Must We Choose China or Russia?
Hot or Cold?
Past, Present, and Future
At this critical time on Earth, the world's future is more than ever colored by its past.
I have studied both languages (Russian and Mandarin) and have studied both the Russian and the Chinese histories. I have experienced the Vietnam War, and I am knowledgeable of World War II, the Korean War, and the conflicts since then. I believe Jesus Christ is my Savior, and I encourage others to do so, too. My wife experienced World War II and the brutal Imperial Japanese Army, as well as the French Indochina War and other Asian conflicts. We have both seen terrorism first hand.
We like to think we bring a wealth of experience to a discussion of what America faces in world politics and modern-day military challenges, not the least of which are an aggressive Russia, an expansionist China, and a terrorist religious fervor rooted in the Middle East and spreading.
Manolie and Demas
Sharing World Responsibilities
There are certainly other "great powers" in this 21st Century, but far and away the United States of America, Russia, and China are militarily and economically what some call "super powers."
During the Cold War the former Soviet Union and the USA, and to an only slightly lesser extent the People's Republic of China, contested for world dominance. Each espoused the merits of their own political systems. Russia and China claimed rights to communist systems. The USA claimed a proud heritage of republican democracy and private enterprise.
When the Soviet Union collapsed, the emerging Russian governments dabbled in less strident political and economic systems, while at the same time yearning for their former, national prominence on the world stage. Russia's loss to independent status of many of its former republics, and its simultaneous loss of tight controls over the politics and economies of Eastern European satellite countries, led Russians to look for reassurance from a leadership with renewed dictatorial powers.
With the abrupt collapse of Russia's communist system, China launched an unprecedented economic surge seeking overseas markets and natural resources to bolster an urbanization and industrialization that included modernization of its military arsenal. China's changes were to become as dramatic as had been the dramatic decline of the former Soviet Union.
Both today's Russia and China anchor their aspirations on their past. Russia compares its current power with that which it had in the Soviet Union days. China looks to its name and yearns to be the once powerful and renowned Imperial China but under the flag and continuing structure of Mao's revolutionary China.
In both nations the "old guard" is gone. New leaders prevail, and their people have changed with them. Today's Russian leadership focused first on regaining domestic power. The Chinese leadership focused on maintaining power while working to fulfill its people's expectations of domestic advances.
The result has been that Russia is weaker than the former Soviet Union before its collapse. It is living under international economic sanctions resulting from its annexation of Crimea and hostility to Ukraine. Putin's military actions in Syria have been brutal and expensive, as have been his military posturing toward Poland and the countries of Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia. Putin himself is acting like a Cold War warrior from his former KGB days. His distrust of America and his yearning to achieve what was denied to him and his Soviet system, does much to explain his driving forces and outlook.
The USA has some shared cultural heritage with the Russian people but none with the Russian political systems past or present. Americans have seen what happens when the USA allows Putin to act on his own instincts without strong American resistance.
The USA has only limited cultural ties to communist China, and fought the Chinese and the North Koreans to preserve South Korea's independence as the major part of that United Nations one-of-a-kind effort which led to the hostile truce that remains today. [It is important to realize that the ongoing truce only happened because the USA's President Eisenhower threatened to use nuclear weapons to end the Korean War. This is the root cause of North Korea's determination to have effective nuclear weapons of its own, while continuing its resolve to unite the two Koreas.]
America's economic links to China are multiples of any similar links with Russia, and both the USA and China need those economic relations to remain strong for their national economies to remain strong. Economic stresses in the USA, or in China, would affect the world economy and have a direct impact on their own national economies.
Symbols of Peace
Today there is another pressing problem which confronts Russia, China, and the USA. All three nations are in some way threatened by radical Islamic terrorists.
To deal with those threats there has to be some interaction and cooperation. China seems able to deal with their domestic Islamic concerns, and is more likely to be concerned about the effects of global terrorism on the world economy. Russia has an internal Islamic terrorist element it continues to struggle to control, and Russia is pledged to assist in the global anti-terrorism campaign. The USA remains the ultimate target of Islamic terrorism and has sought to build coalitions to deal with the global threat, while courting Russia as a major partner in those efforts.
Ideally the USA wants solid relationships with both Russia and China, each of whom have national interests and ambitions which will conflict at times with American interests.
Americans remain frustrated that the veto powers of Russia and China often make the United Nations ineffective as a force on the world stage, most recently in Syria. At the same time the USA cannot afford to leave the United Nations and thereby lose its own veto power in the UN's Security Council where it has often been used to defend Israel and protect other American interests.
The USA finds itself needing to strengthen its own national defenses without Russia or China feeling directly threatened. At the same time, the USA needs to strengthen its alliances with its strategic partners and with other countries with whom a goodwill relationship can be nurtured and maintained.
At a time when a new and inexperienced American president will soon have to deal with these relationships, all Americans can pray that their country never has to choose between workable relationships with Russia and such relationships with China.
That day could come. If it ever does, our direct relations with the leaders of those two centrally controlled "super powers" will determine how such an undesirable choice would ever be made.