New York- I’m zipping through a book I borrowed from the shelves at the Jamestown Foundation by Zbigniew Brzezinski called Second Chance the other week which I’ve been reading to pass the time on various train trips. The book was written during the second term of George W. Bush and analyzes his, Clinton’s and his father George H.W.’s opportunities that they had as the only leaders of a post-Soviet unipolar world. I came across an especially interesting passage today about the aftermath of Tiananmen Square and the death of Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu (who was executed with his wife Elena on Christmas Day 1989) in the Sino view of things.
On page 56 of Second Chance:
“…shortly after Ceasescu’s death, the supreme Chinese leader, Deng Xiaoping, asked the visiting Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, to convey a message to [George H.W.] Bush: “Do not get too excited about what happened in Eastern Europe, and do not treat China in the same manner.”
Substitute Eastern Europe in 1989-90 with the Arab convulsions today in this statement and try and extrapolate just how the Communist Party of China in Beijing views the deposement of their autocratic allies as this anecdote from well over 20 years so clearly illustrates. And the China of the present, as everyone knows is one with which the US has much less leverage than it would have in 1989 when the Tiananmen uprising and the tank man image posed the gravest threat to Communist rule there since Mao’s bloody founding of the PRC in 1949 following the resumption of the Chinese civil war after the conclusion of WWII.
All sorts of people have been wondering if the idea of democracy promotion is dead in light of how much of America’s debt, China, an authoritarian, single-party state, owns and the political and ideological ripple effects that has, along with the closer economic integration of East Asia and the Arab monarchies of the Persian Gulf and the Arab dictatorships of North Africa etc.
What is dead is the neoconservative idea of democracy at the point of a gun and silly nonsensical things like a “Clean Break.” But where the White House stands unsure is what to do when “moderate” allies that are grotesque police states who we outsource torture and other nasty things to collapse under their own demographic and repressive weight. While the ascendancy of China (mostly just China’s glittering skylines along its eastern seaboard) is heralded as some sort of new ‘new world order’ where democracy is no longer entirely relevant by trendy globalists, China’s rise is not yet assured as massive amounts of largely undocumented unrest carry on in the countryside.