From: Jean-Louis Kayitenkore <email@example.com>
Subject: Reading Hu Jintao's mind
To: blog jean-Louis Kayitenkore <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Hu Jintao is simultaneously President of China, General Secretary
of the Chinese Communist Party, and chairman of
China's Central Military Commission.
Last year Newsweek labeled him the "second most powerful
man in the world," and he has undoubtedly watched the events
of the past few years with keen interest and
no small amount of satisfaction.
Here's what I imagine he's thinking these days...
"We are realists here in the People's Republic, and
in a sense we have been for centuries.
Even during the most radical phases of
our history -- such as the Great Leap Forward
or the Cultural Revolution -- our foreign policy
was prudent and keenly attuned to the balance of power.
The United States has had the world's largest economy
for more than a century, and despite
some self-inflicted wounds, it is still the world's most
We recognize this fact, and our current strategy
of "peaceful rise" reflects what we have learned
by studying the U.S. experience.
America became a great world power by
remaining aloof from the quarrels of the other
major powers and letting them destroy each other
in ruinous wars, while it built its own economic
strength and gradually established itself as
the dominant power in its own region.
When it did fight wars, it picked weak and easily
defeated opponents or it waited until the last minute
to get involved in wars with other great powers.
The United States was the last major power to enter
both World War I and World War II, and it made
sure that other states bore the heaviest burdens
during the fighting.
As a result, both wars ended with the United States
in the strongest position.
Our strategy of "peaceful rise" reflects a similar set
We want to stay out of pointless quarrels with
others and avoid costly military commitments,
at least until our economic strength equals
that of America.
For this reason, we are happy to let the United States
take the lead in troubled regions like
the Middle East or Central Asia.
Why shouldn't we want them to squander
their strength trying to fix intractable global problems,
while we retain good relations with all parties?
It just makes sense.
I do miss President George W. Bush, of course.
We had good relations with the United States
while he was president, and he even came
to visit us during our Olympics.
I probably should have thanked him personally
for all the foolish things he did, like letting
Bin Laden and the Taliban slip through his fingers
in Afghanistan and then invading Iraq in 2003.
He did cultivate closer ties with India and
that development didn't make me happy,
but on the whole, his threats and bluster frightened
many U.S. allies and made U.S. relations with states
like Iran even worse than they were before.
Needless to say, these policies created
valuable opportunities for China, and we've
been quick to take advantage of them.
While America was distracted and wasting
hundreds of billions occupying
hostile countries -- we were establishing profitable
commercial ties in the oil-rich Persian Gulf and
quietly expanding our influence in our
own Asian backyard.
President Bush also helped us by presiding over
scandals such as Abu Ghraib, Hurricane Katrina,
and the treatment of terrorist suspects at Guantanamo.
To be frank, I never understood why some Americans
are so obsessed with protecting "rights."
In fact, I was pleased to discover that
former Vice President Cheney agrees
with me; he understands how a strong executive
deals with potential troublemakers!
I sometimes think he'd make
a good Vice President here.
Anyway, the good news for us is that these events
made the United States look both incompetent
and hypocritical and made it harder
for Washington to criticize my own domestic policies.
I owe former president Bush a real debt
of gratitude; I should probably call him
and say thanks.
I confess that I wanted John McCain to win
the 2008 election, because I thought he would
keep America on the same failed course.
And having someone like Governor Palin
as Vice President was almost too much
to hope for.
So naturally I was worried when Barack Obama
got elected; he seemed smart and level-headed
and is obviously a gifted politician.
He's much more charismatic than Bush and
to be frank, he's a lot more charismatic than I am.
So I asked myself: Would he be able reverse
America's recent missteps and restore
its international reputation?
And at first, it seemed like he might do just that.
But now I'm not so concerned.
President Obama may have good instincts
and intentions, but his aides don't seem to
be giving him very good advice.
He is going to get most U.S. troops out
of Iraq (a smart move for him, but not so good
for me) but he's getting a lot of pressure to put
more troops and money into Afghanistan.
I hope he does, because that will leave
the United States with fewer resources
to devote to containing China.
Moreover, President Obama doesn't seem
to be making any headway with Iran
or the Middle East peace process,
and failure there will make that big speech in Cairo
look rather silly.
Obama also wants China and India and
other developing countries to make
big concessions on greenhouse gas emissions,
but he's having trouble getting his own Congress
to adopt a serious program and I doubt we'll face
much genuine pressure at the upcoming
summit in Copenhagen.
That's a relief.
And I can't help smiling to myself whenever I think
about America's domestic political system.
Americans like to lecture China about
the importance of "free speech" and other
quaint Western concepts, but at least I don't have
to deal with madmen spouting nonsense
on television and radio and special interest groups
making it impossible to enact reforms that
the nation as a whole badly needs.
I may have some minor problems in Xinjiang,
but I hear states like California are rapidly
becoming ungovernable and that the universities
we used to envy are losing their edge.
I even hear that Harvard isn't so rich anymore.
This makes me smile too, because a well-educated
population is the key to future power and a society
that is content to be ignorant cannot remain
a world power for long.
Meanwhile, my economy is beginning
to grow rapidly again, while the United States
piles up debt and lots of people there
are looking for work.
I do like that
nice young Treasury Secretary; he understands
that he needs my help to keep the world economy
afloat and he isn't going to try to browbeat
us very much.
The silly new tariff on imported tires is annoying
and we will of course issue a loud protest, but even
that reactionary magazine The Economist said
it was "bad politics, bad economics,
So from where I sit, the view looks pretty good.
America likes to say that it is the "leader of
the free world" and I'm happy to let them
have that title -- for now -- provided they stay
focused on other issues and let China's peaceful
The more "global leadership" they insist upon taking,
the more resources they will expend, the faster
they will decline, and the sooner
we will be in a position to supplant them.
I do have one lingering concern, however.
America's leaders may come to their senses,
and go back to the unsentimental realism
that guided their rise to greatness
in the 19th and early 20th centuries.
They might discover what
Sun Tzu taught -- "There is no instance of a nation
benefitting from prolonged warfare" -- and stop
insisting on bearing all the world's burdens themselves.
But then I remember what their foreign policy "debate"
is like, and I recall that both Democrats and
Republicans seem equally eager to interfere
all over the world, and suddenly that danger
doesn't seem very great. In fact,
the future looks bright."
MAYELA LOPEZ/AFP/Getty Images
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