By PEGGY SPITZER CHRISTOFF
In a seminar titled "Global Geopolitical Trends: Is the Iraq War a Major Turning Point?," Kissinger scholar Lanxin Xiang gathered a panel of experts at the Library of Congress in December to discuss shifts in the geopolitical landscape that were "evolutionary" for Europe and "revolutionary" for China.
Xiang, a tenured professor of international history and politics at the Graduate Institute of International Studies at the University of Geneva, also holds the Zijiang Chair in Shanghai's East China Normal University, where he directs the Euro-Asian Center. He is the 2003-2004 holder of the Henry Alfred Kissinger Chair in International Relations and Foreign Policy in the Library's Kluge Center.
David Calleo, director of European Studies at Johns Hopkins University, described the war in Iraq as a trigger rather than a turning point for Europe in becoming "the master of its own house."
The shift had begun at the end of the Cold War, he said, and the Maastricht Treaty (1992) opened borders among the members of the European Union.
In the United States, according to Calleo, the Clinton and Bush administrations did not welcome the European shift: President Clinton cast Europe as an economic adversary and, through a strategy of nuclear deterrence, President Bush continued to assert U.S. dominance in military affairs. Without the Soviet threat, Calleo observed, many in Washington today question the usefulness of NATO.
Ronald Steel, a professor of international relations at the University of Southern California, identified 9/11 as the real turning point for Europe in terms of its becoming politically and economically self-reliant and realizing for the first time that America was no longer invulnerable.
Steel acknowledged that Europe thus far has not reached consensus vis-à-vis U.S. actions in Iraq. But he also indicated that changes have taken place in the United States: "The terrorist issue, new and troubling, has led the Bush administration to continue to cast the U.S. as the defender of righteousness. While Europe seeks co-option and cooperation, the U.S. thrives on confrontation."
Senior analyst for the Bureau of Intelligence and Research at the U.S. Department of State, Kendall Myers said that the Anglo-American relationship is very strong, but it faces significant challenges within Tony Blair's party. In addition, Myers noted that once Russia recovers it will undoubtedly play a major role as an independent actor in global affairs. Further, he said, the geopolitical landscape is affected by the fact that both the United States and the European Union are negotiating relationships with countries in Eastern Europe.
"The Iraq war clarified the reality of a squirming, complex world. Within the United States, foreign policymaking has been decentralized. The State Department is marginalized and even the Pentagon, which calls the shots, is frustrated because the war has put unlimited American power out of business," Myers said.
Arthur Waldron, professor of international relations at the University of Pennsylvania, noted the natural differences between the United States and Europe in dealing with Iraq. Europe is closer geographically to the Middle East, it is reorienting itself toward Turkey, and it has been dealing with terrorism for a long time. To answer Xiang's question of whether the war in Iraq was a turning point, he said that for the past hundred years, the international environment has been very permissive and lulled nations into a "fog of peace." In Waldron's view, the turning point has not yet arrived.
Waldron pointed out that the situation in Asia is precarious because in contrast to Europe, Asia does not have what Calleo previously described as a "concert of nations" in Europe. He said that the degree of Islamic ferment in the Middle East, the former Soviet Union and in Central Asia has not carried over to the Muslim region of Xinjiang, China. Further, while China, Japan, India and Pakistan maintain cooperative relationships and harbor specific and immediate concerns over Korea, in order to understand the dynamics of Asia one must understand how increased prosperity will affect China.
Many scholars wonder, for example, whether the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) will survive the tremendous acceleration occurring in China's economy, especially since the military and economic sectors operate at cross-purposes.
Waldron doubted that the Chinese citizenry will ever be allowed to vote and become part of the political decision-making process. In contrast to Europe, he observed, Asia is becoming more disordered and less articulate, and this seems to be a direct result of the diminished role of the United States in the region.
Not quite at the other end of the spectrum, but on a more optimistic note, Lanxin Xiang believes that the Chinese Communist Party is making important internal adjustments. For the first time ever, Xiang observed, China has a foreign policy, and he sees this as a direct result of the U.S. decision to attack Iraq. China understands that it must act responsibly toward its neighbors and, at the same time, sees the need to support an antiterrorist front, recognizing that terrorism is "invisible and unmanageable and is like fighting evil without an empire."
Xiang does not see China as a destabilizing force and, noted that, especially since 9/11, China has begun to think globally. China does not support the U.S.'s unilateral view of the world and as a result is developing stronger multilateral relationships in Europe. In fact, Xiang noted, the Chinese politburo has consulted with leading British and world historians to understand what constitutes a great power.
The politburo now regards the "China card" (a popular term used to describe China's pivotal role in the international system) as an outmoded illusion. Further, Xiang pointed out, China does not have an "empire" mentality—in fact, the Chinese word for empire, diguo, is a Japanese concept: "For China, G-1 model of unilateralism doesn't work. The EU's muddling through is better for China than the U.S.'s good versus evil," Xiang said.
Finally, the president of the Shanghai Institute of American Studies and vice chairman of the Chinese Association for American Studies, Ding Xinghao, discussed the domestic challenges faced by the Central Committee of the CCP and identified four regions in China that need individualized attention.
Both the Yangtze economic zone, of which Shanghai is the center, and the Zhejiang region of Guangzhou in southern China are dynamic and entrepreneurial. But their activities contrast sharply with the northwestern region, which is the most undeveloped area of China, and the northeast, which is highly dependent on state-run enterprises.
Ding noted that the Chinese leadership under Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao is very different from previous regimes, because the leaders are focused on creating jobs and reforming the economy. Ding emphasized that China's rise will be a long process and that the fundamental challenge for China is to understand how to use its developing strength.
Peggy Spitzer Christoff is a program consultant in the John W. Kluge Center.