When the West first came in contact with China, the British ambassador Macartney (no relation that I know of to the bass-playing Liverpudlian) refused to kowtow to the Emperor of China. Though the Emperor considered Britain just another potential tributary state, Macartney saw the situation quite differently.
A few years later, China was carved up like a melon by Western powers, and thus ensued what the Chinese now refer to as “the century of national humiliation.” This century ended in 1949 apparently, and China’s star has been rising ever since.
Another piece of evidence for this: Michael Bloomberg, former mayor of New York and owner of Bloomberg L.P., has decided to constrain his news agency’s articles on China to make sure that his company retains its current market share in China’s growing economy:
Bloomberg . . . relies on sales of its terminals, which are ubiquitous on bankers’ desks around the world, for about 82 percent of its $8.5 billion in revenue. But sales of those terminals in China declined after the company published an article in June 2012 on the family wealth of Xi Jinping, at that time the incoming Communist Party chief. After its publication, officials ordered state enterprises not to subscribe to the service.
And this manipulation has apparently had its intended effect. And Bloomberg is kowtowing dutifully. This is disappointing, but it isn’t surprising. There was a time when the United States and her businesses could set their own terms with other countries. But starting with the controversy over Google having to filter its search results in China and stretching all the way to this most recent capitulation by Bloomberg, the US is no longer in a place to make its own terms.
In fact, it seems China is now in that place, or soon will be. And the structure of international politics is shifting rather rapidly. Putin’s recent move to annex Crimea is just a little slap in the face—a test of American resolve. I don’t think we should have made a big deal of Crimea in the first place, but having made a big deal of it, we are now being publically shamed for backing down on it. But what else could we do?
I find it interesting that Putin has really been the gracious one diplomatically speaking. He could have really called our bluff, but he didn’t. In fact, he said publically that there would be no more sanctions against the US for our resistance against Crimean annexation. How interesting.
Perhaps Putin realizes what we have yet to consider. A US-Russian cooperation will be a necessary counter-weight to China as she grows in power. If the US and Russia are at odds with one another, that makes it only the easier for China to have her way.
We’ll see. For now, every news article I see on China is pointing to the diminution of American prominence in international politics and business. And call it my national pride or my love for the America that once was, but this makes me sad.