Changes in China’s political stance were ‘˜unlikely’ to occur in the near future despite continued economic rise of the Asian giant, acclaimed US author James Mann asserted
Changes in China’s political stance were ‘unlikely’ to occur in the near future despite continued economic rise of the Asian giant, acclaimed US author James Mann asserted at an Aspen Institute India session in New Delhi.
Mann made these comments while addressing a talk on ‘China as a World Power’ chaired by Former Indian Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran. The discussion revolved around the key steps taken by China to consolidate its economic and political power, and the role played by countries such as the U.S. in buoying China’s rise on the global stage.
In an engaging presentation, Mann attempted to address questions on the future of the global world order vis-a-vis China’s growth and its internal politics, while underscoring the growing unrest in China’s middle class. “Over the last six years, I have been impressed by Chinese middle class concerns in three areas. The first is pollution and air quality, which is really bad. The second is food quality, or product quality. Even basic milk is tainted in China, and people are importing milk from Hong Kong and overseas because they cannot trust anything they buy. The third is internet censorship, which is viewed as a daily annoyance and insult for middle class people,” Mann opined. “Yet, China is still an economically powerful country with a developed military, even though its political systems are fragile. In my view, China will not change politically, though it will get stronger and stronger economically for the next 20 years or so.”
Mann also shared some of the key transformations witnessed in China’s socio-economic model since the early 1980s, when new economic reforms were announced and businesses were opened up for private entrepreneurs. “29 years ago, economic reforms essentially meant down-and-out individuals in the Chinese society taking a leap on their own. Over the last three decades, China has developed economically to a point that it is now rivalling or surpassing the West. It has also strengthened its military power to protect its economic interests. At the same time, China has made stunningly little change in its political system,” he said, recounting his stint in China as a political reporter.
Reflecting on the changing dynamics in the U.S.-China relationship, Mann argued that Washington’s ‘integrationist model’ had begun to wear out. “Since 2008, there has been a growing recognition among American leaders that the U.S. policy would not bring China to political liberalisation. They are beginning to wonder if China would come into the international order without seeking to change it. I also feel U.S. policies have started to change in response to China’s policies. This fundamental change finds its roots in the U.S. financial crisis of 2008, when China seems to have done a strategic reassessment, assuming the U.S. was a declining power and that Beijing should assert its might. From mid-2010, the Obama administration too began hardening its policies towards China, and this seems to me like a fairly long-term U.S. strategy towards China.”
Mann is presently Author-in-Residence at Johns Hopkins University, and has written a series of award-winning books about American foreign policy and China. His work was awarded the Edward Weintal Prize in 1999 for distinguished career-long coverage of foreign policy. Prof. Mann’s best-known work is Rise of the Vulcans: A History of Bush’s War Cabinet. He has also written three books about America’s relationship with China, namely Beijing Jeep, About Face: A History of America’s Curious Relationship with China, From Nixon to Clinton and The China Fantasy. His latest book is The Obamians: The Struggle Inside The White House to Redefine American Power released in 2012.