Monday, October 24, 2011

China's grand strategy....

China's grand strategy....
By Godfree Roberts

Yale's Paul Kennedy defines grand strategy as "the [sustainable] capacity of the nation's leaders to bring together all of the elements [of power], both military and nonmilitary, for the preservation and enhancement of a nation's long-term (that is, in wartime and peacetime) best interests." [1] For an enthralling

account of a successful grand strategy read The Grand Strategy of the Byzantine Empire by Edward N Luttwak.

Though the US is undoubtedly a modern empire, its hostility towards central government, its rivalrous legislative and administrative branches, independent judiciary, financiers and industrialists without national loyalty, and privately-owned Reserve bank make a US Grand Strategy impossible. So let's look at China, the only other contender.

China's leaders
For over 2,000 years, the Chinese have been accustomed to cooperating with one another and with a strong, competent, central leadership. Today's leaders are drawn from the top 80 million university graduates and businesspeople who comprise China's Communist Party membership.

After years of public service and political education members might aspire to a post of responsibility. After decades they may hope to transfer to Beijing. They are the elite, intellectually, morally, and professionally. By the time they reach the pinnacle of responsibility, the Central Committee, they must have demonstrated competence and honesty to an extraordinary degree.

Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore's founder, who has known every world leader in the past 60 years, describes China's president-elect, Xi Jinpeng, as "a Chinese Nelson Mandela". Those who know the current President, Hu Jintao, describe him as completely honest and genuinely humble. And competent: as a 19-year-old engineering student Hu presided over a staff of 300. China's leaders are selected on the basis that they will be respected and admired by the general public. And so they are: Pew Surveys shows that the Chinese give them a consistent trust/approval rating of 86%.

The elements of power
The Chinese government, like its Imperial predecessor, insists on the unity of the organs of state. This is required if a country so vast and diverse is to function harmoniously - a stated goal for millennia, and one that all Chinese actively support.

Every military command has a senior political officer responsible for educating the troops in his district. Every large corporation has a political officer on its board of directors with a direct line to Party HQ. Every village, town, city, and province has at least one political officer linked to Beijing.

Every school and university has a party member to ensure that everyone has input into government policies and is making a genuine effort to carry them out. These links are two-way streets that allow the shaping, testing, and adjusting of policies and practices. Far from being "authoritarian" in the sense that our media imply, they form a cooperative network for creating, revising, and implementing policies.

That is why China so consistently achieves its five-year goals: everyone has a role in setting and achieving them. By the time a plan is publicly announced it is already accepted and its implementation is well underway. The Three Gorges Dam, for example, was discussed and planned for 50 years. As part of the discussion it was learned that over 50% of its budget would have to be allocated to constructing new housing for those displaced. Once the source of this money was identified, construction began.

To ensure cohesion the government retains control of its vital industries: media, finance, transportation, and defense. The banks, instead of merely serving the interests of executives and shareholders, resemble cooperatively-owned public utilities.

While this undoubtedly leads to excesses and mistakes, they can be corrected relatively easily in comparison to Western banks' similar errors. The defense industry, instead of merely seeking profits, develops new weapons quickly and inexpensively. (The now-famous Dongfeng 21D "carrier killer" is an inexpensively repurposed missile already in plentiful supply.)

And the media propagate and explain government policies clearly and repeatedly so that everyone understands their purpose. Interestingly, the Chinese give their media extremely high marks for trustworthiness. Is it possible that state-owned media could be more trustworthy than their privately-owned counterparts?

Since China's leaders are not beholden to anyone for "campaign contributions" they are free to act in the country's best interest. That they have consistently done so is evidenced by the country's rapid progress, growing prosperity, and strong public cohesion.

Last month, the Central Committee's Politburo Standing Committee - nine engineers who make the final decisions - met with the World Bank's Robert Zoellick and other foreign experts to ask how China must change in order to meet its goals for 2030. China has always played the long game. Zhou Enlai's comment when asked about Western democracy: "It's too soon to tell." was not a mere witticism. For Chinese, 200 years is not enough time to test a new political system when theirs worked so well for 2000.

China's grand strategy
China's Grand Strategy had been in place for a thousand years when, in the 13th. century, Marco Polo was astonished by the country's advancement:
  • Maintain a strong defense but no offense (too expensive)
  • Administer the country from a moral, Confucian, point of view
  • Create a genuine meritocracy in government promotion
  • Eliminate corruption at the top and fight it at lower levels
  • Amaze the world with China's advancement and civilization
  • Make foreigners rich then encourage them to leave
  • Plan 10, 20, and 50 years ahead, and work the plan
  • Control the rivers and do great public works

    After a 200-year hiatus China's Grand Strategy has been reinstated and looks to be as successful as ever. It is inexpensive and delivers sustainable, tangible benefits to the Chinese people. Expect to see elements of it emulated, first by Asian countries and later - who knows? - by us.