How To Serve 800 lb. Gorillas
It's late Friday, I've got too much time on my hands and Internet access, so....
There's an old monkey hunting trick requiring a piece of fruit and a clay jar. Putting monkey on the table for dinner starts with putting a piece of ripe fruit in heavy jar. The opening of the jar must be just big enough for the monkey to get it's hand in and grab the fruit but too small to let the monkey to pull the fruit out. Once the monkey grabs the fruit it won't let go. The heavy jar slows the monkey and allows the hunters to capture it. Monkey for dinner.
Our trade relations with China are both the fruit and the heavy jar. The problem is China is an 800 lb Gorilla. Capturing 800 lb Gorillas hasn't turned out well in our imaginings. Things don't look any more promising with King Wong in the net.
I don't buy into the whole inscrutable thing but I can't get an armchair read on China. I worked for a Japanese firm. Traveled in Japan and read widely in terms of Japanese history and culture. Studying Japan requires knowledge of China but my knowledge of current Chinese culture is limited to running portfolios for Chinese investors and working directly with a Hong Kong family with interests in Vancouver. I've read some histories, literature, Menicus and Confucius, and, of course my deeply read translation of the I Ching by Wilhelm and Baynes, (the one with the finely crushed green leaf embedded between almost every page). From all of this I'm guessing China isn't yet China. Were seeing the forging of China as it comes into being as a world power. China's history is one of internal strife and isolationism punctuated by interesting exceptions.
A decade ago the Chinese Government said it would move toward democracy. I don't see this happening. What is apparent are Chinese Government slogans like Harmony and Purity. It's been a while since I last read Mao's Little Red Book but policies tied to Harmony and Purity resonate with centralist, idealist tyranny. Can the Chinese government profit from world trade and forge a mode of centralist, non-democratic government capable of controlling its people while allowing them a scent of democratic freedoms? Does the question come down to the same one we are unraveling in the west? If you keep the population comfortable, well fed and amused can you take away their freedoms and have them say thank you?
Edmund Wilson calculated that to bring the world population to a standard of living like the average enjoyed by the west would require the resources of 5 earths. He went on to suggest China was the test case that would show whether we could meet the challenges of overpopulation and pollution. If you factor in the costs of war then I'm guessing, in the long run, when were all dead as J.M. Keynes said, China and the rest of us are in for a rough ride. May you live in interesting times.