China’s performance in this year’s Summer Olympics was outstanding, spectacular, mesmerizing. The individual performances of the Chinese athletes, both male and female, the pageantry and costumes that enthralled television audiences throughout the world, the numerous state-of-the-art (and beyond it) arenas, playing fields, and stadiums built specifically to accommodate the games – all were colossal achievements, and both individually and collectively represented a great leap forward for the “New China” of the 21st century.
But there is another New China simmering, and sometimes bubbling, under that glossy surface. A China that still represses its own people (but not as much or as vindictively as under Mao Tse Tung and his immediate successors), a China that still regards the United States as a political and military enemy (but at the same time a cherished customer of Chinese goods), a China that, according to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, is and has been for some time “the greatest source of both cyber attacks and espionage on U.S. military and government targets.”
The many faces of the New China are discussed, objectively and dispassionately, in a well-researched report (Engaging the New China) released earlier this month by the Association of the U.S. Army’s Institute of Land Warfare. That report, by David H. Kay, begins with the unequivocal assertion that “Communist China is dead.” The former PRC (People’s Republic of China) dictatorship has been replaced, though, by a more economically assertive and politically astute group of leaders who, although still xenophobic in many respects, have been eminently successful in promoting massive economic prosperity (an average GDP growth rate of 9.3 percent since 1998) while still maintaining tight political control of China’s 1.3 billion people – 345,000 of whom are now millionaires, Kay reports.
There is much to admire about the New China, the AUSA author suggests. But also much to deplore – and, despite a very slight softening of the PRC’s previous political animosity toward the United States, still quite a bit to fear as well.
Download the Engaging in the New China full report.
James D. Hessman
James D. Hessman is former editor in chief of both the Navy League’s Sea Power Magazine and the League’s annual Almanac of Seapower. Prior to that dual assignment he was senior editor of Armed Forces Journal International.