The North Korean Missile Crisis

Paul Bograd

Posted on July 10, 2006

China Will Be the Real Loser

I was going to follow up my recent Korean Missile Crisis post with a well thought out documentation backing up my analysis regarding the inability of the U.S. to lead effectively on this crisis, and my somewhat comical comments about Putin and his oil, and Koizumi and Elvis, but if you are reading AsianPundit you know the background.

So I will focus on what I think is the real significance of the incident… China will be the big loser! China just doesn’t seem to get leadership.

Last year I wrote a column about China in the Tsunami aftermath. In that column I talked about China’s limitation in asserting leadership in the post-Tsunami relief and reconstruction, and the implications of those limitations. But those limitations were logistical and technical in nature. The lack of leadership in this current North Korean crisis is much more profound and has much deeper implications for China and the world.

Despite enormous economic, political, cultural, social and even moral rewards to be reaped by leading the response to this crisis, China chooses to be reticent.

I understand the Chinese hesitancy to help out the U.S. and Japan. The U.S. is an economic and military rival and the Japanese still can’t come to moral terms with their historical relationship to China. I understand the military, economic and cultural complexity of engaging the North Koreans. This is neither simple, nor inexpensive, nor short term.

But come on! Even the Chinese can agree that regime change in North Korea is a good thing. Every nation in Asia; indeed every nation in the world (with the possible exception of the Taliban government in exile and the new administration in Somalia) would fall at the feet of the Chinese if they were to lead the way out of this crisis and as a result lead the way to the transformation of North Korea into a civilized nation state.

For the Chinese, this is a real opportunity for world geo-political leadership. This is an opportunity to express the self confidence and security to take on world leadership that benefits not only China but will benefit China’s economic, cultural and military rivals as well. “Superpower” status doesn’t come only from massive economic achievements and construction projects, or military development. Nor does “Superpower” status come from censorship and limitations on personal freedoms.

When China can demonstrate the kind of leadership that represents the interests of all nations, as well as that of China herself, than China will have become a real “Superpower.”

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