It puzzles me that almost every conversation I have with people about China involves people downplaying a number of aspects of the threat this growing great power poses to world peace:
1. China’s power,
2. The possibility or probability of war between America and China,
3. The potential danger of that war,
4. The ability of China to win that war, and, therefore,
5. The ability of China to replace America as the closest there is to a hegemonic world state.
My hypothesis is that all five aspects are indeed viewed as realistic by almost all, including and especially those who downplay this crisis, which I have termed ‘the hegemonic trap’ (involving economic and political dimensions), the most. But this common, tacit assumption is never uttered. The reason? Fear.
Indeed, it makes sense — the reasons for worrying about China’s rise are themselves reasons for being silent about it, for fear of facing our fears. But this is completely unreasonable, and the balance of reason lies clearly in favour of doing the right thing: admitting that this is a crisis of earth-shattering proportions, and will take a great deal of caution and ambition at once to prevent a repeat of the atrocities of great power war in recent centuries.
We must contain China as America contained the Soviet Union. And we should be prepared to go further if necessary to prevent the kind of war that China’s further rise will provoke. We must above all else face our fear, and accept the rule of reason, not the paranoia of passion. We must do all this, for wisdom is found in courage, not cowardice. Let us act now, and make the unholy alliances that need to be made to deal with the coming cataclysm. Before it is too late. That, indeed, is what I fear: that we fail to do what is right, and are forced by inaction towards what is wrong. Let us not follow this dark path. Let us accept our fears and thereby overcome them. Let us see the light. The time is right.