TOM PLATE WRITES – Who has a good sense of China? From America, I will read anything by the sagacious Orville Schell, now with the Asia Society in New York, nested at the Center for U.S. China Relations; or by globe-trotting Nathan Gardels, whose superb fourth chapter in his just published book with Nicholas Berggruen ‘Renovating Democracy’ puts China into as clear a context as any analyst in the U.S.
The Australians – though not particularly humble – do offer good thinking and writing about China. Choose any of a half dozen of their best but for my money place Hugh White near the top. His wise book ‘The China Choice: Why America Should Share Power’, out a half dozen years now, set the gold standard for rigorous geopolitical calculation.
But ever wonder how China views the U.S? I’ve met a few profs from the Central Party School. They were quite brilliant – easily more informed about the world than, say, the average American congressman. Given the school’s central role in the care and feeding of party members – or future members – before their return back to the party aparata-octopus, in a system advertised as more meritocratic than mendacious, it’s good to remind ourselves that we do not have a monopoly on geopolitical wisdom.
Central Party School professors who can think clearly and confer openly with their colleagues about the political conditions of their own China are staggeringly important to global peace and security. Their poised thinking may actually help nurture a more sensible atmosphere on Beijing’s end and buffer tensions between the two super-military powers before they get dangerously out of hand.
One PRC Party School professor is reported to have forthrightly decried (this comes to us in translation and in mediated transmission of course) “the explosion of narrow-minded nationalism and exclusionism that has followed recent frustrations and difficulties in our foreign relations.” What China needs, he added to his stunner, is “confidence without arrogance, pride without conceit.” Agreed.
Can anyone think of a superpower besides China that would improve itself by taking such words of wisdom to heart? (though we shan’t mention its name for fear of being dubbed anti-American.) British futurist H.G. Wells (1866-1946) warned: “Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe.”
A longer version of the above comments, published earlier this week, appeared in the South China Post of Hong Kong: https://www.scmp.com/comment/insight-opinion/article/3007121/world-can-think-its-way-out-us-china-deadlock-starting