EDITORIAL: Afterthoughts from Foreign Affairs Book Review (Kissinger v Friedberg) 'What China Wants: Bargaining With Beijing', by Andrew J. Nathan
A very interesting review essay by Andrew J. Nathan. Kissinger and Friedberg present two different takes on how Chinese-US relations and its outlook. Kissinger advocates an acceptance of China’s rising, and Friedberg proposes a more defiant US stance.
I’ll let you read the article, and perhaps we’ll all be lucky enough to read the related texts — in addition to Nathan’s own forthcoming book on Chinese security.
The thought in my head, after reading Nathan’s conclusion regarding US strategy (below), has to do with why US may not emphasize human rights as an means to best China…
It is no wonder that Chinese statecraft aims to establish the cultural relativity of human rights and to pose talk of human rights as the enemy of friendship. After all, the failure to respect human rights is a glaring weakness of Chinese power both at home and abroad, whereas promoting human rights has been among the United States’ most successful maneuvers on the wei qi board of world politics. What is surprising is that the United States’ master strategist wants to play this part of the game by Beijing’s rules. Would it not make more sense to emulate Chinese strategy than to yield to it? Emphasizing the principled centrality of the human rights idea to American ideology and keeping the issue active in bilateral relations even though it cannot be solved would seem to be — along with exercising the United States’ strengths in other fields — a good way to set the boundaries within which a rising Chinese power can operate without threatening U.S. interests.
It seems to me that there is not a great deal of unity within the US about how to best go about human rights celebration (or endorsement and support, in general). The country seems to have major rifts on several issues, such as: allowing homosexuals to be in the military, or become married; there is rampant disagreement about abortion (see the Susan G. Komen saga); continuing debate about immigration policy; and, perhaps less directly related, labor unions have come under scrutiny and in many states are facing heavy pressure to disband. This is not to say race relations and religious freedoms/tolerance are completely resolved, either. You could also argue that the economic struggles of the US have flared concerns about the growing wealth gap between rich and poor, and child poverty and related education issues linger (see end of article*).
Considering all these things, the US may not be in as much a position of human rights strength as it would like. Nathan agrees with Friedberg:
In a version of “we have met the enemy and he is us,” Friedberg says that in order to do all this, the United States must restore its economy, keep its scientific edge, protect its advanced technology, and maintain its margin of military advantage.
One can only say amen to the recommendation that the United States pull up its socks…
While I agree that those are worthy (and necessary) endeavors, I would add “strengthening human rights” to that list. It is not the time to rest on the laurels of the past. That said, making progress (or perhaps somehow working towards more national unity) on human rights issues is likely made easier with a robust economy; it’s easier to be enlightened when you are not starving. So perhaps the ultimate foreign policy recommendation for America is to figure out an economic policy that works, first and foremost, as it may be one of the best tools for having a positive influence towards the rest of the world.
(And if you were to ask me what that policy might highlight, I would suggest a very wise energy & resource strategy; a focus on combating structural unemployment; and retooling education - to develop research and technology for the globally competitive future, and for addressing domestic health and aging population. Easier said than done, of course.)
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Fareed Zakaria via Facebook: ….We know that we have an education problem with the poor. Seventy-seven percent of our kids who entered high school graduated. Compare that with other rich countries: 90% in Switzerland, 91% in the UK, 93% in Finland and 97% in Germany. Studies show that dropouts are twice as likely to slip into poverty than high school graduates.
Children in extreme poverty do badly even when they are smart. A recent U.S. study tracked a group of eighth-graders in 1988. It found that students who did very well on a standardized test but were poor were less likely to get through college than their peers who tested poorly but were well-off.
The sad part is, these statistics are reversible. Compare child poverty rates in America and the UK. You’ll see that the UK’s rates were halved within a decade from the mid-1990s. The U.S. has actually risen since then.
There’s no secret sauce. Tony Blair’s Labour government simply made reducing child poverty a priority through various programs.
… (See Zakaria’s GPS Blog here)