Thursday, April 16, 2009

The Path to China’s Power

During last night’s Hale Institute discussion of his recent book, The Three Faces of China Power, John Hopkins Dean and China scholar David Lampton defined the platform of Might, Money and Minds China is utilizing to pursue its place as a dominant world power.

While China continues to modernize and expand its military, including pursuit of a deep sea navy, Lampton explains that Deng Xiaoping’s plan for China's modernization (globalization, urbanization and market creation) mandated staying out of the world’s troubles and using force, or the ability to use force, as selective instruments and assets of national identity.

This is a lesson from the USSR. By focusing on the coercive power of military might as its central priority, the Soviets scarified the development of their internal economy and became entrenched in an all consuming Cold War.

China’s role as a buyer of the world’s goods in another plank in its platform to acquire power. Lampton points out that with all of the rhetoric surrounding China’s trade imbalance with the US, China is a major importer of a wide variety of commodities and industrial goods.

Following the premise that the customer is always right, China wields influence and control by the money it spends and who it chooses to do business with. This extends from acquiring airplanes to the investments being made in Africa and Latin America to secure energy resources.

Finally,Lampton addressed the quest for the knowledge necessary to fuel China’s race for power. The crop of Chinese PhDs in hard sciences matriculating from US schools is a great indicator of China’s efforts to quickly obtain base knowledge in all fields.

A cautionary tale for business was offered in this discussion. A view of China as lacking the innovation, leadership and know-how to compete at any level in the world market is dangerous and naive. China is coming on strong and fast.

Dr. Lampton offers a fascinating view of China’s future. Rather China’s is able to stay on course on its route to power remains to be seen, but the events of the past 30 years suggest the government is indeed able to work towards big goals, all be it with some pain along the way.

Look to see how China’s power is addressed in the coming weeks as we approach the 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square protests.

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