Chinese Chess
Gabriel Schoenfeld – 10.3.2007 – 11:52AM
Are We Ready for China?

That is the title of Aaron Friedberg’s characteristically provocative essay in the October COMMENTARY.

Friedberg, who teaches politics at Princeton and was from 2003 to 2005 a key foreign-policy adviser to Dick Cheney, is currently at work on a book—certain to be highly controversial and the subject of intense interest in both Washington and Beijing—about the U.S.-China rivalry.

“Though our leaders are loath to admit it,” writes Friedberg, the United States is almost two decades into what is likely to prove a protracted geopolitical rivalry with the People’s Republic of China. The PRC is fast acquiring military capabilities that will allow it to contest America’s long-standing preponderance in the Western Pacific.

In Asia and beyond, Beijing is working assiduously to enhance its own influence while at the same time seeking quietly to weaken that of the United States. Meanwhile, China continues to run huge trade surpluses with the United States, accumulating vast dollar holdings and advancing rapidly up the technological ladder into ever more sophisticated industries.

As Friedberg notes, the implications of China’s rise for America’s position in the world are profound, and are extending from one realm into the next.

In the past year, in one of many developments in the military arena where it is spending far more money than it publicly acknowledges, China tested an anti-satellite weapon, blowing up one of its own satellites in space, and revealing a growing potential to blind the United States in a future conflict.

…There is yet another arena where China is forging ahead. It is far less significant to U.S. policymakers, but fascinating for what it reveals about the potential of a country with population in excess of a billion to take extraordinary strides in a realm in which it has been historically backward.

Up until its collapse, the USSR was virtually the sole superpower in chess, the ultimate game of strategy and war. But with the Soviet Union’s disintegration, many of the USSR’s best players now live in Europe and the United States. Meanwhile, China has been rising out of almost nowhere.

In late August, a Chinese team trounced Russia handily in an annual competition held this year in Nizniy Novgorod. It then defeated the British national team in Liverpool. As the American grandmaster Andy Soltis notes, the Chinese accomplished these feats “without having a single player among the world’s 20 highest-rated grandmasters.” They simply have an enormous base of young talent from which to draw.


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