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Rubio’s Unfounded Fear of Chinese “Leadership”

Jennifer Rubin summarizes [1] Marco Rubio’s fear-mongering about possible Chinese hegemony:

He tells us we can’t check out of the world but must engage economically and not leave world leadership to countries like dictatorial Communist China [bold mine-DL].

This is an argument that hegemonists have been falling back on more and more often in the last few years. It’s a very weak argument for maintaining the foreign policy status quo, and it’s an entirely negative case for what hegemonists call U.S. “leadership.” In short, the argument is that if the U.S. doesn’t continue to have a hyperactive foreign policy and meddle in countries all over the world (i.e., if it doesn’t “lead”), the world will fall under the sway of China (or Russia).

It’s a nonsensical argument for several reasons. First, Russia and China have neither the means nor the inclination to take the place of the U.S. as the world’s preeminent power. Second, the other major powers in the world would not be willing to tolerate global “leadership” from China or Russia. China’s ambitions in the South China Sea have managed to generate significant resistance from almost all of its neighbors, so one can only imagine how resistant they would be to even grander Chinese schemes for global “leadership.” It’s preposterous to worry about China replacing the U.S. in its current “leadership” role, and the fact that this is what Rubio is reduced to arguing suggests that the positive case for that role is also exceptionally weak.

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16 Comments To "Rubio’s Unfounded Fear of Chinese “Leadership”"

#1 Comment By William Dalton On March 15, 2013 @ 3:19 pm

“He tells us we can’t check out of the world but must engage economically and not leave world leadership to countries like dictatorial Communist China [bold mine-DL].”

I wonder if it occurs to Senator Rubio and his GOP colleagues that China’s increased influence, if not leadership, in the world today has been achieved by NOT extending China’s military capabilities or presence into the world outside its region, but rather by its program of economic engagement with the rest of the world. A smart businessman, when he sees a competitor succeeding in something which gives the competitor an advantage, will seek to emulate that behavior, not fight it.

#2 Comment By Cfountain72 On March 15, 2013 @ 5:13 pm

Curious how he would apply similar logic to his home back in Cuba. I’m all for ‘engaging economically’ with dictatorial, Communist Cuba, but I’m guessing neither he (nor Rubin) would support that kind of activity….

Peace be with you.

#3 Comment By Gordon Hanson On March 15, 2013 @ 6:15 pm

Hawks like Marco Rubio always need their bogey nations, so look for a lot more China-bashing from the right in the coming years.

#4 Comment By Fran Macadam On March 16, 2013 @ 3:29 am

Saber rattling for fun and profit.

#5 Comment By Ken_L On March 16, 2013 @ 5:26 am

I suspect it’s mainly a failure of imagination – an unthinking assumption that if the USA ceases to exercise global hegemony, another nation must fill the role. As if it’s a law of nature, with the only alternative being global anarchy.

Not sure where the new caliphate fits into this worldview; perhaps Asia and the Middle East are vaguely assumed to have an ocean between them or something.

#6 Comment By James Canning On March 16, 2013 @ 2:20 pm

I think it is a good thing for China to take an increasingly prominent role in world affairs.

China has been trying to convince Iran to stop enriching urnanium to 20 percent and to make a deal to end the nuclear dispute.

#7 Comment By James Canning On March 16, 2013 @ 2:22 pm

Cfountain72 – – US sanctions against Cuba have had the effect of delaying economic growth and attendant political reforms. Counter-productive.

#8 Comment By Mightypeon On March 16, 2013 @ 3:49 pm

When I travelled to China, I had some incredibly interesting conversations with a local police chief (we were both drunk).
1: One the USA trying to contain China: “Wont work, the USA are so aggressive to everyone important that the Russians will be on our side, and they are the only potential offensive threat other than the USA. Of course they wont be “on our side” but rather on the “against the USA side”, but we can live with that.”
2: On a great Anti Chinese Pacific alliance: “They think they can manage to get Japan, South Korea, that rebel Island, the Philipines, the Indonesians, the Viets and who knows who else into a harmonic alliance against us? The only thing they will ever agree on is that the USA must send all of them more toys.”
3: On the US prison system: “Yeah, imprison all the ethnic minorities/poor and have them work as slaves. Been there, done that, really inefficient, also a public health risk. You also need a lot of trustworthy trained people that have to guard all those slaves and these people wont be doing anything productive.”
4: On the US education:”Well, you know, in China, only the absolute top tier of party functionaries can guarantee a prestigious Chinese university spot for the offspring, and even there its risky because doing that is somewhat compromising and could come back to bite you in the arse in a internal power struggle, but getting your not too great son a place at a british or US university is fairly easy and certain in comparison, even if your son is a fairly significant failure. If your son is “ok” you send him to Germany, which is cheaper but requires some academic standarts”.

#9 Comment By FL Transplant On March 16, 2013 @ 5:15 pm

The first and foremost requirement to being a leader is having followers. To assert that the Chinese will assume the mantle of leadership presupposes that the rest of the world is only looking for someone to line up behind, and if it isn’t going to be us it’s going to be them.

Of course, that also presupposes the rest of the world is enthralled with the militaristic foreign policy of the Bush 43 years where our answer to every problem becomes power through military strength, and we mock those who didn’t fall in line as nonentities–see “Old Europe”.

#10 Comment By Otto Kerner On March 17, 2013 @ 11:16 am

Of course, we won’t really know whether China has the inclination to be a global hegemon until it has the means to do so.

#11 Comment By Do Tyrants Need Excuses On March 17, 2013 @ 12:58 pm

Senator Rubio thinks putting a gun at someone’s back and telling them to march in lockstep is leadership. True leaders don’t need to compel followers, the truth of their vision will inspire them.

#12 Comment By Uncle Vanya On March 17, 2013 @ 2:28 pm

Who helped put China in a position to challenge US leadership? America’s GOP, in their defense of “free” trade, among others.

No good deed goes unpunished.

#13 Comment By James Canning On March 17, 2013 @ 7:57 pm

Some Chinese leaders are coming to see that unification of Korea would be a good thing for China. Chinese leadership on this issue would be welcome.

#14 Comment By Mightypeon On March 18, 2013 @ 7:26 am

Well, the free trade with China thing was the economical benefit needed to enlist their aid (which was very significant) against the Soviet Union. Once the USA and China had arrived at their de-facto Anti Soviet Alliance, the USSR was unsecure, launched their not too smart in hindsight invasion of Afghanistan (their planning for it was btw. a lot better than American planning for their afghanistan invasion, and they faced a lot more adversity compared to what the US faces now), and had to support more troops in its far east than there were American in Europe.

Of course that narrative doesnt fit well with that “Reagan defeated the Evil Empire” trope, but there you go.

#15 Comment By cfountain72 On March 18, 2013 @ 8:01 am

“US sanctions against Cuba have had the effect of delaying economic growth and attendant political reforms. Counter-productive.”

Sorry that I wasn’t more clear. I am aware of this and would be happy to end the embargo and trade with Cuba; sadly, Mr. Rubio (the alleged non-isolationist) doesn’t appear to be.

Peace be with you.

#16 Comment By cameyer On March 19, 2013 @ 9:11 pm

Thanks for this post. Neocon historian Nial Ferguson has predicted that the US and China will go to war around 2050! I’d say that’s a rather non-historical assessment, as it cannot take into consideration what economic and political developments will occur between now and then. Rubio, like others, wants to engineer a self-fulfilled prophesy by deliberately stirring up anti-Chinese pablum. They completely ignore that even imperial China had no desire or plans to overtake the barbarians who live beyond their recgnized sphere of influence. Current Chinese leadership accepts the international order as they found it when Tang led them out of a self-imposed cocoon to the benefit of the Chinese people. On my last trip to China, a Chinese friend mentioned that it really doesn’t matter to China what Americans think of them. They’ll continue to do what they judge as good for China.