Chinese middle classes seem much more interested in flat-screen television sets and foreign cars than in a free press or new political movements. There is still considerably more freedom of speech in Russia than in China. But the situation is getting worse – and only a few intellectuals seem to care.

The reasons for this political passivity once again seem similar. Chinese and Russian history give the newly affluent good reason to fear “chaos”. Those fears are reinforced by official propaganda.

Talk to independent analysts in Moscow, and their anxieties are also strongly reminiscent of the kind of thing you hear in Beijing. In both countries, the political system is blamed for breeding corruption and ignoring environmental problems. Both countries are also currently facing a classical problem for authoritarian governments: how do you manage a change of leadership without provoking dangerous infighting at the top?

The Russian and Chinese elites’ response to these political uncertainties is also similar. Increasingly, their domestic legitimacy relies on a renewed sense of national pride. Their governments push out a popular message that economic strength means they can no longer be shoved around by the west. Both countries tell a receptive public that national weakness is a thing of the past. China’s insistence that it will fight to prevent Taiwanese independence is popular. The Russian public seems to love it when Mr Putin is rude to the American president.

But nationalism has to be handled with care. In China, the authorities eventually reined in the anti-Japanese demonstrations of 2005. In Russia, the government has sponsored nationalist youth organisations. They are a useful source of political muscle. But it is also important to ensure that a resurgent Russian nationalism supports the system, rather than undermining it.

Russian and Chinese nationalism – backed by economic strength – poses obvious foreign policy dilemmas for the west. The issues involved are both practical and philosophical.

On the practical level, western countries have to decide how hard a line to take when China threatens Taiwan, or Russia squeezes Georgia. How much of a fuss should we make about human rights? What should we do when Russian and Chinese “sovereign wealth funds” try to buy western companies? How do we cope with the fact that Russia and China frequently block western efforts at the United Nations Security Council – over Burma, Kosovo and Iran for example? Behind these day-to-day issues are some bigger philosophical questions. Was it wrong to suppose that globalisation and economic growth would eventually mean that Russia and China would become liberal democracies? If that was too glib, are the new China and Russia threatening to western interests?

It is too soon to answer these questions definitively. China and Russia once again pose an ideological challenge to the west. But authoritarian nationalism, backed by massive foreign reserves, may turn out to be simply a phase on the long march to liberal democracy. Or it may turn out to be something more durable – and Orwellian.

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Post time 2007-10-24 10:30:38 |Display all floors
Originally posted by sockmonkey at 2007-10-24 09:35
London Financial Times
Gideon Rachman

Russia and China's Challenge for the West

Dmitry Peskov, official spokesman for the Russian president, likes a joke. Visitors to his  ...

Here is a second thought. An article from Newsweek that was also published in today's 'Japan Times'

Iran, China key to U.S. policy in handling Iran
James P. Pinkerton
October 18, 2007

Are we focused on Iran, or not? The Bush administration says that Iran is the greatest threat to our effort in Iraq, to the security of Israel and to the oil-rich Persian Gulf. Indeed, the White House says that Iran is the principal supporter of terrorism around the world. And, oh yes, Tehran is working to get a nuke.

So if all that's true, why are we antagonizing the key countries we'd need to help us against Iran? Why drive away Russia, China and Turkey?

Military strategists have a useful concept: "The Main Effort." It's a simple idea, based on common sense: Concentrate on one thing at a time, first things first.

But of course, in the "fog of war," it's easy to lose sight of the main effort. And so the U.S. Army field manual, published in 2001, lays out the concept in a whole chapter, just to make sure that everyone gets it: "The main effort is the activity, unit or area that commanders determine constitutes the most important task at that time."

The idea of "the main effort" applies to geopolitics, too.

In the '40s, the Soviet Union was an evil empire, but it was less evil - and certainly less of a threat to the United States - than Nazi Germany. And so in the European theater we concentrated our main effort on defeating Hitler. And it worked.

Indeed, we tend to win our wars when we can surround and isolate our foe - as with Grenada in the '80s, or Serbia in the '90s. By contrast, we are much less successful when the enemy can be easily resupplied and reinforced by its allies, as was the case in Korea in the '50s, and Vietnam in the '60s and '70s.

And so back to Iran. If we are to prevail, we will need to isolate the country, cutting it off from potential aiders and abettors - most obviously Russia and China, the two countries that provided help to North Korea and North Vietnam.

So how're we doing? Let's start with Russia. Just last week, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was in Moscow, preaching democracy in the middle of that autocracy, telling dissidents, "I think that there is too much concentration of power in the Kremlin." She's right, of course. But Russian strongman Vladimir Putin is not our principal enemy - he's not the main effort.

And for his part, Putin has tricks up his sleeve. So he went to Tehran on Tuesday, hobnobbing with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, warning the United States not to attack. And if the United States does attack anyway, who will the Russians help?

Now to China. The Chinese are already buying Iranian oil. Surely, Beijing is nervous about possible American military action against Iran; the Chinese don't want to see the United States gaining still more control over Middle Eastern oil supplies.

So what does the United States do? Does it reassure China that we're its friend? That we're no threat to China, come what may with Iran? No, we do just the opposite. On Tuesday, President George W. Bush welcomed the Dalai Lama - regarded by the Chinese government as a renegade and a traitor - to the White House, and yesterday, Congress awarded him a special gold medal. The official Chinese reaction was "fury."

Now we can say that the Dalai Lama is a jolly good fellow, but whose help do we want against Iran - his? Or China's?

As a smaller example, the House is working on a resolution condemning Turkey's genocide against the Armenians. Did the Turks do it, 90 years ago? Sure. But today, do we want Turkey's help against Iran, or not?

It's possible to argue that current American policy toward Russia, China and Turkey is perfectly correct.

In which case, Iran is not really our main effort, after all. And the United States is therefore unlikely to succeed in thwarting Tehran's manifold ambitions.,0,954257.column

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Post time 2007-11-3 13:53:03 |Display all floors

SJ ,you get the point

actually the Iranian nuke crisis is not about Iran
Iran alone doesn't have the guts and muscle to challenge America and Europe together
But some major powers are behind and back uo this middle east country,so the essence of Iran issue comes down to the games among major powers
with the humiliating defeat in Iraq has america lost the upper hand against iran ,so at least at the time being no major war will break out
but will the americans take a substantial risk ?
The Sun rises every day from the East !

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Post time 2007-11-3 14:32:09 |Display all floors

I don't know about lumping China in with Russia. Currently, the political class is heading the opposite direction of Russia, establishing more freedoms and flirting with once heretical liberal ideas. Sino-Russian relations are, I think, very fragile and based largely on pragmatic, not ideological interests. The major challenge for the West is whether it will invite China to sit at the cool kids' table or not; right now it flirts with the same moribund group of losers (like Putin) that cash in when commodities are valuable but China's ambitions don't really lie with them, at least not publicly, and have a greater accord with Western objectives than the silly people here can see.
"Justice prevails... evil justice."

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Post time 2007-11-3 16:32:59 |Display all floors

That is Because

1.  China can win under the Western system - IF only the Westerners re not so bigoted and keep changing the rules when they can't compete.

2.  Confrontation and war is less profitable than doing business, except where fundamental interests (e.g., territorial sovereignty) are involved.

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Post time 2007-11-3 20:05:06 |Display all floors

The collapse of self confidence .

We see a distinct twitch on the face of Uncle Sam and a tremor of uncertainty , anxiety and trepidation for the future. All this hand wringing and blaming others for their own foreign policy collapse speaks more about the loss of sense of direction on the part of the US than about Russia or China or both .

The rise of the Bear and the Dragon is relative.. The Eagle has tangled its wings in an overreach , overbearing and over there syndrome. It has spread its wings too wide . With wars and troubles in every continent involving their efforts and troops , there is the old Napoleonic disease of over stretching the supply line . The foundations of governance , ostensibly democratic , have all but disappeared and the citizens are restless. This downward slide makes the Russian and Chinese economic advancement look more spectacular than they are .  

But to continuously taunt and threaten the two powers most able to help resolve and negotiate solutions to the hot spots of world politics like Iraq and Iran , is silly .

How do you say it ?  " Cut your nose to spite your face " ?  Great imagery .

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Post time 2007-11-4 18:26:00 |Display all floors
As things stand , the only one whose throat is on the line is the American eagle. Dizzy and drunk with power it is soaring too high and flying too far. It is getting its feathers singed and clipped.

China and Russia are closer together mainly because the eagle is hovering and circling and irritating them.

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