Wednesday, May 02, 2007

China's Foreign Relations

What country's relationship with China is the most important for understanding global politics?

Answer: Russia. China is, even today, predominately a Central Asian nation. Meaning -- its borders with the various 'Stans, with India, and especially with Russia tend to dictate its foreign policy. Rocky relationships with Russia tend to mean smoother relationships with the West, and vice-versa. In the most famous example, the Sino Soviet Split lead Mao (interrupted by the Cultural Revolution) to turn to his traditional enemy, the United States, thus bringing about the Nixon visit. Since Clinton sent an aircraft carrier through the Taiwan Straits (I think that was '95), Sino-Russian relations have been relatively warm. And now, a very interesting blog post by Daniel Drezner suggests an additional shift.

Apparently, U.S. leaders are finally sufficiently chastened by the Iraq fiasco that they are at least eating a little crow. Not so the Russians, and thus there is a possibility of backlash. It's really just a hint at this point, but worth keeping an eye on.

Drezner's fourth item is worth quoting:

4) When it comes to the transatlantic relationship, China is the 800-lb. elephant in the room. It's rising power cannot be ignored. The $64,000 question is whether China's rise will cause the Americans and Europeans to compete for Beijing's favor or force greater coordination between the US and EU.

Another way of posing the question: is "The West" still a meaningful way of talking about relationships with China? I suspect so, but I'm deeply ambivalent about the implications. I want the United States-Europe relationship to be close, but I'm not wild about viewing China as an enemy.

And while we're on the topic of pesky foreigners, Thy Goddess is in Turkey at the moment. Be sure to wish her well.