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January 19, 2008 in The China Beat


Copyright January 19, 2008. Used by permission.


British Prime Minister Gordon Brown is visiting Beijing and the Daily Telegraph has a dour op-ed piece written by Bruce Anderson in today’s edition. Anderson argues that China’s reemergence as a great power is not nearly as worrisome as the prospect of China’s failure.

“If China succeeds, there will be a price. The West would lose power. But Chinese success is much the lesser evil. Imagine what would happen if that huge and powerfully armed nation became a failed state.”

Fair as it goes. China is a large, powerful, and nuclear-armed nation. A collapse of the Chinese state would likely lead to international and humanitarian crises of unknown proportions. The nightmare scenarios include the possibility of rapid destabilization leading to chaos and fragmentation (“Afghanistan with missiles”) and/or the emergence of an ultra-nationalist ‘strongman’ willing to trade international stability or nuclear non-proliferation for regime concessions (“the DPRK on steroids.”) But worst case scenarios are not necessarily–in fact seldom are–the most likely possible outcomes of a given set of circumstances.

Should the above come to pass, it would indeed be troubling, but the deleterious side effects of an economically and militarily powerful authoritarian one-party state should still be on for consideration and Anderson does a fair job at outlining the challenges a rising China presents for the rest of the world.