Author: Jack C. Westman
Publisher: Scholar’s Press
Make no mistake about it, the world has grown smaller and we have become almost one family all striving for happiness and tranquility. Accordingly, to meet the vast amount of challenges all humans face, we will need to develop a greater sense of universal responsibility and collaboration.
In The China-America Alliance, Jack C. Westman believes that China and the United States must show the way in fostering broader cooperation in bringing about sustainable national prosperity and security through their deep global influence and strengths.
Westman maintains that although there may exist barriers to collaboration such as dogmatism, intolerance of instability and ambiguity, financial benefits of status-quo inefficiency, weakened social capital and the failure of families and schools to develop the motivation and skills individuals need for teamwork, these can be overcome with the right approach. Thus, the principal theme of Westman’s discourse hinges on the strategies as to how we can achieve practical collaboration between China and the United States in several diverse areas.
To begin, Westman examines unrealistic and realistic thinking that are embraced to evaluate and set priorities for our personal and global lives. As he points out, it is vital that we distinguish between unrealistic and realistic thinking and to recognize that reality is very often difficult to perceive or define. Consequently, probing and straight-forward discussions are indispensable for solving a multitude of problems.
From here he proceeds to analyze the meaning of knowing yourself and as he states, “just as knowing the facts in a business transaction facilitates closing a deal, knowing the facts about the human personality enhances self knowledge and understanding other persons.” This in turn will facilitate social and political negotiations, which no doubt is an essential element in diplomacy. Basically, without understanding what makes people tick as to the way they think or act, it thus becomes very difficult to foster interpersonal relationships.
Westman goes on to review the evolutionary progress of homo sapiens wherein sensuous human thought mastered over our sensual passions. The power of thought has led us to release ourselves from robotic knee-jerk reactions and this has led to our success in comprehending and adjusting to changing realities.
Next on the agenda is the acceptance and realization that chaos is inherent in the Universe and as we are a part of an interdependent global ecosystem, which is on the edge of chaos with an expanding number of ingredients that are likewise in chaos. However, if we look to the business world, we notice that adept organizations are quickly able to adapt to being on the edge of chaos. According to Westman, the challenges that business, government and international relationships cannot be effectively resolved just by attending to and controlling every detail. The solution is rather by self-organization guided by common values and objectives and in this way they can they be managed.
Westman follows this train of thought by bringing up the theme that America is declining and this is not only the result of policy failures but notably the failure to develop human capital. China’s rise reflect the inevitable historical shifts that occur in world power structures and consequently we must acknowledge that China’s progress with a single-party system rule and state-planning demonstrates that the democracy model is not the only workable one. Furthermore, as we witness every day, Americans may believe that their society is a model for the rest of the world to follow, nonetheless, it is very much branded as dehumanizing, materialistic, individualistic, erotogenic, and seduced by violence with a diminishing capacity for empathy. It thus would be beneficial for Americans to appreciate fundamental Confucian values where decency and consideration of the interests of others by individuals is higher in East Asian countries.
Considerable ink is devoted to the importance of the family which is the foundation which the American social contract was built. The Chinese likewise understand this importance and thus share this common ground with Americans.
To get a better understanding and appreciation of Chinese culture, Westman dedicates several chapters to the history and evolution of modern China. This is followed by parenthood and a comparison of the demographics of America and China.
The final chapters present a road map as to how American and China can better collaborate and overcome barriers which include the applicability of fundamental East Asian and American values to the decision-making process, engaging young and older people to find ways to engage in activities that give them meaning and purpose in life, global and environmental challenges, possibility of a nuclear disaster, and generally a attainable vision as well as a hope for the future.
The China-America Alliance is an ambitious work and where Westman really shines is his ability to synthesize with ease the vast repository of facts and references contained in the book. Wisely, he carefully stays away from creating movements or espousing ideologies and avoids taking sides in many of the controversies between China and America. He rather believes that both America and China must equally share in universal responsibility and as a result there will be a growing number of concerned and responsible individuals that will help in improving the general atmosphere between the two great powers. However, we must also realize that positive change is very slow in coming and constantly demands ongoing efforts and appreciation of the the respective cultures of both countries.