This post first appeared on Russia Insider
Threatened by deep, fundamental changes about which they can do little, men will reliably choose denial as a last line of defense. Given the Orwellian nature of the Western political discourse, it is not surprising that the secular rise of China has spawned a veritable cottage industry of Sinophobes, who for the past several decades have issued increasingly dire warnings of the upcoming collapse of the upstart Dragon – which in the meantime has grown its economy nearly ten-fold.
The arguments range from the cogent (trees do not grow to the sky) to the patently absurd (“China will emulate Japan” - although the similarities between the two are largely confined to use of chopsticks and the sharing of a pictographic script…) China has, of course, tacitly encouraged this blather, which coupled with convenient and reassuring myths about win-win outcomes, the inability of Asian to innovate and platform companies - has blinded Western elites to the challenge posed by the reemergence of China.
China’s relationship with Russia is a special case. The present author has been spinning his “Bear and Dragon yarn” since the turn of the millennium - at long last, he finds himself vindicated by Russia’s growing alignment with the People’s Republic, greatly accelerated by the aggressive posturing of the NATO countries as their coup d’état in Kiev reaches an increasingly sticky outcome.
It was to be expected that the propaganda machine would go into overdrive to broadcast the message that the alliance between Russia and the world’s premier economy is destined to fail – simultaneously asserting that a true alliance between the two great powers is an impossibility or that it hardly matters given the preponderance of Chinese trade with the West.
The first argument is usually accompanied by the self-assured refrain that Russia cannot conceivably abandon the West so as to enter into a full alliance with China, not just in view of more than a century of political tensions and the occasional military skirmish, but especially, that Russian high-culture is profoundly European in nature, with the Russian mindset totally non-Asian. Indeed, that no two cultures could be more different than the Russian and the Chinese!
The last statement, at least, is demonstrably false. There are indeed two cultures far more dissimilar than the Russian and the Chinese: the American and the Japanese! Nothing could be more divergent than the latter two - the brash, individualistic behaviour of Americans versus the social mores of what remains the most insular and traditional society of the developed world - hierarchical, conformist to the extreme, and stepped in the subservience of the individual to the society. Japan has demonstrated great cultural resilience, and despite a taste for sushi and Kurosawa amongst Western elites, and the odd Disneyland at home, true interchanges remain extremely limited, with far less cultural globalization than elsewhere in Asia – not to mention Europe or Latin America.
Despite such “soft” cultural barriers, Japan’s political/military alliance with America has become one of virtual subservience - Tokyo has largely abandoned any semblance of geopolitical independence viz-a-viz Washington, even as regards Russia where its own interests would be far better served by adopting a neutral stance so as to counterbalance Russia’s growing alignment with China – of course, as regards historical grievances, hardly a shot has been fired in anger (discounting – of course Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and the firebombing of Tokyo).
As regards the weight of trade argument, China’s Capex/export growth model is rapidly evolving as China becomes a middle-income country – a system whereby high-quality manufactured goods were traded for fiat currency was never particularly sustainable. Resource rich, with numerous areas of technological excellence and with a deep, liquid domestic market, and a highly credible nuclear deterrent, Russia is a vital partner for China in what is, tacit the Western critics, very much a marriage of equals.
Geopolitical alignments in a globalized era are not a matter of sentimental affinities - neither cultural preferences nor literary traditions cast a very long shadow. They are instead a function of hard economic and geopolitical realities – and these argue overwhelmingly for a new pole of attraction based around a strengthening Sino-Russian entente, gradually attracting third countries anxious for an alternative to the grasp of a declining and overweening "sole super-power"
This post first appeared on Russia Insider
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