by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
China, like Russia, responds to its past humiliation by challenging American power. It would be naïve to expect the Chinese or the Russians to be our friends; the best we can hope for is peaceful competition and occasional cooperation in matters of mutual concern. But it is also important to recognize that American policy errors exacerbate their suspicion and distrust. For example, our decision to impose majority rule in Iraq created a Shi’ite sectarian state now allied to Iran, and it left Iraq’s Sunni minority without a state to protect them. This drove the Sunnis into the hands of non-state actors and unintentionally helped al-Qaeda and ISIS. Sunni jihad is a serious security threat to Russia and China, and Russia’s intervention in Syria is, in part, a response to our mistakes. …
… Here in the West, we have a concept of rights and privileges that traces back to the Roman Republic—we serve in the army, we pay taxes, and the state has certain obligations in return. There is no such concept in China. Beijing rules by whim. The Chinese do whatever the emperor—or today, the Communist Party—asks, hoping they will be rewarded. But there is no sense of anything deserved. The idea of the state held together by a common interest as in Cicero, or by a common love as in St. Augustine, is unknown in China. The imperial power is looked on as a necessary evil. The Chinese had an emperor for 3,000 years, and when they didn’t have an emperor they killed one another. It’s all very well to lecture the Chinese about the benefits of Western democracy, but most Chinese believe they need the equivalent of an emperor to prevent a reprise of the Century of Humiliation.