Australia overestimates China
01 October 2012
In a fascinating session at the Sydney-based Lowy Institute, James Fallows said that Australians have a tendency to overestimate the rise of China. The Atlantic columnist also spoke of the Chinese government's nervousness and defensive over-reaction to events. The government's manufactured anti-Japanese sentiment is at its highest ever levels, much greater than in the 1980s.
There are fundamental contradictions in the Chinese system -- prosperity, education and exposure to the outside world, together with tight controls and a deeply corrupt Communist Party. There are also massive generational differences between China's ruling elite of aging men, and the country's youth which are in the blogosphere. The only value of the official media in China is to learn the Communist Party's opinions and positions.
While the government has many controls over the Internet and social media, patient and creative Chinese citizens can find a way around these controls. The best way for the Communist Party to stay in power is to relax a little, to allow greater freedom, to let some steam out of the system.
With political transitions upcoming in both the US and China, there is lots of barking in the media. But China/US relations are fundamentally robust. The US policy since Nixon has been to help the rise of China. The US airs its concerns about democracy and human rights, but then goes on to work pragmatically with China.