“China thinks it is surrounded by American military bases”

Feb 12, 2016, 08:00 am

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Daniel Bell: "The U.S. is just going to have to get used to China playing a bigger role."
Prof. Benjamin Elman/ Source: Princeton University website

"The rise of China is a challenge for Japan, but it is an opportunity for Korea to return to a prominence it has not had in many centuries," said Princeton University professor Benjamin Elman.

In an interview with AsiaToday's Senior Advisor Emanuel Pastreich on Thursday, Prof. Elman said that the rise of China narrative can be read in different ways.

Prof. Elman said, "The future is going to be built around the Pacific. The question is whether the Pacific is a Chinese lake, or an American lake. Then what will be the role of Korea and Japan in that lake? The new rise of China will result in a new battle for dominance in the 21st century," stressing the importance of Korea's role.

Prof. Daniel Bell/ Source: Daniel Bell website

Tsinghua University philosophy professor Daniel A. Bell said, "The sense of insecurity in China is real. China thinks it is literally surrounded by American military bases," claiming that the United States should pull out from the East Asian region. He said, "The U.S. has to get used to China playing a bigger role. The long term problem is that the U.S. is not willing to recognize the shifting geopolitical realities and make room for China’s increased role in the East Asian region."

Prof. Bell threw a question, "So why can’t the Americans make a commitment to withdraw from South Korea if Korea is unified?" Then he emphasized, "If North Korea implodes in the future, the regime changes its position relative to its neighbors and integration with South Korea begins. At that point we need to ask why we need American military bases in South Korea."

He said, "China has been thrust into this global role very quickly, perhaps far more quickly than anybody imagined, including the Chinese. The relative political and economic weight of China has increased so dramatically as to be disorienting to Chinese." Then he picked poverty reduction as one of China's achievements.

He continued, "The other achievement of China is that it has not fought a war since 1979. Although there are those in Washington D.C. who worry about China emerging as a threatening military power, there is not much basis for that speculation in China’s recent historical record."

He pointed out, "In the long term that sort of a build up is simply not sustainable considering China’s desire to engage the world in trade and finance."

He said, "The United States could even increase its presence in Korea after unification or a peace treaty. The issue is rather that the presence needs to shift away from a military one. Or you might even say that granted the threat of climate change, which the conventional military is not equipped to respond to, we had better start shifting America’s role in Korea right now."

Regarding Korea's role in the East Asian region, Prof. Elman said, "The role of Koreans as intermediaries between China and the United States is being repeated again. Both China and Korea are playing a far larger role than they had in the 20th century."

He pointed out, "Japan became the dominant player in economics and international relations until the late 20th century. Currently the rise of China has started to overshadow Japan. Recent nuclear challenges in Japan such as Fukushima have made Japan less obviously the leading advanced nation in East Asia."

He added, "Increasingly China and Korea, especially in trade and technology, are becoming dominant. In many fields, from trade and manufacturing to research and development, Korea has become a major player."

When asked about the influence of China and the United States, he answered, "China may end up as the dominant player, but it will not be the only player, and ultimately the Chinese will have to deal with the Japanese and the Vietnamese, and less so with the Americans." 

Prof.Emanuel Pastreich

Benjamin Elman is a professor of Chinese studies at Princeton University and a leading scholar on the intellectual history of China. He has written widely on the examination system, scholarship, ethics, science and technology and governance in China from the Song Dynasty to the present. His recent publications include: From Philosophy To Philology; Classicism, Politics, and Kinship; A Cultural History of Civil Examinations in Late Imperial China; On Their Own Terms: Science in China, 1550-1900; and A Cultural History of Modern Science in Late Imperial China.

Daniel A. Bell  teaches political science at Tsinghua University and serves as the director of the Berggruen Institute of Philosophy and Culture. As an expert on Chinese intellectual history he has argued that the Chinese system of meritocracy has merits not found in the West. He writes for international media and has published a book through Princeton University Press entitled, The China Model: Political Meritocracy and the Limits of Democracy.

#Daniel Bell #Benjamin Elman #Emanuel Pastreich #Pacific #U.S. 
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