Courtesy Reuters

China and the Balance of Power

Among the issues on which Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill differed, none was more pregnant with meaning for the future than their respective assessments of the coming international role of China. The American President saw China as a potential major power, a force that would bulk large in the postwar era, particularly in Asia. The British Prime Minister regarded China as an "emerging society," to use the vernacular of today, one certain to be beset by multiple internal problems for the foreseeable future and hence incapable of sustaining a consistent, forceful international position. In retrospect, one can say that vital elements of truth lay with both assessments, and from this fact stem the complexities of Chinese foreign policy today.

At the outset, therefore, let us focus briefly upon those contradictory elements of power and weakness that give to China her unique qualities, and shape in such considerable measure Chinese attitudes and policies in the international arena. After two decades of being consigned to the role of outlaw among nations, the People's Republic of China with dramatic suddenness has been elevated to the status of great power in the United Nations, achieved near-universal diplomatic recognition, and even acquired client states in the fashion of other major powers. Nor are the recent changes confined to status. China now visibly possesses one of the world's significant military forces, with rapidly expanding nuclear as well as conventional capacities. To the extent that power is psychological, moreover, the Chinese leaders appear to have adjusted to the role of "world leadership" with minimal difficulty. Indeed, some would assert that given China's historic cultural traditions and the intense nationalist tides currently running, this was the easiest of all adjustments. The present Chinese political elite are proud men, determined to avenge China's past humiliations in the briefest possible time. In the fashion of the Meiji leaders of late nineteenth-century Japan, they want a "rich country-strong soldiery" so that they can face the world on at least equal terms. Meanwhile,

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