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The China Fantasy

Book Review:

As you can imagine, there are hundreds of books on China and thousands of people that have differing opinions about China’s future. Most of them have one thing in common—they all believe in some form or another that “free trade” will inevitably lead to a free China. There are, however, a few people that hold a different view about the impact of free trade on China.

James Mann is Author in Residence at Johns Hopkins University’s Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies. He has written three books on China, including The China Fantasy, and was the Los Angeles Times Beijing bureau chief in the mid ’80s.

The China Fantasy is unique in that it attempts to dissect the seemingly contradictory nature of the United States’ policies towards China.

How is it that we have chosen to allow the most repressive one-party government in the world (based on numbers) to be admitted into the World Trade Organization (WTO), while out of the other side of our mouth we condemn all other such regimes?

What has led to this collapse of common sense judgment and why was it replaced it with rickety arguments that are clearly in contrast to the naked truth about China’s most likely destination in the world community?

James Mann takes us back to the days of the Cold War, when the primary concern—if not the dominating thought in the halls of the White House, Pentagon and Congress with regards to U.S. foreign policy—were focused on how to defeat the Soviet Union.

In China we found a powerful ally against the Russians. Soviet leaders had to dedicate huge amounts of troops and re-sources to guard the Chinese border—troops and resources that could have otherwise been dispatched to Germany or Cuba or other strategic arenas that would have strengthened the march of Soviet Communism elsewhere in the world.

As the Cold War came to an end with the symbolic fall of the Berlin wall, China was no longer a necessary ally of the U.S. There was no opportunity for the U.S. to challenge the one remaining Communist state with any real power. We had dis-patched Communism in Western Europe and Afghanistan and held it at bay in Korea. We could now turn our attention to the Chinese leadership through diplomatic and economic channels. However, by this time the Nixon/Kissinger Doctrine of Engagement had already taken hold. Many U.S. corporations had begun to see the potential of a burgeoning market in China, with up to 900,000,000 potential consumers.

For those who have been marching to the drumbeat of “Free Trade will lead to a Free China,” it is hard to step back and see this argument for what it is—a false doctrine based on a false premise.

South Korean and Taiwan are the models that seem to in-still confidence in the “Free Trade will lead to a Free China” mantra. Mann points out that there are several major flaws in this argument.

Both South Korea and Taiwan were dependent on the U.S. Government for the very existence of their countries. Also, the U.S. was providing financial aid and commerce to South Korea and Taiwan, so had we sanctioned them it would have imploded their fledgling economies. The U.S. put substantial diplomatic pressure on both of these countries to effectively force them to yield to a democratic form of government.

With regards to China after the Second World War, the U.S. had effectively neutralized both of China’s enemies with the dramatic defeat of Japan and the subsequent Cold War and implosion of the Soviet Union.

The Chinese were no longer dependent on the U.S. for protection. As for the economic fulcrums, there was a brief moment in time when the Chinese were vulnerable, but in that moment we determined that a stable China was better than a fragile one and so we blinked.

Mann also addresses the “Think Tank” dilemma. How is it that both the far-right-leaning Heritage Foundation and the far-left-leaning Brookings Institute came to the same conclusion in principle on how the U.S. should deal with China?

Mann tracks the money, as these think tanks are non-profit and depend upon businesses and other institutes for their survival. He even details the account of one major supporter of a prominent think tank, who threatened to withdraw his funding because they had published a conclusion in contrast to his own.

The China Fantasy is a quick read that will provide you with vital information—information that will help you see through the rhetoric and grasp the real motives behind the current U.S. policy towards China.

With China being the most populous nation on earth, with an increase in GDP that has averaged in the double digits over the last decade, and in view of what the Bible says about her future, this is a crucial subject about which we should all be informed.

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