Quotable (#6)

Some words of geopolitical caution from Robert Kaplan:

China is aware of its own role as an agent of change. Beijing knows that it is an emerging power. It knows that emerging powers disrupt the international system. But it needs to buy time, since it isn’t ready to confront directly and unapologetically the American-led status quo in the Pacific. China’s lack of readiness is heightened by the precarious consolidation of political power and economic reforms that the Xi Jinping administration has undertaken out of necessity. China thus seeks a “new kind of major country relationship,” a phrase Chinese and American diplomats have taken to repeating, whereby the two countries will find some way of accommodating each other to China’s military emergence without causing the disruption and conflict that history books suggest is inevitable. The problem with this rhetoric is that, as the Napoleonic Wars and World War I showed, the awareness that a collapsing status quo often precedes a bellum is not the same thing as collective action on all sides to reform the old status quo. Knowing theoretically what causes wars — though good in and of itself and a prerequisite for prudent statecraft — is not the same as sacrificing some portion of one’s own interests to try to prevent them.

ADDED: More on Chinese grand strategy, from Francesco Sisci: “[International] Politics is no longer a zero-sum game here; conversely new political activism from any party is pushing new political activity by everybody. New bilateral ties between countries in the region seem to kindle a wildfire of measures and countermeasures by almost every subject, where the result is a positive gain of political ties, not a freeze in any part of this very complicated chessboard. Politics seems to imitate international commerce — more trade by two parties creates more trade with many other parties not involved in the original exchange. It is a very new phenomenon and so far is hard to fathom.”

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