By Jonathan Alter
Nov. 10, 2011
I had dinner this week in Beijing with an elegant 85-year-old woman named He Liliang, who had one of the great front-row seats to history.
Her late husband, Huang Hua, translated for the journalist Edgar Snow when he conducted his famous interviews with Mao Zedong in 1936. Her father was Mao’s teacher, and instructed him in the work of Carl von Clausewitz, the German military strategist best known for his maxim that “war is the extension of politics by other means.”
Today’s surging China doesn’t seem interested in war or politics, only economic growth. Huang’s son works in finance and his daughter-in-law works for a Hollywood studio. His country, undergoing one of the great transformations in human history, should be a source of fascination and study for the U.S. — not fear.
Of course, some fear is understandable, especially with occasional signs in the Chinese news media of increasing nationalist chest-thumping. China already spends more on its military than any country except the U.S., and is making no apologies for modernizing it. The buildup “will be based on our own concerns, not aimed at either relieving your concerns or increasing them,” Major General Yunzhan Yao told me and four other visiting American journalists.