China, realism and the silent war — 关系

china-hackers-new-york-timesFinally, due solely from the efforts of the cyber security firm Mandiant, we have concrete evidence that the Chinese were behind the latest round of cyber espionage attacks that have made the latest news cycle. This should come as no surprise, even for the incompetent Obama administration, except for the fact that they got caught with their pants down. Mandiant traced the attacks to one Shanghai building that happens to be occupied by People’s Liberation Army Unit 61398.

For me, this pill is bittersweet. It is a rare occasion for me to wish I was back in academia but, I could have used this as the proverbial nail in the coffin of the naive progressive argument. Let me explain.

The United States for some time now, has been dispatching State Department officials and other foreign policymakers, to universities across the country to tap academia in hopes of creating a more coherent Asian foreign policy. Past policy towards the rise of China, has assumed a hybrid mixture of economic embracement and military containment in the Asian-Pacific. Good old lament common sense should tell you, that this is trying to eat your cake and have it too. Naturally, anything that resembles common sense is band from academic Journal Reviews.

The prevailing theory, which I did not share, was that the peaceful rise of China is possible and probable. Since they were not building offensive weapons, pursuing regional hegemony, and so on, economic interdependence would rationally prevent aggression. Of course, I disagreed with the characterization of China’s military buildup. I suppose that “carrier killers” could be legitimately characterized as defensive weapons but, not when you steal ICBM and stealth technology to acquire the means to deliver them.

Furthermore, the major European powers were all economically interdependent when war broke out in 1914. Theories, however, cannot comprehend the crux of the Sino-Asian problem. The United States does not understand how the Chinese people operate, how they think, or what their goals are. From experience with Chinese business negotiation, I can tell you the last time the United States had the upper hand in diplomatic affairs, was when President Nixon traveled to the PRC as a part of détente in 1972.

My theory, Chinese Realism, is less theory and more real world observation. There are two types of leaders in China today. The Old Guard, still very much carries a sense of resentment toward the United State for taking advantage of a weak China through the “Open Door.” However, they are pragmatic people who are pursuing prosperity, and will bide their time until China’s strength can ensure past injustices by the US and Japan are rectified. The Old Guard is on their way out, and there is a transition occurring within China as we speak.

The New Wave, are the next generation of leaders who are managerial in style and do not possess the same intensity of flat-out hatred toward the United States. Unfortunately, that is not true regarding Japan, who will never be forgiven for past transgressions — period. They too are pragmatic, as the Chinese people are as a whole, but Americans cannot gain their cooperation without understanding their world and mindset.

The Chinese, regardless of which group, do not trust, conduct business, ally themselves, or engage in any other form of cooperation, without hidden ill intent, if they do not have a well established relationship. This cultural artifact, known as “guanxi” or 关系, makes it acceptable for them to smile to your face, give you their word, and then when you turn around stab you in the back. Simply put, “I don’t know you so I don’t owe you anything.” While this might sound harsh, this network of trust was developed over centuries in the absence of a legal system such as the one we enjoy in America.

President Nixon, over time, had established such a relationship with Chairman Mao. As Bob Woodward detailed, Obama is not a negotiator or relationship builder, and this is very dangerous for Sino-American relations. No doubt, over Obama’s tenure we have seen a dramatic increase in Chinese aggression in cyberspace as well as the international arena.

Richard Baris is a contributor to The Brenner Brief. Twitter: @RichBaris

Richard Baris is a contributor to The Brenner Brief. Twitter: @RichBaris

Americans need to wise up to the ways of the Chinese because these people are no joke. Soviet Russia, which the Chinese regarded as unworthy, will be a walk in the park compared to China’s regional hegemony. As any western business negotiator knows, those who are ignorant to guanxi will be subjected to treatments that are rooted in the millennia old tactics of the 36 stratagems and “Sun Tzu.” They have run western business negotiators, and diplomats alike, through the ringer to the point that they view westerners as impatient and inferior.

The United States is in a terrible position. Sequestration is another sign of weakness to China, who will now feel more embolden and continue to ramp up militarization. They already view our leadership as weak, and our people as immoral, lazy, and mentally disabled. If the relationship is not possible to establish, then we must begin to speak the other language they understand – power. At least the policy experts at AEI are grounded in realism. It is a shame that they don’t have the ear of the president.

There is no longer any excuse for failing to make this the top priority in U.S.–China relations. Chinese officials have never taken our complaints seriously, for good reason. However, there are a number of actions we should be willing to take to make clear how serious this issue is. Canceling political and military meetings and looking harder at sanctions against PLA-connected companies are just two of the options we should put on the table. Washington should also look to work more closely with allies and partners that have been targeted, and seek a common front with which to confront Beijing. A joint response will speak much louder than unilateral ones.

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  1. Sally's Special Services says:

    Reblogged this on Sally's Special Services.

  2. richardbaris says:

    Thanks for the reblogg guys!

  3. richardbaris says:

    Reblogged this on Richard D. Baris and commented:
    My Latest Column from The Brenner Brief

  4. Reblogged this on Laura Baris and commented:
    How China works behind smokes and screens


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