The Contest of the Century: The New Era of Competition with China--and How America Can Win

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9780307951236: The Contest of the Century: The New Era of Competition with China--and How America Can Win

From former Financial Times Beijing bureau chief Geoff Dyer, a balanced and far-seeing analysis of the emerging competition between China and America.

Global politics is shifting rapidly. After decades of rising, China has entered a new and critical phase, seeking to turn its economic heft into global power. In this deeply informed book, Geoff Dyer argues that China and the United States are now embarking on a great power-style competition that will dominate the century. Tensions in the South China Sea and East China Sea are a foretaste of the broader competition to come. With keen analysis based on a deep local knowledge—offering the reader visions of coastal Chinese beauty pageants and secret submarine bases, lockstep Beijing military parades and pigeons caged from the sky—Dyer explains why the U.S. also has a real chance to come out on top and can retain a central role in the world. The Contest of the Century is essential reading at a time of great uncertainty about America’s future and about Asia’s emerging disputes.

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About the Author:

Geoff Dyer is a journalist for the Financial Times and has been a correspondent in China, the U.S., and Brazil. He is the recipient of a Fulbright award and of several journalism awards, including a Society of Publishers in Asia Award for a series of opinion pieces about China’s role in the world in 2010. He studied at Cambridge and the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. He lives with his family in Washington, D.C.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Introduction

Beijing was in a state of heightened anxiety and had been for weeks. Each day in the run-up to the National Day parade, the security measures seemed to get a little bit tighter. Our apartment building had a distant view of Jianguomen, which is the main east-west avenue that runs through the center of Beijing, traversing Tiananmen Square along the way, and which was to be the main parade route. During rehearsal the Sunday before, we were told not to go onto our balconies. “What happens if we do? Will we be shot?” a neighbor jokingly asked. The building manager replied in a deadpan manner, “Maybe; who knows?” All the pigeons in the city were locked up and kite flying was banned, presumably to prevent undesirable threats to the safety of airspace. On the day itself, the two blocks on either side of the route were closed off to passersby. The 2009 event was to be the sixtieth anniversary of the foundation of the People’s Republic of China, the first parade in a decade, and only the fifth time since the 1950s that such an event had been held. But, unlike in previous October 1 parades, no ordinary people were allowed to line the route and watch the festivities. The center of Beijing was hermetically sealed off from the city’s residents. For everyone but the invited crowd of VIPs and journalists, this was a television-only spectacle. Despite the country’s booming wealth, China’s rulers can often seem insecure, looking anxiously over their shoulders at the people they govern. In the weeks leading up to the parade, they had conducted a crackdown on human-rights lawyers, and three months later they ordered an eleven-year jail sentence for Liu Xiaobo, the democracy activist who would later win the Nobel Peace Prize. The heavy-handed security was fruit of this nervy mindset.
 
A few hours before the parade was to start, I watched a stream of maybe fifty, maybe one hundred buses pass by, all with a regulation thirty meters in between them. The first group stood out because of the bright clothes of the excited young people inside—this bus orange, that one green, another blue. The next group were filled with soldiers in dress uniform, some trying to catch a last-minute nap, their heads pressed against the glass. With precision timing, they were being ferried to their starting places for a three-hour-long spectacle which was at times intimidating, at times impressive, and at times folksy, but never anything but meticulous. Like the morning mist, which lifted to make way for bright sunshine, the pre-parade paranoia quickly evaporated. By midday, two hundred thousand soldiers and civilians had taken part in the procession, and I did not see a single foot put wrong. It was a display that mixed North Korean mass choreography with the sort of swagger the Soviets used to muster for May Day. The kids in colored T-shirts that I had seen on the buses filled the vast expanse of Tiananmen Square to hold up cards that formed gigantic phrases: “Obey the Party’s Command,” “Be Loyal to the Party,” and “Long Live the Mother- land.” For an hour, the military showed off the very latest of its hard- ware, the product of two decades of double-digit spending increases. There were the J-10 fighter jets, China’s first homegrown jets, and a long line of DF-31A intercontinental ballistic missiles, which have the range to hit Los Angeles, and which the Xinhua News Agency later described as “remarkable symbols of China’s defense muscle.” A decade before, much of the weaponry on display had been bought from Russia; this time it was all developed at home.
 
Military parades have been a feature of Chinese statecraft for centuries. During the Qing dynasty (1644 to 1912), victory ceremonies were often organized for the emperor to demonstrate his authority, and under the Communists they have been revamped for television. Geremie Barmé, an Australian expert on Chinese culture, recalls that in 1984, which also happened to be the year of Deng Xiaoping’s eightieth birth- day, a group of students from Peking University held up an impromptu sign during the parade that said “Hello Xiaoping.” As this was not in the script, the television cameras missed it. Once the event had finished, the spontaneous greeting was restaged and edited into the official broad- cast. In 2009, the television highlight was the contingent from the Beijing Women’s Militia, who marched in precise fashion past the podium in red miniskirts and knee-high white boots, and who, Chinese media later revealed, were all models specially chosen for their uniform height. The main audience for the parades was the domestic one, which was to be both entertained and cowed by the organizational capacity of the Chinese state. But China is too big and too important for such an event to go unnoticed overseas. China’s leaders knew that images of its bristling military display would be beamed around the planet and seemed untroubled if the outside world was also a little intimidated. “It represents the realization of the great revival of the Chinese nation as a result of tireless struggle,” as the army described the event.
 
Before the military parade reached Tiananmen Square, the soldiers stopped in a long column along the main avenue to be reviewed by then President Hu Jintao. He was standing in the back of a Red Flag, China’s homegrown limousine, his head and upper body visible through the sunroof as it drove past the troops. Hu, a gray bureaucrat skilled at the inner workings of the party, went out of his way to cut a dour public profile, an almost deliberate anti–cult of personality. Dressed in a Mao tunic buttoned to the top, and with his dyed black hair immaculately coiffed, he seemed at first to have a slightly comic air, and I chuckled when a colleague quipped about his resembling an Austin Powers vil- lain. Yet, as he boomed into the microphone in front of him “Tongzhi- men hao” (“Greetings, comrades”) and “Tongzhimen xinku le” (“Thanks for all the suffering, comrades”), his voice, echoing all around the vast square, was a little chilling. Stern-faced, he returned to the podium at the gate of the Forbidden City, right above the giant oil portrait of Mao Zedong, and stood on the same spot where sixty years earlier Mao had declared that the “Chinese people have stood up.” Flanked on both sides by the other eight members of the Communist Party’s Standing Committee, the body that really runs the country, all dressed in dark business suits with red ties, Hu addressed the crowd. “Today a socialist China, geared toward modernization, the world, and the future, stands rock-firm in the East,” he declared. It was his biggest applause line.
 
Just over two decades before, the same square had been the scene of bloodshed. In the streets surrounding Tiananmen, Chinese soldiers massacred hundreds—maybe thousands—of Beijing residents as they tried to clear the student-led protests. Realizing their legitimacy had been called into question, Chinese leaders would sit somewhat meekly for years afterward as foreigners lectured them on the need to change their political system. Bill Clinton once told his counterpart, Jiang Zemin, that the Chinese Communist Party was “on the wrong side of history.” The scars from those events contributed to a desire among China’s leaders to maintain a low profile overseas and to focus on development at home. Shortly after the massacre, Deng Xiaoping devised his famous slogan to define Chinese foreign policy, advising his col- leagues to taoguang yanhui—literally, “hide the brightness and nourish obscurity.” Deng knew that the resurgence of China’s economy would stir anxieties in the U.S. and across Asia, where many festering rivalries remain—even more so after the 1989 display of authoritarian muscle in Tiananmen. Deng realized that only by emphasizing humility and a willingness to cooperate could China develop its economy without provoking a regional and international backlash. For two decades, China looked inward and focused on rebuilding.
 
Yet, sitting under the baking sun in Tiananmen Square that morning, I felt Hu Jintao was delivering a very different message—the words of a risen China, not a rising China. He was telling the country and the world not only that the Communist Party was still very much in charge, but that it was also pursuing a path that was moral and right. China, he suggested, was now an important nation with legitimate interests, and it would not be afraid to defend them. Nations do not change tack over- night, of course, but the parade brought to the surface powerful forces that had been building for some time. It represented a symbolic turning point in modern Chinese history, when it became hard to ignore the way the Deng Xiaoping formula of self-restraint was crumbling and the new era of geopolitical competition with the United States that was emerging. The socialist rock in the East wanted to escape from the shadow of the West.
 
This is a book about the new age of rivalry. It is about why China now wants to start exerting influence around the world and about the growing competition with the U.S. that will be the single most important factor in world politics over the coming decades. If globalization has been the driving force over the last few decades—in fact, since China embarked on its economic reforms in the late 1970s, after the death of Mao—then there is now a powerful force pulling in the opposite direction, an old-fashioned struggle for influence and power between China and the U.S., the two most important nations in the world.
 
“The Contest of the Century” revolves around three central points.
 
The first is that China has started to make the crucial shift from a government that accepts the existing rules to one that seeks to shape the world according to its own national interests, from rule taker to rule maker. Beijing is starting to channel its inner great power. The book provides a portrait of the new Chinese mentality, the energies, ambitions, and tensions that are pushing China in this direction. Much of the discussion of modern China focuses on the nature of the Communist Party and its hold on power, and, indeed, it is impossible to detach ideology from the way China relates to the rest of the world. But China is also responding forcefully to the same sort of instincts that have ani- mated new great powers in the past, with particularly strong echoes from both the U.S. and late-nineteenth-century Germany. “History does not repeat itself, but it does rhyme,” as Mark Twain is often quoted as saying—even though it is not clear that he ever did.
 
Second, to pursue those goals, China is inevitably finding itself pulled into a geopolitical competition with the U.S., the country in whose image much of the global order is fashioned. China and the U.S. are starting to contest the high ground of international politics, from control of the oceans in Asia to the currency that is used in international business. Forget their bland rhetoric: China’s leaders think very much in geopolitical terms and would like to gradually erode the bases of American power. Almost every important global issue will find itself colored by this rivalry. Yet it will not be the win-at-all-costs ideological struggle of the Cold War. Instead, this will be an older, more fluid form of rivalry that is based on balance of power and building coalitions of support.
 
Finally, I will argue that the U.S. is in a strong position to deflect this new Chinese challenge to its position in the world. Whether they have come to praise or to warn about China’s rise, most authors on China subscribe to an almost linear transfer of wealth and influence from West to East, from a U.S. in decline to an irrepressible China. There is an air of inevitability in the way China is presented. Yet the roots of American power are deeper than they seem and hard to overturn. If the U.S. can clean its own financial house and avoid the temptations of either confrontation or isolation, it will still hold many of the best cards in the twenty-first century.
 
“Great power” is a phrase with an old-fashioned, dusty feel to it, some- thing from the history textbooks to do with the Schleswig-Holstein Question or the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. The age of the great power seemed to have passed with the Cold War and America’s unipolar dominance that followed the fall of the Berlin Wall. Yet the rise of China strikes many notes from a very different era. “No nation has ever experienced such an increase in its power without seeking to translate it into global influence,” Henry Kissinger once wrote about the U.S. in the late nineteenth century. Today’s China is animated by the same energies that stirred in the U.S. from the 1890s, when it announced itself to the world. At home, new great powers are possessed by an economic dynamism and a zeal for grand engineering, by the construction of modern cities and the laying of vast railway networks across continents. Before long, that energy takes them overseas, where their companies develop trading posts and factories across the globe. They feel the need to use their new economic power to strengthen their own security, to fend off potential rivals, and to protect their overseas interests— a mixture of pride and fear that leads them to build grand navies. As their standing grows, they try to mold the political, military, and economic rules that govern the international system. Rising wealth creates rising expectations among a new middle class that wants its rulers to stand up for their country. The material benefits of a growing economy are never enough for aspiring great powers—they also want respect, recognition, and influence. Power changes countries, just as it changes people.
 
When America started staking its claim in the world in the 1890s, it was propelled in part by a growing centralization of power in the presidency. The horrors of the Civil War had given way to a fragmented political environment in the 1870s and 1880s, with neither the executive nor Congress able to establish control of foreign policy. America’s international role only started to be transformed when the White House began to exert more decisive influence in the 1890s. In China, some- thing close to the opposite has happened. The last decade has seen what might be described as a fracturing of power in China in ways that have begun to have a decisive influence over the country’s foreign policy. China’s leaders have not abandoned Deng Xiaoping’s advice to keep a low profile—on the contrary, they regularly insist that it remains their guiding principle. Instead, the Deng consensus is being gradually over- whelmed by the reality of modern-day China and its society. Deng’s cautious strategy is slowly fraying. Fragmentation of power is not the same as political liberalization, of course, but, rather, a dispersal of influence within the elite. It means that China’s senior leaders do not enjoy the almost untrammeled authority that Deng once enjoyed. They face powerful vested interests within the party-state, and an officer class that has its own hawkish take on global affairs. They also have to keep an anxious eye on the nationalist views of a rising middle class. On air- port bookshelves in China these days, alongside the Jack Welch and Bill Gates biographies, you can now find titles such as Xue Yong’s How to Be a Great Power, a sort of Cliff Notes for modern geopolitics. All these voices are pushing China to be more ambitious overseas. China remains resolutely authoritarian, but these days, it also has a lot more politics.
 
To think about China as a great power might seem obvious to readers who have watched th...

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Descrizione libro VINTAGE, United States, 2014. Paperback. Condizione libro: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. From former Financial Times Beijing bureau chief Geoff Dyer, a balanced and far-seeing analysis of the emerging competition between China and America. Global politics is shifting rapidly. After decades of rising, China has entered a new and critical phase, seeking to turn its economic heft into global power. In this deeply informed book, Geoff Dyer argues that China and the United States are now embarking on a great power-style competition that will dominate the century. Tensions in the South China Sea and East China Sea are a foretaste of the broader competition to come. With keen analysis based on a deep local knowledge--offering the reader visions of coastal Chinese beauty pageants and secret submarine bases, lockstep Beijing military parades and pigeons caged from the sky--Dyer explains why the U.S. also has a real chance to come out on top and can retain a central role in the world. The Contest of the Century is essential reading at a time of great uncertainty about America s future and about Asia s emerging disputes. Codice libro della libreria AAS9780307951236

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Descrizione libro VINTAGE, United States, 2014. Paperback. Condizione libro: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. From former Financial Times Beijing bureau chief Geoff Dyer, a balanced and far-seeing analysis of the emerging competition between China and America. Global politics is shifting rapidly. After decades of rising, China has entered a new and critical phase, seeking to turn its economic heft into global power. In this deeply informed book, Geoff Dyer argues that China and the United States are now embarking on a great power-style competition that will dominate the century. Tensions in the South China Sea and East China Sea are a foretaste of the broader competition to come. With keen analysis based on a deep local knowledge--offering the reader visions of coastal Chinese beauty pageants and secret submarine bases, lockstep Beijing military parades and pigeons caged from the sky--Dyer explains why the U.S. also has a real chance to come out on top and can retain a central role in the world. The Contest of the Century is essential reading at a time of great uncertainty about America s future and about Asia s emerging disputes. Codice libro della libreria AAS9780307951236

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Descrizione libro VINTAGE, United States, 2014. Paperback. Condizione libro: New. Language: English . This book usually ship within 10-15 business days and we will endeavor to dispatch orders quicker than this where possible. Brand New Book. From former Financial Times Beijing bureau chief Geoff Dyer, a balanced and far-seeing analysis of the emerging competition between China and America. Global politics is shifting rapidly. After decades of rising, China has entered a new and critical phase, seeking to turn its economic heft into global power. In this deeply informed book, Geoff Dyer argues that China and the United States are now embarking on a great power-style competition that will dominate the century. Tensions in the South China Sea and East China Sea are a foretaste of the broader competition to come. With keen analysis based on a deep local knowledge--offering the reader visions of coastal Chinese beauty pageants and secret submarine bases, lockstep Beijing military parades and pigeons caged from the sky--Dyer explains why the U.S. also has a real chance to come out on top and can retain a central role in the world. The Contest of the Century is essential reading at a time of great uncertainty about America s future and about Asia s emerging disputes. Codice libro della libreria BTE9780307951236

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