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Zhongguo China

Zhongguo China

Author: N.V.Subramanian
Publication: Newsinsight.net
Date: November 14, 2009
URL: http://www.newsinsight.net/archivedebates/nat2.asp?recno=1911

A glimpse at the world if the dreaded Chinese Middle Kingdom comes into being. N.V.Subramanian analyzes.

13 November 2009: There is a kerfuffle over the recent Washington Post expose of Chinese proliferation to Pakistan, but contrary to expectation, this won't impair the US president, Barack Obama's meeting with his Chinese counterpart, Hu Jintao. And yet, it advertises what sort of a world may come into being if Obama allows China to grow into an Asian hegemon and then into the omnipotent Middle Kingdom or Zhongguo that is so much part of the Chinese psyche, a "Mandate from Heaven" as it were.

Zhongguo anciently refers to the perished Zhou dynasty that was touted as the "centre of civilization". But because of the political legitimacy that such a title confers, it was later adopted by the Kuomintang's Republic of China and then possessed by the People's Republic or Mao Zedong's China in 1949. In its original context, Zhongguo meant the sovereign's capital as opposed to the capital of the vassal states. In modernity, it would roughly approximate a powerful, totalitarian, anti-democratic state in the centre immediately surrounded by satellite states and distantly controlling client lands and the instant image this delivers is of an undismantled Soviet empire. Unless president Obama checks his enthusiasm for "strategically reassuring" China, he will unwittingly midwife a second Soviet Union with Chinese characteristics and set in motion happenings for a hot war with jihadi strains. There are definite grounds to say this.

Within a year (1982) of China passing a tested nuclear-bomb blueprint and fuel for two atomic weapons to Pakistan, US intelligence knew about this, as it realized three years later that Beijing had also exported tritium gas to Islamabad both to make fusion and boosted fission weapons. Both these transfers happened when separately Pakistan and China were allies of the US to oust the Soviet Union from Afghanistan. Therefore, the US turned a blind eye to these proliferations. It is noteworthy that China made these proliferations when the US and USSR were in the last conflict of the Cold War in the exact same fashion as it attacked India in 1962 when world attention was focussed on the American-Soviet clash in the Cuban Missile Crisis. If China is not penitent about those Eighties proliferation to Pakistan when it was a rising great power -- lying that it is being unfairly vilified by vested interests, including India -- what will it stop at once it becomes the equal of the US and then the Middle Kingdom hegemon? It will stop at nothing. When tens of millions were obliterated in Mao's social, cultural and industrial production experiments, the leadership insinuated that ends justified means. The leadership used the Tiananmen Square massacre to craft a social contract in which growth warranted political suppression, religious repression and the crushing of human rights -- again a case of ends trumping the means. Why should the rest of the world (the "vassals" in the Middle Kingdom paradigm) expect a reprieve when China grosses up to be the dreaded Zhongguo hegemon?

What would the world be like with a Middle Kingdom hegemon? It will be like China inside out, only worse. There will be discouraging and subversion of democracies everywhere, and in this, its partner is likely to be Saudi Arabia whose repressive royalty (the root cause for Osama Bin Laden's terrorism) will then stand less threatened by open societies than today. The Saudi and other status-quo sheikhdoms' oil wealth combined with the Middle Kingdom's great power (probably the worst case of Samuel Huntington's thesis) will be harder to defeat than the Soviet Union if Obama continues to appease China. The Confucian-Islamist bloc will naturally destroy human rights and trample religious freedoms where it can using any and all means, including jihadi terrorism (hence the reference to the jihadi hot war earlier in the piece). For a glimpse of that, visualize Afghanistan post US and NATO's departure and the deals China makes with the Taliban and Al-Qaeda over and beyond anything it has so far made. And Zhongguo China will put to shame the earlier colonial powers in rapacious resource extraction in the unpoliced parts of the world where its sway will hold. Last, it will proliferate without let or hindrance to fill its coffers and to make dire friendships. Don't surprise if both Saudi Arabia and Iran come to possess nuclear weapons if the Middle Kingdom comes by. China will happily argue that with this, an age of peaceful deterrence inaugurates in the Middle East.

Is this scenario farfetched? Not at all, if you consider that China plays by no rules (for example, although self-described as a market economy, it is an audacious mercantilist and an unabashed currency manipulator), because according to its Middle Kingdom mindset, it sets the principles that the rest of the world must comply with. There is a naive, Western belief (a willing suspension of disbelief rather) that China is no longer a proliferator after it joined the NPT. It joined the NPT because France had done so just earlier and it could no longer call NPT a US-USSR conspiracy since the USSR was no more. But it has continued to be a proliferator and especially so to Pakistan even after joining the NPT (a US House select committee used the present tense to describe Chinese proliferation in a report released in May 1999 concerning Beijing's theft of critical American thermonuclear secrets). The point is this. No amount of screaming about Chinese proliferation to Pakistan will aid unless China's rise and especially its Middle Kingdom ambitions are scuttled. If the US takes the lead, India won't be found wanting. It has had enough of China's manufactured crisis and outrage over Arunachal Pradesh and the Dalai Lama's visit there. The ball, in other words, is in President Barack Obama's court.

- N.V.Subramanian is Editor, www.NewsInsight.net, and writes internationally on strategic affairs. He has authored two novels, University of Love (Writers Workshop, Calcutta) and Courtesan of Storms (Har-Anand, Delhi).

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