To get an idea what Pomfret means by "the breathless way we talk about that country," all one really has to do is look at how Eutelsat folded like a cheap suit (Epoch Times), or how the Bush Administration is backpedaling on its commitments to help Taiwan defend itself (Weekly Standard). Clearly, the rest of the world is as convinced as the Democratic staffer Pomfret mentions at the end of his piece (Page 2):
Nikita Khrushchev said the Soviet Union would bury us, but these days, everybody seems to think that China is the one wielding the shovel. The People's Republic is on the march -- economically, militarily, even ideologically. Economists expect its GDP to surpass America's by 2025; its submarine fleet is reportedly growing five times faster than Washington's; even its capitalist authoritarianism is called a real alternative to the West's liberal democracy. China, the drumbeat goes, is poised to become the 800-pound gorilla of the international system, ready to dominate the 21st century the way the United States dominated the 20th.
Except that it's not.
One recent evening, I was at a party where a senior aide to a Democratic senator was discussing the business deal earlier this year in which a Chinese state-owned investment company had bought a big chunk of the Blackstone Group, a U.S. investment firm. The Chinese company has lost more than $1 billion, but the aide wouldn't believe that it was just a bum investment. "It's got to be part of a broader plan," she insisted. "It's China."So what does Pomfret cite as his reasons to challenge this notion? He actually has four good ones:
For four big reasons -- dire demographics, an overrated economy, an environment under siege and an ideology that doesn't travel well -- China is more likely to remain the muscle-bound adolescent of the international system than to become the master of the world.Pomfret's detailed analysis of the first three really need to be read in full. He's surprisingly more spare with his words in the last one (the ideology), but to be fair to him, that's the most obvious problem, and the evidence of it is all over the place. Whether it's their crackdown against free press (BBC), free speech (Far Eastern Economic Review), freedom of religion (Between Heaven and Earth), and even free nations (Epoch Times and Asia News), the ideology is clearly visible for all to see, and loathe (its Korean colony does them no favors in this regard - One Free Korea and Weekly Standard). This is, of course, even before the Olympic Games; not that the run-up to the Games themselves have improved the cadres image much (Asia News, BBC, Boycott 2008, Epoch Times, Globe and Mail, and the Washington Post).
When will the regime's facade fall? Pomfret doesn't answer that (and truth be told, with one major variable - American determination to help the Chinese people take their country back - still unknown, he really couldn't answer), but calling it out for what it is certainly helps. Pomfret is one of the very few expatriates who did not allow the Communists to delude him about their creaking regime. With luck, he can help many more of his fellow Americans break free of their delusions.