In the frequently sad history of China’s relations with the west, the predominant narrative in the west is an often exaggerated belief in the power to influence events in China. In fact, when the west tries to exert its influence, it frequently fails. This is because of:
- The Chinese tend to be nationalist, resisting outside interference, and different Chinese governments have used that to their advantage.
- The westerners often pick the wrong horse to back, choosing the horse they like and communicates with the west better, but who is often held in disdain, even contempt, by the Chinese.
- Especially in the US, legislators and media pundits who don’t understand China try to set the agenda on China, even though they have no understanding of China. Their own PR needs outweigh the need for real understanding.
- The west emphasizes the power of the individual, while the Chinese tend to weigh the interests of the whole.
On the eve of President Hu Jintao’s visit to the US, this is made clear by Senator Charles Schumer’s promise to start a trade war with China. If Congress jumps on this bandwagon, things will get tough.
In my next article, I will talk about how the Chinese make things tough for the interlocutors.