Under Western eyes

This morning we continue our preview of the Summer 2008 issue of the Claremont Review of Books (subscribe here) with Claremont Institute fellow Mark Helprin’s “Rich country, strong arms” on the rise of China

China grows stronger every day. As the world turns its eyes eastward for the Beijing Olympics, we ought to remind ourselves that what looks like an effort to impress — a plea for approval — is actually an act of assertion. The Chinese have the will, spirit, and the momentum of a people on the rise. The Chinese authorities also think lucidly and ambitiously about China’s role in the world. Though we often forget it, we are on the defensive against the Chinese. Our object is not to regain the dominance over China we once shared with Europe, but to keep China from dominating us.

China is formidable on two fronts. It has substantial economic and military power. Our policy should be one of deterrence in the Pacific and of maintaining a balance of trade, but neither Democrats nor Republicans address China as forthrightly as is desirable. Helprin ends the essay with a call for statesmanship:

With intelligent direction and undeflectable resolve, we can have a stable peace in the Pacific and elsewhere. In their absence, we shall suffer either slow and ignominious defeat without war, or war with a tortuous unfolding and an uncertain end, and, of course, millions of broken hearts—like the war we are fighting now, because we did not heed these lessons in time.

And yet what candidate is alert to this? Who asserts that our sinews are still intact? That we can meet any challenge with our great and traditional strengths? That beneath a roiled surface is a power almost limitless yet fair, supple yet restrained? Who will speak of such things in time, and who will dare to awaken them?

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