This is Chas W. Freeman‘s remarks to the China Studies Center, Washington, DC on 27 March 2007:
We are here to inaugurate a new center for research, analysis, and education about China, a country to our far West that never stops challenging the minds of those who study it or the character of those who rule it. No country has had a history of comparable continuity. None so well illustrates how seldom the future repeats the past but how easily it can rhyme with what has gone before.
China had a couple of bad centuries, but it is back, and it is on the way to the center of global affairs. As China restores itself to wealth and power, its leaders display a resolute confidence in the future. But they are also mindful that no one has ever before tried to govern a republic of 1 1/3 billion people in a territorial expanse the size of a continent, still less to transform so many ambitious individuals and obstreperous regions into a harmonious but innovative whole. What are the implications of China’s success or failure at this task?
Our country came into being as the age of Atlantic dominance and the industrial revolution began to eclipse China and India. Americans therefore have no experience with the more normal condition of human history, in which Asia was for millennia the global center of gravity. One way or another, in the 21st Century, China and its neighbors will determine what the resumption of Asian leadership in more and more fields of human endeavor means for an emerging post industrial world, including for us Americans. Despite the challenges of doing so, we have ample reason to try to understand China and other Asian countries as they are, not as our politicians and pundits prefer
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