The Big Ideas

'Fanning the Flames of War'
'Fanning the Flames of War'
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May 2, 2021

I recently received an email from a former U.S. ambassador and influential senior foreign policy expert taking me to task for publishing so many hawkish posts about U.S. policy toward China in the ‘China Macro Reporter.’

  • These are, he said, ‘in some ways fanning the flames of a potential war. Please back down, at least a bit.’
  • ‘This is not the Malcolm I remember or know,’ he ended.

This being from someone for whom I have great respect, I replied with a long explanation.

  • As I was writing, it occurred to me that it wouldn’t be a bad idea to briefly explain, especially to those new to the whole CHINADebate project, just what the aims are.
  • The following is from my reply.

‘When I started CHINADebate in 2012 [beginning with the CHINARoundtable, in-person discussions between top China experts and senior business and finance executives], my aim was to bring the diverse views of China experts - not my views - to the participants.’

  • ‘Carrying this over to the China Macro Reporter, I try to bring the diverse written views of these experts to a broader audience.’

‘I find those analyses by reading, every day, dozens of pieces of analysis - more than anyone for whom China is not the day job would be want to go through.’

  • ‘I select the key insights to give non-specialists the flow of discussion about China.’
  • ‘If any of the selected pieces are of special interest to the reader, he or she can click the link and read the full essay.’

‘I am at pains not to select writings that just reflect my views but that reflect the current debate.’

  • ‘And I likewise careful to not cherry-pick quotes that reflect my views.’

‘As for my posts ‘fanning the flames of war,’ those hawkish posts are part of the current discussion on China.’

  • ‘But I also seek opposing views even though the polarization of views on China over the past few years have made this more difficult.’
  • ‘For example, I have teed up Kishore Mahubani's (author of 'Has China Won?') “Was Trump Right or Wrong on China? Biden’s Answer Will Shape the Future.” ’ [In today’s issue, below]

‘I don't agree with Mr. Mahubani's views.’

  • ‘But I do believe they are important as a counterbalance to near-perfect chorus of hawks. So I am emphasizing it.’

‘I hope this explains why I feel I am the same Malcolm, more or less, you know:’

  • ‘Still trying to present diverse views on China to help an informed audience to make their own decisions. Not pushing an agenda.’

‘While I don't believe I have changed in my efforts, the situation between the U.S. and China has changed.’

  • ‘And that is reflected in the preponderance of hawkish posts.’
  • ‘Not because I am intentionally putting forth inflammatory rhetoric but because that IS the state of the debate today.’

‘It's hard for me to back down until they back down.’

  • ‘Otherwise, I am not doing the work I intend to do.’

And there you have it.

No recent events this week that generated commentaries.

  • So today more big picture thought pieces.

And these come from two long essays and a long interview, so the summaries likewise ended up being pretty long.

  • For that reason, I've just included just three posts today.