Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Comment to a Student on Conflating "American Hegemony" and "Liberal International Order"

Let me comment briefly on the popular view expressed by many Chinese people that you put on p. 17 "Washington wants China to be responsible to America, that is, responsible to the liberal international order that is under its (hegemonic) leadership. According to the hegemony theory, to make China a reasonable power from this perspective would only reinforce American hegemonic rule in the world. It will serve a core American interest." This goes along with the idea (that I believe has no empirical basis) that U.S. and China have "incompatible" "values." All the Chinese people that I know recognize liberal values as good and noble. A liberal international order is not something that the U.S. necessarily fully supports, but it is not something to be lightly discarded as a naive aspiration --- there could be international democracy just as there is domestic democracy in some places. But the same dictators who pay lip service to liberal ideals but justify their non-democratic rule and denial of social and economic justice to those outside their élite group as necessary due to limiting national conditions, tend to espouse a foreign policy doctrine that conflates a liberal international order with "American hegemonic rule." This assertion is demeaning to all democracies. If one asks the average Czech citizens if their decades under Stalinist-style dictators with their secret police and Party member privilege was justified to preserve Czech values and Czech prosperity against the challenge of U.S. bourgeois liberalization, they would likely tell you that things are much better now and their people are proud to be living in a democratic and free Czech Republic. Chinese people deserve the same dignity. And I think it will come, possibly relatively soon. But we can re-visit this question in a few years.

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