Why does West repeatedly get China so wrong?


Why does doubt and conjecture still shroud a nation that for six decades we have studied, worked against, then allied with, then clashed with again?

The answer that I’ve come to after studying the Chinese for 40 years is that the problem is not China, but us, says Michael Pillsbury, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute and a consultant to the U.S. Defense Department.

For six decades we Westerners have looked at China through our own self-interest—as a potential check against the Soviets, or a source of American trade and business investment, he writes for the Wall Street Journal:

We have projected on the Chinese a pleasing image—a democracy in waiting, or a docile Confucian civilization seeking global harmony. We have been reassured by China’s leaders seeking our economic, scientific and military assistance, and have ignored writings, actions and declarations that warn of growing nationalism. After 65 years, we don’t know what China wants because we haven’t truly listened to some of the powerful voices that undermine our wishful thinking.

“As China continues its rise, our first step should be to dismantle comfortable assumptions and false realities,” Pillsbury argues. “We must study China anew and recognize that its Communist rulers are determined not to fade into history.”


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