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The China “Constrainment” Doctrine

Summary:
Liberal democracies must defend their belief in a global order based on credible international agreements and the rule of law. So, although democratic governments should be prepared to offer China incentives for good behavior, they must be prepared to deter bad behavior vigorously. LONDON – It is necessary to know some history in order to draw the right lessons from it. All too often, alleged parallels and similarities seem far-fetched on close examination. So, when it was suggested recently that China’s recent behavior – bullying, lying, and violating treaties – was similar to that of Germany prior to World War I, I was doubtful. The Main Street Manifesto Andrew

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Liberal democracies must defend their belief in a global order based on credible international agreements and the rule of law. So, although democratic governments should be prepared to offer China incentives for good behavior, they must be prepared to deter bad behavior vigorously.

LONDON – It is necessary to know some history in order to draw the right lessons from it. All too often, alleged parallels and similarities seem far-fetched on close examination. So, when it was suggested recently that China’s recent behavior – bullying, lying, and violating treaties – was similar to that of Germany prior to World War I, I was doubtful.

In 1911, for example, Germany’s Wilhelm II provoked an international crisis by deploying a gunboat to Agadir, Morocco to try to squeeze concessions out of France and drive a wedge between that country and Britain. Instead, the episode convinced France and Britain of Germany’s aggressive intentions – a conclusion borne out three years later by the outbreak of war.

Maybe it is too pessimistic to draw similar conclusions today about the behavior of the Communist Party of China (CPC). But the events of the last few months surely call for a coordinated response by the rest of the world, and especially by liberal democracies. If Chinese President Xi Jinping’s aggressive behavior is to be discouraged, we need to get together and stick together.

The list of China’s transgressions is long. While the rest of the world has been distracted by a pandemic that spread in part because of the CPC’s secrecy and lies, China has increased its military threats against Taiwan and reneged on treaty-based promises to respect Hong Kong’s traditional freedoms under the rule of law.

Xi’s regime has also harassed other countries’ ships in the South China Sea, which China claims as its own despite rulings against it by an international tribunal in The Hague. And most recently, Chinese forces ambushed and killed Indian soldiers on the countries’ disputed Himalayan border.

All the while, China has maintained its policy of...

Chris Patten
Associate Director of Design Thinking, Henry Ford Learning Institute. I use design to make complex issues more tangible and build empathy among stakeholders.

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