In my August article Neo-Fascism and China's Future, I noted that:
"In my Normblog interview, I was asked about threats to the future peace and stability of the world. Islamofascism was #1, of course, but I also spent a bit of time explaining my worries about one possible future for China: a future of state capitalism under dictatorial control, a strong need for external resources to fuel that economy, carefully fostered xenophobia, a legacy of belief in the racial superiority of Chinese peoples, a major demographic problem in an excess of young males, and the meme that China is being cheated of its rightful place in the world. Germany's history in the 20th century teaches us what this combination portends."
That is only one of several possible futures for China and the world, but its alarming dimensions make it worth keeping an eye out for information about the forces driving it and signs that it might come true. Along those lines, I present this column from the front page of Monday's Globe and Mail newspaper, which has been focusing on the region lately - China: Nationalist Fervour Runs Amok. Read my excerpt above. Read Geoffrey York's article. Come to think of it, follow that up with this letter from Guangzhou over at Kate's blog The Roadkill Diaries. Then ask yourself:
- How close is the fit between the dangerous cocktail of beliefs described in "Neo-fascism and China's Future" and the picture painted by Mr. York in his article?
- Remember that this is one trend among many in China. What competing trends in China might blunt Mr. Yu's ambitions for his movement? [Praktike has a suggestion, one we've also covered | And here's a way of spotting some other trends]
- How might China's growing status as a major business partner for the USA's electronic supply chain, textile markets, etc. work to influence future Chinese policy?
- What other developments could tighten that web between the USA and China? [John Atkinson suggests alternative energy | See also the section on Chinese water tables, below] How would that change influence patterns and policymaking in the USA, as well as in China?
- On the other side, what events or circumstances could cause China's Communist Party overlords to be willing to disrupt their economic ties to the USA? What is their order of priorities, in other words?
- China is a culture of "face" and rulers with "the Mandate of Heaven". What role will that play in Party calculations? In foreign relations?
- Most observers expect that China's economy will hit some shocks and rough patches as it grows, much as the Southeast Asian economies faced their own reckonings in the late 90s. M. Simon's blog Power and Control adds an economic analysis worth considering. Given China's neeed to steadily absorb a migration of rural residents to its cities and avoid the tinderbox of an impoverished and unemployed urban underclass, what happens if a major economic shock hits? Where will the Chinese (and their government) reach in order to harness or control this discontent?
- China's water table around Beijing is dropping very sharply as aquifers are depleted, and its North China Plain (where 25% of its grain is produced) is drying out. What shocks could further depletion create? On the flip side, what leverage might this give countries that produce a lot of grain, soya, etc. - food that China is already having to import to keep up with demand?
- What role will China's growing need for resources [one of our "12 Under-Rated Global Trends" in June 2003] play in the equation, and in its chosen actions if a victim-aggressive nationalism takes center stage? Beyond Taiwan, what would the implications be in Africa (minerals, oil) and the Middle East [see Gal Luft for some early rumblings].
- Is the Communist Party keeping the nationalist movement around on a convenient leash, to be jerked back if it pulls too hard? Can we think of circumstances under which the Party would lose either the will or the ability to hold onto the leash? Are there any historical parallels that suggest themselves, (the Boxer Rebellions, obviously - any lessions? Any others, in China or beyond)?
A neo-fascist China is a scary scenario, no doubt about it. Thinking through the questions above gives us the tools we need to face our fears in the light of day. Answering them helps us to better understand what to look for as we venture through the landsacpe of our future, lamp in hand, seeking the Way.
UPDATE: To answer those sorts of scenario questions, it helps to be able to chart the underlying trends and forces in a society right now, then group them and look at the different stories they might tell. Winds' comprehensive post on China's Stresses, Goals, Military Buildups... and Futures offers some of that, along with tips on how to do that kind of analysis.