Richard Rosecrance, Adjunct Professor at Harvard's John F Kennedy School of Government, is a prominent American thinker on the intersection between economics and international affairs. His latest book is The Resurgence of the West: How a Transatlantic Union can Prevent War and Restore the United States and Europe. Here's part 1 of an email discussion I'm conducting with Rosecrance on his book:
SR. Your book is premised on the idea that the US and the West is in relative economic and strategic decline compared to China in particular. But although that theme will be familiar to readers who have followed the work of Professor Hugh White, you take what might be described as a less accommodationist approach. You argue that, rather than giving China more say in the councils of the world and conceding a sphere of influence, the West collectively needs to try to match China's power as a way to prevent war and maintain the current global order.
Can you briefly describe how you think the West should set about this task, and why you disagree with the accommodationist approach?
RR. I do not agree with your statement of my views. The United States may well (briefly) decline economically relative to China, but the West collectively certainly will not do so. The Resurgence of the West, after all, was the title of my book!
China has many problems and its hubris in some ways is similar to that of Japan in the late 1980s when Tokyo thought it would inherit the world. Japan, by then had grown at very fast rates for forty years, and it suffered during the 1990s. China will not continue to grow at very fast rates, and its problems, undrinkable water, air pollution, and manifest corruption will not quickly go away, whatever the enhanced leadership in China.
Further, China has technological problems requiring a continuing association with the West to get advanced technology in both economic and military fields. The well-known value added problem (50% or less) still afflicts and is likely to continue to afflict Chinese exports. Look at the difference between Chinese designed and manufactured cars, and the ones designed and marketed by the US and Europe (and only assembled in China). The final destination of most Chinese exports is still in the West. Her trade with Asia and Australia is only for commodities or components.
Second, no one believes that the Chinese territorial thrust (and the US has just denied the nine-dashed line of Chinese claims) will not occasion a strong response (from Australia as well as others.) Vietnam, the Philippines, India, Indonesia, as well as Japan have reservations about the Chinese thrust. This means in practical terms that there will be no East Asian comity, at least not one led by China. Thus, in brief, there will be no big accommodation to China despite Hugh White, nor should there be. And there is little, quite frankly that Beijing can do about it.
This does not mean that after a superior coalition of US, Europe and Japan is formed, China will not want to join. It will, but it will have to go through considerable economic and political changes to qualify for such an outcome.