Avoiding absolutist reactions

The Wilson Center has an interesting article based on a book about US-China competition in the developing world–worth a read!


“There are many important takeaways from Winning the Third World. During the Cold War, American officials with very limited knowledge of China often exaggerated the Chinese threat and misunderstood Beijing’s motives. Today, there are still too many so-called China experts in think tanks and the government who don’t speak Mandarin and don’t have a deep knowledge of Chinese history. They tend to be most prone to drawing the wrong conclusions about the PRC’s motives and actions.

Perhaps the most important takeaway, however, is the danger of thinking in terms of absolutes. Beijing often insisted that countries side with it in the struggle against imperialism and revisionism or be considered enemies. Similarly, Washington had difficulties countenancing any form of contact between the PRC and countries receiving American aid. As a result, both countries sometimes seemed domineering and ended up damaging rather than enhancing their prestige.

While there are undeniably areas where the United States must compete with Beijing today, it is important to remember that demanding that other countries side with us on every issue ultimately will not help us to win their loyalties.”


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