Friday, May 05, 2006


There is an interesting piece in the BBC today outlining the growing fear that China is contravening the Monroe Doctrine, and infiltrating the Western Hemisphere.
The concern out of Washington is that China is using its growing economic power, and its bland "profits first" international policy to woo South American populists already pre-disposed to dislike the U.S. (or at least our policies towards Latin America).  From Congressman Dan Burton,
"We're concerned about the leftist countries that are dealing with China," says Congressman Dan Burton, the Republican chairman of the sub-committee on the Western Hemisphere. "It's extremely important that we don't let a potential enemy of the US become a dominant force in this part of the world."
It seems that after 5 years of "look 'em in the eye" diplomacy--where we tell countries if we're afraid of them, and by how much; where we tell countries what we will do to them if they don't comply; where we make large demands of our adversaries, and larger demands on our friends--we might consider trying something different.  The policies we are currently pursuing leave us tied up in our own lasso, and our counterparts free to exploit our entanglement.  It might be time to try something like Judo diplomacy, or Aikido diplomacy: let China do whatever it wants, but use its initiatives to achieve our aims.  This is what China is doing to the U.S.; and our poor rope-work keeps making it easy for them. 
Congress wants us to crack down on Chinese initiatives in Latin America (the whole world, really, but I'll stay on topic).  The President needs Chinese support with our national security on: Iran, North Korea, and sorting through the Japan-Korea-Russia triangle of island disputes.  But most importantly for President Bush, we need China's economy strong, and currency weak (that's right, I said strong and weak, not weak and strong) so that China's trade surplus (not deficit) remains high enough that China has to continue to buy our debt.  Without that, interest rates will not creep up.  They will shoot up.  Inflation will rise.  Over-mortgaged homebuyers will be foreclosed on, the  housing bubble will burst, corporate expansion will disappear, unemployment will rise, and the party in power will be out on its ear faster than Jimmy Carter can say "malaise."
Basically, I'm saying the same thing I say at least once a week: without a significant change in how the U.S. runs our own fiscal house, we aren't going to be in a position to ask anything of China--economically, politically, or militarily.  Sorry, the last hegemon has come crawling to the bookie, and the bookie's price is high.

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