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I think it's historically undeniable that 'democracy' in the sense of electoral party politics is not automatically a path to sane / competent government and in some cases has allowed people to vent more easily xenophobic leanings (and in rudimentary, unsophisticated electoral politics gross xenophobia can be quite a successful brand to sell).

 

That said, China has a lot of significant internal issues. In an even primitive representative set-up, a lot more angst and fury will be vented internally at real problems which have real solutions, as opposed to nasty foreign bogey-men. In a dictatorship where internal dissent is quashed, the xenophobia / irredentism / chauvinism cards are almost a MUST as safety valves. Even war in soem cases. In that sense, a transition to a less authoritarian polity would probably make China less of a strategic threat.

 

Lastly let me say how balanced and informative this thread has been, so far…

Edited by Ariete!
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China has a major problem with corruption through out it's government and military. The outer provinces want to do their own thing rather than play by Bejing's rules. Their banking system is shaky at best. The only people getting wealthy are those in the cities in Eastern China.

I don't know, I'm no expert, but instead of a super srtong major power, I could just as easily see a China that breaks up in civil war and economic collapse.

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I don't think so.

 

Taiwan hasn't ever really been a part of "the empire" proper.

 

Not quite true. Taiwan has only briefly been a province (1887-1895 IIRC, & 1945-1949), but it was formally part of the empire from the late 17th century, when the Manchus took it from the Ming who'd fled there a few decades earlier & set up an effectively independent state which claimed to be the legitimate government of China (sound familiar?), throwing out the Dutch in the process. The provincial government of Fujian from then on exercised enough control to prevent anyone else taking it. There was often a local governor, & sometimes he was even resident. Firm control was re-established in the 19th century, just in time to lose it to Japan.

 

The main problem with Taiwan, is that it lays right off the center of China's coast and it's economically powerful. That's a strategic threat.

 

True, but there's also a very long-standing (a couple of thousand years) Chinese tradition that neighbouring territories which have been settled by Chinese must be incorporated. Settlement preceding the establishment of central rule was very common : in much of southern China expansion seems to have been accomplished by the government one day waking up & realising that since the last reorganisation of local government whole Chinese towns had grown up that weren't paying taxes, out there among the tribals China didn't think worth ruling. Time to follow SOP & send some officials to bring them into the fold. Taiwan has been anomalous because of the strait, but I think Chinese rulers of every stamp for the last 500 years have taken it for granted that it's Chinese, & don't see why anyone would think otherwise. They haven't effectively ruled it most of the time - so what? It's full of Chinese, there was no government (or what they'd recognise as one) when they settled it, & it's contiguous (well, sort of). That's enough. We might see it differently, of course.

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The Chinese govt is driven by fear, fear of 'instability' and 'disorder'. Given China's history this is understandable but it's exacebated by their being an authoritarian regime, and there might also be a bit of a cultural thing - think Singapore.

 

This fear drives their approach to economic development - development = social stability. Their foreign policy is governed by their desire for resource security to underpin economic development. Hence their activities in Africa (etc) and support for dodgy regimes.

 

The positive news is that Chinese overseas tourism is set to increase and this will widen the perspective of the middle class. In some ways I think theChina may become more open minded than the US, the number of US passport holders as a percentage of population is not exactly symptomatic of an outward looking and open minded country.

 

IP is an interesting one, on the one hand getting it underpins economic development, but as they move up the value chain IP also becomes more important to them. In this they are merely copying the US, in the 19th century the US also had a cavalier attitude to foreign IP. It always amuses me to hear US outrage about theft of their IP, yeah, right. Doing and being done to!

 

You also have to be careful about claiming that cyber attacks originate in China, their innerneck security is focussed on restricting what their citizens have access to. There's plenty of Botnets in China and oppurtunites for routing attacks thru the country. This means that apparant 'attacks' from China may be more apparant than real.

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Take any major ethnic group from Asia (Chinese,indians ,arabs and others) enquire of them what they would like to see changed in the current world order and you will find a common thread running thru their responses.That they must get "back" their "rightful place" in the world.

 

What is their "rightful place"?.For some ( an extremist fringe of muslims for instance) it is a utopian ideal of a Caliphate which stretches across continents and which is immensely powerful and with absolutist moral standards something akin to what existed in the 7th to perhaps 9th centuries.

Of course it aint going to happen for a large variety of reasons but lets deal with that some other time

 

For a large majority of asians however ,what it means is a gradual change in the huge imbalance of economic, technological and military power that exists and has existed for the past 3 to 4 centuries to a more equal world where their voices and wishes carry weight.Someone put it this way and it sums it up succintly i think "A change from being leaves blown around by the wind to one where we are the wind itself".

 

The Chinese for instance look back with great pride at the Admiral Cheng Ho's(they have temples for him in SE Asia) fleet which sailed all the way to parts of Africa and got many of the places along the way to accept client/vassal status .An age in their eyes where the world was more equal .The Japanese victory in Tsushima in 1904 for instance was cheered throughout Asia at that time for the same reason i.e . heralding a new age where european dominance could be succesfully challenged.

 

 

 

In the long term IMHO ,this therefore is the issue vexing the Chinese ,how to correct the imbalances in the current world order and is not merely limited to Taiwan or Tibet(if anyone is interested to interefere there in the first place).

 

Is conflict inevitable?I dont think so, the Chinese have many decades of catching up to do economically and technologically.

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How about this as a problem. The Chinese economy goes through a correction, and lots of jobs are lost. Lots of social instability. A sizable middle class, but still not "mature" enough to be an electorate. The Communist party decides that a way to distract the public from the economic doldrums is to engage in a foreign adventure. Works out ok, until they clash with a nuclear power. Everything is ok, but still tense. The public is hugely supportive of the war, and a few successes go to the PRC forces. Then say they suffer a major reversal and the public is howling for nuclear a response. No Han wants to return to the days when a Han could be killed at will by a foreigner in his own country. There is too much face at stake to lose now. So, to reject the public is to risk revolt IMO. To go nuclear might seem the safer option for the party.

 

That's my secret fear of how things could get out of hand.

 

[damn typos]

Edited by Brasidas
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How about this as a problem. The Chinese economy goes through a correction, and lots of jobs are lost. Lots of social instability. A sizable middle class, but still not "mature" enough to be an electorate. The Communist party decides that a way to distract the public from the economic doldrums is to engage in a foreign adventure. Works out ok, until they clash with a nuclear power. Everything is ok, but still tense. The public is hugely supportive of the war, and a few successes go to the PRC forces. Then say they suffer a major reversal and the public is howling for nuclear a response. No Han wants to return to the days when a Han could be killed at will by a foreigner in his own country. There is too much face at stake to lose now. So, to reject the public is to risk revolt IMO. To go nuclear might seem the safer option for the party.

 

That's my secret fear of how things could get out of hand.

 

[damn typos]

 

It seems pretty clear engaging another nuclear power would hardly be away to avoid Hans dying in the mainland or ensuring stability of the government. Particularly when the US, UK, France, and Russia all could deliver more weapons on the PRC than vice versa; only India would be more of a parity of exchange since a lot of medium range weapons could be used on both sides.

 

If you're talking about a conflict with a non nuclear power like Taiwan or Japan--well at the very least, that would get the US involved if it wasn't already, and even if nuclear weapons were not used in retaliation it seems pretty clear that the retaliation would be quite devasting to the PRC military and economy. To the point that the PRC would no longer be an econmic or military power when the dust settled. And Japan is certainly capable of crash producing a counter nuclear weapon on its own if the country wasn't destroyed as an Industrial nation. Wiping out Japan or Taiwan as a nation seems like a sure way to receivea US nuclear counter force strike, particularly with some kind of effective NMD online. And I would have thought that the Chinese would see nuking fellow Chinese on Taiwan as somewhat immoral or at the least, counter productive to the goal of reintegrating the province.

 

Basically I think even if the PRC were to go into semi revolt and open war with its neighbors, cooler heads would prevail on the nuclear front if only because there would be little advantage to upping the ante.

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How about this as a problem. The Chinese economy goes through a correction, and lots of jobs are lost. Lots of social instability. A sizable middle class, but still not "mature" enough to be an electorate. The Communist party decides that a way to distract the public from the economic doldrums is to engage in a foreign adventure. Works out ok, until they clash with a nuclear power. Everything is ok, but still tense. The public is hugely supportive of the war, and a few successes go to the PRC forces. Then say they suffer a major reversal and the public is howling for nuclear a response. No Han wants to return to the days when a Han could be killed at will by a foreigner in his own country. There is too much face at stake to lose now. So, to reject the public is to risk revolt IMO. To go nuclear might seem the safer option for the party.

 

That's my secret fear of how things could get out of hand.

 

[damn typos]

 

The splendid little war that could decay in a "short victorious war" scenario.

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<snip>

 

Basically I think even if the PRC were to go into semi revolt and open war with its neighbors, cooler heads would prevail on the nuclear front if only because there would be little advantage to upping the ante.

 

So you're saying, rationality will prevail over hysteria? I hope it would in that worst case I posited, but the more I hear people say "war is not in their best economic interests....." line, the more I recall many countries who had more to lose than gain, went to war over national pride and prestige, and lost big most of the time, and gained little even the times they won big. The most obvious exceptions being the US and USSR during WWII.

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1. The population subset your friend had contact with (university students) are probably the most nationalist and aggressive group in China these days. Many are extremely politically naive, overestimate the current capability of their military and economic power, and have highly unrealistic expectations regarding their country's future.

 

2. Their favorite target is Japan and too a far less extent, America.

 

3. On the other hand, the Chinese I've met who are in their late 20's to 30's, are all single-minded in their determination to build a career and make money.

 

4. On Chinese racism, my impression is that they don't hid it as well as us.

1. And there's a tradition of it. The paragraph could also describe Chinese student activism ca. 1937.

2. Which reminds us why this point is correct. I haven't lived in China, have worked with a number of PRC nationals and in business spent a fair amount of time in Hong Kong. But one can read too ;) , and I don't see any evidence of basic anti-Americanism in China, it's situation and policy dependent AFAIK. If the US policy became to overty try to hold back China economically, China would become anti-American, and why not?

 

Taiwan is stickier. I don't think Taiwan for China has much directly to do with power politics, economics, or formal victory of the Communists in the Chinese Civil War, and the exact history of its status is secondary too. Foreigners humiliated China in the 19th/20th century. One manifestation was chopping off some pieces. If Taiwan wasn't part of China it wouldn't have been a concession by China to settle the (lost) 1895 war with Japan. It's the last remaining piece to be restored and formally end that period of humiliation. 'Self determination' as on Taiwan alone is not legitimate, it's *China's* humiliation that will be ended, so up to everybody in China. The foregoing is AFAIK the dominant view, nurtured by the education system but it resonates, and is not viewed skeptically even if the powers that be might be so viewed.

 

I don't mean to say that a friendly US policy toward China will yield a big friendly panda bear of a superpower, I just think it's bogus to say the Chinese already hate the US for some inherent reason so we might as well start confronting them ASAP.

 

3. My experience also, though again something like Taiwan's rightful place as part of China might not be viewed as just 'politics'.

 

4. I agree, what people say and think about race are often not equal. I have lived in Korea and Japan, cultural children of China (which Koreans accept, Japanese don't like the idea as much though not so much less true of them). On an international relations level though I doubt any national animus driven by racism; it's bascially not the case in Korea and Japan and again I don't know of evidence of it in China's case either. As to how easy it is as a racial/national minority to get ahead in those societies v the US, I think there is a real difference there, but that's not really the point.

 

Joe

Edited by JOE BRENNAN
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that trait (make perfect sense considering the past achievements of their civilization and recent overshadowing by the West) is also applicable to the Japanese, but they've had the benefit of two nukes to remind them what war is really like.

The stupidity of this comment is astonishing. A US guy patronizing China on what war *really* is :rolleyes:

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So you're saying, rationality will prevail over hysteria? I hope it would in that worst case I posited, but the more I hear people say "war is not in their best economic interests....." line, the more I recall many countries who had more to lose than gain, went to war over national pride and prestige, and lost big most of the time, and gained little even the times they won big. The most obvious exceptions being the US and USSR during WWII.

 

Well in all nuclear related screw ups between the Russians and USians to date, calmer heads have always prevailed even when defense systems registered multiple in bound tracks ('79) or suspected depressed trajectory SLBM launch(~'96). To say nothing of longer tentions like the Cuban Missile crisis. I don't see the PRC as being any less pragmatic than the Soviets, and I suspect that the people who actually guard the warheads and missiles are chosen quite carefully.

 

As for war in general, I don't just think their 'economic interests' would be threatened, I think an unsuccessful war could threaten the countries existance as a single nation controlled by a single government if it went badly enough. Certainly it would not be beneficial or life extending for the people in power I would think. There'd be some explaining to do. EDITTED: misread your post, deleted this section as irrelevant

 

Given the groth of the PRC economy, in the long run the US might well benefit from a rather destructive war with the PRC now as a way to retard their growth, if it was sufficiently destructive enough to the PRC infrastructure or burdensome enough in destroyed equipment that they were forced to drastically up their defense spending. And I suspect the leadership of the PRC would specifically want to avoid this and make any agressive moves that involve the US at a time and place of their choosing where they could hold a decisive advantage.

Edited by jua
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IMO war by proxy is the most likely situation, possibly in the ME.

There were just reports that the PRC is sending weapons to Iran who then passes them out to forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. I think their toe is already in the proxy waters.

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<snip>

 

Given the groth of the PRC economy, in the long run the US might well benefit from a rather destructive war with the PRC now as a way to retard their growth, if it was sufficiently destructive enough to the PRC infrastructure or burdensome enough in destroyed equipment that they were forced to drastically up their defense spending. And I suspect the leadership of the PRC would specifically want to avoid this and make any agressive moves that involve the US at a time and place of their choosing where they could hold a decisive advantage.

 

This isn't something I am worried about now, this is something I am more worried about in the mid term, say 10 - 20 years down the economic development road. This is also not something I suspect would just be a "US vs PRC" conflict. There are a plethora of possible conflicts within that region alone, and it's not too improbable that a nuclear power could get pulled into it at some point.

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Taiwan is not a threat to China, period. The TI (Taiwan independence) issue is an useful tool for the governments on both sides of the strait to distract their people from their real internal problems. The DDP party of Taiwan periodically makes provocative statements to bait the Mainland into issuing its own threats. With DDP's corruption problems and lack of success in reforming the economy, the enthusiasm and fear generated by TI is the only thing keeping them in power. And they probably wouldn't be in power for much longer. For the mainland government, TI is used as a bogey men to remind the Chinese people that the CCP is the only authority that successful defended the territorial integrity of China and that threat still exist.

 

Along with Hong Kong, Taiwan is still PRC's most important source of foreign investment and technologies. While PRC is becoming increasing important to Taiwan as a market and manufacturing base. The Taiwanese business community supports the KMT, and will continue to setup factories and stores in PRC regardless of the antics of the DDP.

Mainlanders may not want to admit it, but the de-facto independence of Taiwan and Hong Kong was the best thing that ever happened to them.

 

 

 

 

I don't think so.

 

Taiwan hasn't ever really been a part of "the empire" proper. The main problem with Taiwan, is that it lays right off the center of China's coast and it's economically powerful. That's a strategic threat.

 

It's also a point of national pride, seeing as it's the last nationalist bastion.

 

The Chinese also usually have those rebellions when the peasant class feel uppity, repressed, there is a large amount of social turmoil, and the mandarins are abusive, and the emperor (PRC paramount leader in this case) is exceedingly weak.

 

When you see the mandarins (provincial party leadership) getting away with murder and not being executed and the new middle class going through economic hardship, then I think you'll see signs of internal strain like rebellious sentiment.

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Taiwan is not a threat to China, period.

 

You might know that, and I might know that, but to a xenophobic PRC nationalist, Taiwan is a threat if it isn't under dominion. You can't be rational with the irrational.

 

The TI (Taiwan independence) issue is an useful tool for the governments on both sides of the strait to distract their people from their real internal problems. The DDP party of Taiwan periodically makes provocative statements to bait the Mainland into issuing its own threats. With DDP's corruption problems and lack of success in reforming the economy, the enthusiasm and fear generated by TI is the only thing keeping them in power. And they probably wouldn't be in power for much longer. For the mainland government, TI is used as a bogey men to remind the Chinese people that the CCP is the only authority that successful defended the territorial integrity of China and that threat still exist.

 

Along with Hong Kong, Taiwan is still PRC's most important source of foreign investment and technologies. While PRC is becoming increasing important to Taiwan as a market and manufacturing base. The Taiwanese business community supports the KMT, and will continue to setup factories and stores in PRC regardless of the antics of the DDP.

Mainlanders may not want to admit it, but the de-facto independence of Taiwan and Hong Kong was the best thing that ever happened to them.

 

 

I don't say Taiwan isn't more useful to the PRC in it's present status than it could be. I simply say, perception drives policy more than facts sometimes.

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Well, the history of PRC's foreign wars argues against your scenario of hysteria overcoming sanity. The Indian conflict of 62, the Vietnam conflict, border conflicts with the USSR, and to a lesser extent the Korean War, were all carefully calculated operations based on rational calculations and limited aims.

 

Edit: To briefly elaborate on one of those conflict. In 1962, PRC was beginning to spin into chaos due to Cultural Revolution. But the border conflict with India was conducted in a strictly business-like manner.

 

The CCP is not in the habit of going to war to placate the public.

 

PRC doesn't have to option of going nuclear first. Not only because the PRC has long standing policy of not only no first strike and not using nuclear weapons against a non-nuclear state, but more importantly because the Chinese nuclear arsenal is not designed for first strike scenario. PRC certainly has the technology and economic capability to have more than the about a dozen strategic nuclear weapons should they choose to, but Beijing, going back to Mao's time has intentional limited themselves to a limited nuclear retaliatory capability at most. That means the PRC government views nuclear weapons as purely defensive and has intentionally limited their own options and lower the possibility of miscalculation in any potential conflicts with other nuclear powers.

 

How about this as a problem. The Chinese economy goes through a correction, and lots of jobs are lost. Lots of social instability. A sizable middle class, but still not "mature" enough to be an electorate. The Communist party decides that a way to distract the public from the economic doldrums is to engage in a foreign adventure. Works out ok, until they clash with a nuclear power. Everything is ok, but still tense. The public is hugely supportive of the war, and a few successes go to the PRC forces. Then say they suffer a major reversal and the public is howling for nuclear a response. No Han wants to return to the days when a Han could be killed at will by a foreigner in his own country. There is too much face at stake to lose now. So, to reject the public is to risk revolt IMO. To go nuclear might seem the safer option for the party.

 

That's my secret fear of how things could get out of hand.

 

[damn typos]

Edited by whyhow
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The stupidity of this comment is astonishing. A US guy patronizing China on what war *really* is :rolleyes:

 

I wasn't patronizing. I simply want point out the human tendency to forget history in general and the unpredictable nature and price of wars in particular. I'll admit that Americans suffer from the problem. look at how fast we forgot about the lessons of Vietnam after the easy victories in Iraq the first time around and the seemingly easy toppling of the Talibans.

I shop for fresh Asian groceries in the Chinese supermarkets in NYC sometimes, and it does worry me when I see huge racks of military magazines on sell in some of those stores.

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Socially Japanand China are quite incomparable. The Japanese are more like Prussians and the Chinese more like Italians. Both are capable of militarism but the latter soceity don't have the inclination to stay the course for long. A democratic China would not be unlike Italy, 50 governments in 50 years.

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You might know that, and I might know that, but to a xenophobic PRC nationalist, Taiwan is a threat if it isn't under dominion. You can't be rational with the irrational.

I don't say Taiwan isn't more useful to the PRC in it's present status than it could be. I simply say, perception drives policy more than facts sometimes.

While I personally share your darker skepticism over 'human nature,' Bras, I still find it hard to believe that we remain as dumb as we were in 1914. It is hard to imagine people thinking that war will bring us the result we want in the present day, when even a limited war -- where the national existence is not threatened -- can be economically crippling, for even the greatest of powers. Granted, the US neocons thought us the [perpetual] exception, but have had a rude awakening. As far back as the 70s, people were saying that war had become unaffordable at the great and middle power level. Below that, it had never been considered affordable....

Edited by Ken Estes
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Is conflict inevitable?I dont think so, the Chinese have many decades of catching up to do economically and technologically.

 

Same here, but China is still the big bugaboo for some here who think it's out to Go South and conquer not just the Spratlys but Manila as well. I'm not one of them people though now.

 

I don't see China as a threat in the imperial sense, i.e. invading other countries and such. I think they are sane enough to understand that going to war would be more destructive to their economy and the communist party's power base. They'd rather become rich and powerful by using capitalism, in a way undermining the capitalist West at their own game.

 

IMO, the generals (ret and active) in the US who are saying that China is a military threat to the US in the very near future are probably raising the issue to get funding for their pet defense programs/contracts. Some people, ex/current military or civgov in the US with a more extreme mindset just probably want the US to be the only superpower and so raise the China Boogeyman. For now though, I don't see China to be much of a threat to the US. So what if China buys a few Udaloys or Sovremennys, or manufactures it own Flankers, or buys a carrier. Militarily, in the conventional forces aspect, China has a long way to go to match the US/NATO. The only way I see the US/NATO becoming "equal" to China militarily is if the US/NATO do large scale disarmament, or become downright complacent and decide that the toys they have will do for decades while China catches up. Even in the nuclear sphere, even if China can destroy some US cities, I don't think it can destroy the US like the fUSSR could back in the "good ol' days." The US IMO can destroy China, nuclear-ly, several times over.

 

Now, let me bring out my PRC flag and wave it. ;)

Edited by TomasCTT
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Socially Japanand China are quite incomparable. The Japanese are more like Prussians and the Chinese more like Italians. Both are capable of militarism but the latter soceity don't have the inclination to stay the course for long. A democratic China would not be unlike Italy, 50 governments in 50 years.

 

 

Gabe,

 

You have already, by yourself, destroyed the validity of your stereotype about China and Chinese.

 

It is simply inconceivable for the Chinese to have chaotic democratic politics like Italy does - it's culturally impossible.

 

It has never, ever happened in Chinese history, and any "democracy" in China would be like the one in Singapore or Hong Kong - open debates but orderly voting, with the real power held by career technocrats, including career military, in consultation with industrialists and big businessmen.

 

In all their long history, I don't think China has even approached having 50 successive dynasties.

The more accurate cultural stereotype is a strong preference for very-long term stable governments - whether those governments are shitty or not. In the last century, there have been only TWO administrations in China, one "Nationalist" and one "Communist". That's due to the Revolution and Civil War.

 

Now, as to breaking up as a nation, well, the closer stereotype is probably Russia, in that case, and, having been to China, they seem to have the same long-suffering limitless endurance as Russians - a stereotype, but I'm only playing the game you started.

 

Basically, stereotypes are always flawed, but comparing the Italian national character with the Chinese one is spectacularly off the mark.

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1. And there's a tradition of it. The paragraph could also describe Chinese student activism ca. 1937.

....

Joe

 

agree with all you wrote. If the CCP is serious about controlling student activism, they should introduce college football, and keg parties to their universities.

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You might know that, and I might know that, but to a xenophobic PRC nationalist, Taiwan is a threat if it isn't under dominion. You can't be rational with the irrational.

I don't say Taiwan isn't more useful to the PRC in it's present status than it could be. I simply say, perception drives policy more than facts sometimes.

 

the crazies are not in charge.

on the flip side, a xenophobic American nationalist will see China as a threat just because it fits their black and white world view better.

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