Friday, February 6, 2009

Perspectives on a Booming China

The following quote reminds me of an overzealous player in the Settlers of Catan board game. Just because a perspective is logically defensible doesn't mean it's the right advice, especially in political science.
"The best situation for the United States from the perspective of maximizing its security is to be the most powerful state in the international system."
-John J. Mearsheimer, NPR Intelligence Squared Debate, May 2007
Mearsheimer's analyses are great, except that the US's military predominance in the world is unsustainable regardless of China. Definitely unsustainable in 50 years, probably within thirty, per my gut check estimate. Check this chart made straight from data downloaded off the USDA website.

This isn't a crunchy GDP (PPP) chart either, this is real GDP. Shows how absurd it is to portray China as a threat to the US's supremacy. An average eighth-grader (5'5") may be able to boss around twenty little fifth-graders (4'8"). But four years later, the HS senior (5'9") won't be able to handle twenty HS freshmen (5'4"). (Source: CDC)

I respect Mearshimer's Offensive Realism ideas for its well-reasoned descriptive models. But, We the People of the United States of America need to take a hard look at political strategies built around the current unipolar power balance. Most of the world is industrializing its way through puberty, and we're their role model.

Americans are up for it. Mearsheimer's quote is drawn from an NPR debate over the following statement: "Beware the Dragon: a booming China spells trouble for America."

For Neutral Against
Before the debate 41% 21% 37%
After the debate 35% 6% 59%
Despite the debaters' extensive knowledge and an earnest good effort, Mearsheimer's "for" side lost ground over the debate. I was most impressed by J. Stapleton Roy's well-reasoned and impressive arguments from the "against" side.

Americans have a good sense of cooperative problem-solving and reasonable negotiating. It doesn't make us insecure to have strong friends.

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