Handle’s epic walk-through of Edward Luttwak on the rise of China is simply magnificent. If the Chinese foreign policy establishment doesn’t put it on a study list, the world is a more dangerous place than it needs to be. It says impressive things about Luttwak that his work is able to prompt commentary of such astounding quality. (Yes, it’s long, but you have to read it.)
As a Sinophile, and even (far more reservedly) a sympathizer with the post-Mao PRC regime, it’s disturbing to me how convincing I find this analysis. China really could blow itself up, along with a big chunk of the world’s sole truly dynamic region, by mis-playing its excellent foreign policy hand (in pretty much exactly the way Handle lays out). In particular, its ability to avoid the disastrous course of Germany’s rise is the most pressing question of the age, and the signs so far are not remotely encouraging. Having dug itself quite unnecessarily into a trap of increasingly embittered anti-China balancing, 2013 looks very clearly to have been the worst year since the beginning of Reform and Opening for Chinese geo-strategic decision making.
Reversing course is hard. The important thing for the Chinese leadership to understand is that challenges to global hegemony are almost inevitably catastrophic. There has not been a single case in modern history where such a transition has succeeded, except through close strategic alignment with the preceding hegemon. Holland passed the torch to the UK, which passed it on in turn to the USA. If China envisages an alternative path for itself — rooted in basic antagonism — it is shelving the lessons of modernity, and turning to something else, where ancient cycles lose themselves in the fog-banks of myth. Such deep historical precedent is far too poorly understood to offer anything like helpful advice. The atavistic popular feeling it rouses, however, is certainly strong enough to drive developments over a cliff.
US global hegemony has lost the Mandate of Heaven. The only way it could trawl it back is through the unforced errors of its enemies — which is to say, those who have blundered into being positioned as its enemies. On present trends, these foul-ups are all-too-likely to be made. That would mean world war, naturally tending to thermonuclear ruin, and the end of civilization. China would be finished as anything beyond a broken warning about what non-submission to the democratic zeitgeist leads to (having done to political sanity what Germany did to bio-realism). Through this climax of idiocy, the human species would have melodramatically disqualified itself from any significant historical agency going forward. Military robotics (aka ‘Skynet’, emerging from the war) would be the only intelligent prospect left.