Chinese Power in the New Year

Paul Krugman at the New York Times gets the ball rolling with a gorge-filling editorial on China’s currency policy (the professor is mad as hell, and he’s not going to take it any more), but, across the pond in China, what do we have?   The online conversation on January 1, 2010, is centering on overseas military bases.  In a headline story/poll, Huanqiu Shibao describes Western media attention to the possiblity of China establishing overseas military bases.

As I hope commentors will note, China’s ability to extend its military power overseas is greatly exaggerated.  Get ten thousand PLA working under the UN in Congo as peacekeepers, and supply them, and keep them healthy and mostly alive through Chinese logistics, and then we can talk about overseas reach.  Until then China is badly hemmed in in East Asia itself — it isn’t even the hegemon of its own region!

Japan’s SDF, American troops in Japan, ambivilence toward (and few military-military relations with) South Korea, and a new (if manageable in the short term) atomic threat from North Korea?  These things absorb Chinese defense planning, capabilities, and resources.  And I haven’t even gotten into South Asia, Central Asia, or Southeast Asia, all of which China is a part.  American military cooperation with Vietnam, anyone? 

More apropos (and productive) as a theme of conversation has to do with China’s status relative to Japan.  Huanqiu reports proudly that Japanese media are fawning over Shanghai’s transportation capabilities, as Shanghai is poised to become the leader in subway kilometer length in East Asia, and third in the world.  This all is leading to the World Expo in Shanghai, another chance for China to shine.     

The Tokyo-Shanghai rivalry is so productive indeed — Isn’t it time for New York City or San Francisco to get jealous?  There are so many barometers out there for productive Sino-US competition.  Sitting today in a favorite cafe in San Clemente (it’s Seattle-owned), the launching pad for Richard Nixon, I feel inclined to state that cultural, economic, intellectual and even military competition between China and the United States should always result in an improved quality of life.  Is that too much to ask?   So go ahead, argue about currency reform and aircraft carriers — I’ll be thinking of pandas, fast trains, and symphony orchestras resonating their thunder in “the Egg.”

In the meantime, Xinhua passes along hopes for peaceful (even modernist utopian!) decade:

北京