Paper Tiger

Chinese instability looms despite economic gains


China’s growing nationalism has left it unstable despite becoming the second largest economy in the world, a strategic analyst said during a book event Monday.

Edward Luttwak, a senior associate at Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), discussed the rise of Chinese influence while talking about his new book, The Rise of China vs. the Logic of Strategy.

Luttwak argued that China’s changes in government structure and recent shifts in diplomacy have weakened the country as a whole despite its increasing economic power. By attempting to gain power, Luttwak said, China lost it.

“There was no such thing as Chinese strategy,” he said. “What there was is behavior—behavior generated like in any other place by culture, by attitudes, by hopes [and] fears of the moment, and by bureaucratic institution instruction.”

Luttwak said the behavior of and public opinion in China have changed dramatically in recent years, starting with the Chinese claiming that the land in southern Tibet is theirs.

“It was the beginning of a series of such claims, none of them original, but all of them dormant,” Luttwak said, citing the Chinese sending troops to the disputed Paracel islands, making a claim on the offshore water near Indonesia, and making a claim on the Philippines.

Luttwak compared China’s situation to Germany in the 1890s after the Industrial Revolution, when German citizens became increasingly nationalistic and angry toward previous nations that invaded Germany.

“Instead of telling people to quiet down, forget about, you hit the nationalist drum, you wave the flag, you say this is our island,” Luttwak said.

“We have seen this happen in country after country,” he said. “But the Chinese public is wrong about Chinese power.”

Luttwak also claimed Chinese military gains are mainly for nationalistic use, creating a false front to only please the public. This could have major consequences for China if a country responded with force, Luttwak said.

“There’s a difference between building an air craft carrier and having a sustainable Navy,” Luttwak said.

“They’ve lost power because they have generated antagonism,” he said. “They’ve lost diplomatic power” at the expense of a nationalistic agenda.

Get the news that matters most to you, delivered straight to your inbox daily.

Register today!