Last Updated on 6 months by Piyush Jain
The China Dream: Great Power Thinking and Strategic Posture in the Post-American Era By Liu Mingfu
Book Review : The China Dream
This is a book written by Lui Mingfu. He is a retired Chinese PLA officer. This book is part of the training curriculum of the senior PLA officers considered to become Generals someday. All the thoughts are pro-China, as this book is a guideline to the thoughts from the founding fathers of modern China. The book reflects on the brighter aspects of the country. The author has ignored current situations, many facts, and displays China in a benign light. He expresses clearly that what the china dream is of in an elaborate manner.
There is a saying that be close to friends and closer to your enemy to understand what exactly are they thinking and planning. This way, reading this book will give China’s piece of mind to know what they think about themselves, their motives, and how they view the world.
It is interesting to note that the author ignores all invasions China has done, and justifies them as quite natural, comparing them with Europeans coming to America.
This book is also good for administrators and politicians who in some form or the other can shape up our country’s future (which I doubt will matter to them). Please read this book/summary in conjunction with the summary of the book “The Hundred Years Marathon”, to understand both the aspects. They both nearly say the same thing, but the tone is different.
Chapter 1: The China Dream | China’s Dream for a Century
It is loud and clear that it has been China’s dream for a century to be the world’s leading nation.
The author divides the process into 3 eras.
- Sun Yat-sen – The architect of China’s republican revolution
- Mao Zedong – The founder of new China
- Deng Xiaoping – The designer of the reforms and opening up of China.
Sun Yat-sen gives the objective of “Four Mosts” and “Six Utmosts”
Four Mosts were 1) Most Strength, 2) The most wealth, 3) The most uncorrupt and just government and 4) The happiest citizens of the world.
Six utmost are 1) Utmost Size, 2) Utmost excellence, 3) The utmost progress, 4) The utmost dignity, 5) The utmost wealth, and 6) The utmost security and happiness.
Sun Yat-sen also advocated openness in the culture, so that people from various cultures come in and the Chinese people can learn from them as well as teach them Chinese values. He gave a military target of 30 million-strong armed forces and 10 million engineering forces besides them.
Sun Yat-sen had traveled a lot and spend a good amount of time in Europe and the US. He believed that China should learn from the US and supersede them. Then, China lacked capital and talent, so China should acquire it, develop its industry, and move ahead.
Mao Zedong set up the goals in 1955 for the Chinese people that surpassing the US is the responsibility of China. He bluntly stated the current situation of the country and showed them where they have to reach. China being bigger than the US and more population, there was no reason for it to be behind the US. Chinese people’s membership in the human race should be revoked if they cannot do this also. He states various timelines depending on his perception and inputs from various sources, ranging from 10 to 30 years.
Mao also focused more on industrialization. Socialism can take a back-seat in the meantime. It is not that China did not achieve any progress in these years. They could make a nuclear explosion, and raise their reputation in the eye of the west.
When Deng Xiaoping took the reign in 1978, he did carry on the agenda, but in a different manner. He never compared China with the US. He set the goals for the Chinese to develop. China followed a policy of self-improvement. They said that they will not interfere in any country’s internal matters and no one else should do in theirs.
There is no doubt that the balance of power would shift towards China in the coming years. As China’s GDP exceeds the GDP of the current superpowers, countries, like the US, Japan, Russia will have to get used to Chinese dominance.
When China leads the world there will be 5 outcomes. The China Dream is
- China will not only become a developed country but surpass developed countries.
- By 2050, the west should be ready to accept the dominance of China followed by the US and India.
- Mandarin will supersede English and China will show the charm, vitality, and creativity of the east.
- When China leads the world, it will show that the Asians can lead the world better or equal to what Europeans did.
- Asia should be rightfully the leading continent as it is the biggest one, and China will prove the same.
Here there is something for India to learn, that the great nations become great nations when they have a will and an ambition to do so. Any lack of this will never get a nation to be a world leader.
In the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries, there have been umpteen number of examples where nations with a population of a few million only could rule and expand its influence all over the world. It is not the size and population of the country that makes it great. It is the will and vision that leads the nation to greatness. This requires the country’s strategic preparedness to be there.
China lost 2 opportunities to be great. One in 1950 and another in 1970. They were not ready for it. A country needs strategic innovation, design, and leadership to take advantage of the opportunity.
China also needs to remain calm as it inches towards its goal. It has to cover a long way before it even touches a similar level of many developed countries.
Chapter 2: The China Dream | The Fight for the Century
This chapter elaborates on how the hegemons in the world operated at a different point in time. The story starts with the Dutch in the 16th century and further with the Portuguese, French, and finally the British in the 18th and 19th centuries. And the US in the 20th century, the cold war, etc.
The nature of their aspirations was different. The current situation is comparable to a boxing match, where the opponent is completely down. In today’s world, it is a track and race event, so there can be 1st, 2nd, and 3rd position holders. In today’s world, we will all go awry with all the nuclear weapons around. Countries have gone to any extent to acquire them to keep themselves safe from the hegemons. The time of hegemony is over and now the world needs strong nations who are productive as well as have the policy to make others productive and non-threatening.
The nations had to form alliances for their safety while China never allied aggression purposes.
China’s success should be seen as the success of the world. Everybody gains due to China’s progress and will fail if China fails. The Chinese model of governance and managing industry can be a lesson for the world to adopt the same for their progress too.
The author suggests that the country should aim for the following:
- They create historical eras – Britain created an industrial revolution. This was something everyone was talking about in the world. A small country with a fraction of the land and population with no more than a few million was producing 40-50% of the world’s products. The US followed the league by the IT revolution and further China with the manufacturing revolution.
- New world order – Champions define the systems that work for them and would work for others too. The US even during world war 2, was planning how should the world order be after the war. The author states of 4 pillars of the same. 1) a global economic framework 2) a global framework of thoughts 3) A global military system and 4) a global system of rules.
- Champion nations do things that other nations would love to imitate. People loved to imitate Britain earlier and the US later.
- New development paradigms – The dutch with the minimal land and number of people, could grow the country’s wealth with just ports and trading activities.
- Create a superior governance model – Champion countries have a model that is sustainable and can govern well. Of the many countries’ government came into existence, many governments overturned, while the US government remains stable for more than 200 years.
- The strong countries in the current world are civilized. They will not pose threat to smaller or weaker countries. The US has been a civilized country and any country aspiring to be champion has to display this nature.
Further, the author says that there are 8 characteristics of Sino-US relations post cold war scenario. All the characteristics state that the US and China need to co-exist, as their goals are different, and they complement each other in different aspects. The US should try to escape from its hegemonic attitude as this would be detrimental to the country’s progress. It will become a trap for the fall of the country.
Chapter 3: The China Dream | The Chinese Century: An Age of Global Prosperity
The chapter emphasizes the fact that China has all the traits to lead the world. It also states that leading the world does not mean it will become a hegemony but will become the navigator of the world boat.
It further states that western culture, how hard it tries, will not become a global culture. Chinese culture is over 5000 years old and is time tested and pious. Western culture is still developing, is a bit confused as it is the melting pot of cultures of the world. The US stopped the immigration of the Chinese labor for a decade in the 1890s, in a fear that the Chinese culture may pollute the western culture, only to be resumed later when they fell short of people.
Earlier in the chapter, the author states various incidents where various nationalities have inflicted genocide (in 100 Ks and millions) on its people or its colonies, which is contrary to the nature of Chinese people.
The author elaborates on 3 types of economies, soviet style, Singaporean and Chinese style. While the soviet-style economy is a hugely extreme form of capitalism and socialism, the Singaporean style is a balanced form where production is like a capitalist society and the distribution of wealth is like socialist. Chinese style economy is progressing towards Singaporean style economy, but still has few issues to resolve. These are the ones that plague the US economy too.
Chapter 4: The China Dream | Building A Benevolent China
The author states that China has always been a benevolent country and has not attacked small/weaker nations. He gives various examples, among them is about their trade with Malaysia for over 1000 years without any issues.
China chooses to fight internally even if they were constraint of resources but did not attack any other nation. Even after the population increased from a few million to 1.3 billion, and the land size for each person decreasing, China chooses to remain non-aggressive. The author states that meat consumption per person is less. (Though Wikipedia says it is around 50 Kg per year, compared to 98 kg of the US, and 3 kg of India).
Sun Yat-sen states that 3 principles govern the Chinese people, ie fidelity first, benevolence second, honor third, and concord last.
The author says that China did not expand overseas, as Europeans did. On Tibet, he says that if all Europeans leave the US then China will also leave Tibet.
The author also says that the Chinese navy was always into the trade. It explored all the world but never to invade anyone, as Europeans did. China being a nuclear nation adopted the policy of no-first-strike policy. It also appreciates President Barak Obama’s nuclear-free world and will be happy to be so, once the US also denounces its nuclear weapons. China never conspired against the US on any front or allied against it.
China has never preferred to fight a war first but focused more on peace. If one sees, the US has aimed to fight a war, after which also peace never came in. It is observed that Americans are fighting without winning, while the Chinese are winning without fighting.
One sees the great wall of China as one of the wonders of the world, but it also shows that China is a conservative nation. It never wanted to expand beyond the walls or let anyone in it.
Further, the author states that China is a benevolent nation and the sign of the same are
- China has never imposed its hegemony on anyone.
- China does not have enemies as the US does. The US has always been searching for enemies for its progress and hegemony.
- If China had a rival, it tried to first break the enemy’s resistance without fighting and never preferred a war.
- China never aims to finish the enemy with violence, as it will create more enemies. This is the situation that the US is facing currently.
Finally, the author states that China does not seek to be a hegemon, but a strong nation, which will stand against any injustice, and thus counter-balance the hegemonic power in the world.
Chapter 5: The China Dream | A Great Strategy Requires Great Thinking
The author continues to states that China aims to become a world power and not just Asian power. China continues to learn from the various strategies of the world. One of them includes Monroe’s doctrine. This doctrine states the way the US has to proceed and develop itself.
- In the first phase, the US should aim to keep any European colony to develop in the American continent.
- The US should expand its reach from coast to coast.
- The US should develop itself internally first.
- After this, they should aim to become a world power.
- Acting on the internal affair in the continent is the exclusive right of the US and no one else.
Monroe’s doctrine aimed to leap the US from isolationism (for self-development) to regional hegemony.
Further down, the author states that the US once had a strategy that in case of war between the Soviets and Germany, it will side with the losing party, so that both sides lose strength and the US can be a superpower then. The US continued to make a postwar strategy on how the world will be after World War 2. It could sense that the war in Europe is its way to become a superpower, and these countries were paying for it.
The US also had few advantages after expansion.
- It was geographically isolated from the world, so it had let to worry about attacks and invasions. Thus saving on a lot of security costs.
- When it expanded, it rapidly made improvements in the annexed territories, and thus saw acceptance to its rule.
- Since the country did not have historical baggage of traditions, it did not face the internal cultural conflicts.
- The US mainly focused on engineering, and thus got the gains in technology as well as strategical development.
China learns that a country that does not have a strategy will anyway never rise.
The author says that while the American rise was cleverly devised, cunning, and full of dishonor, the Chinese rise should be full of wisdom and artfulness, and not have any cunningness, cruelty, and dishonor. It should be a graceful, artful, and peaceful rise.
The country should be mentally prepared to lead the world. Like the US was not after the 1st world war, when the League of Nations was formed. The country should also be always alert about any conspiracy against it from anyone. The author states that the world demanding that China goes in for American style democracy is a trap as they want that China should be engaged in its internal conflicts and not rise further. This is the same as the Bismarck trap that he used against France after the France-Germany war in 1870. The same thing worked in France till the 1950s. France had a very unstable government with an average tenure of 5 months.
Chapter 6: The China Dream | Learning from Mistakes Made Abroad
In this chapter, the author states that China kept a focused eye to avoid the traps and make mistakes, which may impede the progress of the country.
The author states that the UK did not become friends with the US until the US became string, powerful, and like a master of the UK. Similarly, the US will not become friends with China until China achieves these characteristics.
China also observes that the US cannot see the rise of any other country. An example is Japan. Japan gave a very tough competition to the US in the 1980s. Their imports were kicking out American products off their market. Japanese even acquired Rockefeller Center and Columbia Pictures which were the symbol of American might. The US felt that the Soviets are not a threat to the US, but it was the Japanese. The Japanese economy grew leaps and bounds. Japan had the highest per capita GDP in the world and total only 2nd to the US. Now Japan had the power to say NO to the US.
If they progressed in the same manner, one day the US would become Japan’s economic colony. The US curbed this by playing currency war (through Plaza accord). They appreciated the Japanese currency and made Japanese products costly. This trade war led to the cooling-off of the Japanese economy. Though it was not on the downside, it stopped flourishing.
This also instigated the US to open up its economy in a new stream, Information Technology. After the Japanese economy started cooling off, and the Soviets were nowhere, the US economy grew in peace for 105 months straight till 1999.
Further, the author narrates that why did the US enter the cold war. It says that if President Roosevelt would have continued as the president, then the cold war would not have initiated. President Harry Truman incited the cold war, based on Capitalism and Communism. They focused on killing the other system and only their systems prevail. There was no concept of win-win or mutual coexistence.
The cold war, though it was very taxing on both the systems, it had it’s own advantages too. Both the countries were not only in a military race but also in a race for space technology, basic and applied sciences, and economic superiority.
Further, the author states that the US will take many steps to curb the rise of China. This includes various things like creating difficult situations for China, like Taiwan issues, economic barriers, or human rights issues linked with commerce. But it would not be easy for the US, as it got no other opponent who was so civilized, intelligent, economically strong, and powerful before this. If the US cannot beat China, it may hug it and then tie it. It looks forward to supporting India, Russia, Australia, and Japan to create problems for China. The author further claims that China is the only country that is highly civilized never harmed the US, never invaded anyone since the ancient time and has no enemies as the US do.
The US also looks for an enemy. After the cold war, it did not have one, and it was missing that. The benefits of having an enemy is that
- you are always on the toes.
- Politicians can promote nationalism.
- You have someone to compete with.
- The country is always developing something powerful against him, else you have no motive.
- You have a reason to express hegemony in the world.
China suggests that the US recognizes that the time has changed, and they should shun their enmity with China. They should leave the Taiwan issue and cooperate with China. This will help them be a great country without enemies.
Chapter 7: The China Dream | The Reason for Military Development
China realized that they were tormented enough and now needs to take a stand. Any country without a martial spirit has no right to exist. From 1840 to 1949, China was invaded and attached more than 700 times. When China got free in 1949, they vowed not to allow this to happen again. They showed their conviction from the Korean war. They deployed more than 2 million soldiers against 1.7 million combined armies of allied forces led by the US. This war prepared a stage for China in the world, and the world also acknowledged the presence of China as a powerful country.
But this Korean war was the instance where China had to go for a nuclear weapon when one of the US General wanted permission to use nuclear weapons to defeat China in the Korean war.
Did you know that China was again a target in the Vietnam war? The aim of the US was not only to remove communism from Vietnam but also to contain China.
China realized that if it has to be an economic power with stability, it needs a powerful military to defend itself. To defend its land, air, and waters for safe economic activity. When the Dutch, the French, the Portuguese, and the British were economic superpowers of their eras, they were also the military superpowers during the same.
The author says that but time has changed and the US cannot remain a hegemony. There has to be a balance of power within the counties. They can be both co-existing economic and military superpowers.
Even though the US is quite superior to the Chinese forces, but China has to maintain a force that can defend itself in case it is attacked. China has no intention to become so strong as to have the power to invade someone. It compares itself to an elephant in a jungle who does not attack anyone, but others think twice before attacking it.
Chapter 8: The China Dream | A Call for the Coming Collapse of China
The author states that the Chinese people need to keep thinking that what are various ways their country can collapse. It can be an internal, external force, or some time factor that can lead to the deterioration of the country’s progress and power.
People need to think of internal challenges as well. This may be like natural resources, distribution of the wealth, cultural differences, which they need to address. Corruption is one major aspect that should be rooted out, as that will hollow down the country to a big extent.
The author also conveys that the US should not think of changing China. It can neither get China to its knees on the Taiwan issue. It will be detrimental to the US itself if it persists to instigate the same. Any other conspiracy to get China to a state where Soviets got to after the cold war is futile.
Finally, the author says that the Chinese leaders have guided China to the path of prosperity and rejuvenation. No world power can now get China to its knees and China will stand tall in the league of nations.