China Law Blog questions the logic of my last post "Letter to Democrats in the Oregon State Senate." His post "How to Handle China Rising: Why Can't We Be Friends Or And Oregon Shall Lead US" questions:
...But, and here is where Porter and I probably differ, will Americans learning Mandarin really do anything towards promoting peace between China and the United States?
For instance, does any sane person really believe the Arab countries' relentless push to destroy Israel is based on language difficulties? What about Shiite-Sunni hatred in Lebanon, Iraq and just about everywhere else? Was the cold war due to not enough Americans speaking Russian or vice-versa? Would better language skills ameliorate Chinese-Japanese enmity?
If it is a given that teaching Chinese is a good thing, does a discussion on whether such teachings might influence future wars even matter? Is it even possible that knowing is hating and teaching Mandarin will increase tension?
China Law Blog sent the question “Does having Americans study Mandarin make war between the U.S. and China less likely?” out to other blogs for comments. Some commented on China Law Blog. Frog in a Well posted its own "Does learning Chinese bring about world peace?"
...Not necessarily. I don’t agree that getting to know people better will make you like them. Sometimes its only after getting to know people that you can really despise them. But in this case I suspect it might help a lot. At present American relations with China are sort of adrift, but at some point Americans will have to think about China and how to deal with it, just as China is trying to deal with America. I think more knowledge about China, from language classes or whatever, would do a lot of good. China’s relationship with the rest of the world is changing, and Americans need to figure out what, if anything they want to do about it. This is a rather complex question, as even Chinese can’t explain to themselves what their current situation is and where they want to go, just like every other country in the world. Present American popular and elite knowledge about China seems to be to be even worse than that about other places. Mao is dead and the Maoist era is over. China is not a super-sized North Korea that happens to produce Happy Meal toys, yet -lots- of people seem not to be aware of this. I think that there is the possibility that the rise of Chinese capitalism and the existence of American capitalism can co-exist and benefit from each other (I’m an optimist), but for that to happen understanding has to exist. Americans at fancy liberal arts colleges studying Chinese so they can read Tang poetry, business people learning Chinese so they can make a ton of cash, people taking my classes to fill a non-western cultures requirement, its all good.