China's Silent Army is a tour de force. Cardenal and Arajúo have written, and Catherine Mansfield has translated, an exceptional book based on around-the-world journalism from Beijing to the Democratic Republic of Congo to Costa Rica. Their vivid, beautifully panoramic descriptions of their journeys to suffering third world countries, to Burma's jade mines and to Peru's iron mines, will fascinate any reader, but their great contribution is in their book's on-the-spot reportage about the complex role that the Chinese have played with respect to resource-and-human exploitation in mining, logging, construction, other extractive industries, and, in a few instances, vice.
The third level of implications is that when it comes to military and social issues, there is a long-term versus short-term paradox. While the Chinese claim to think long-term with respect to investments in third-world countries' infrastructure in exchange for longer term payouts in the form of oil, iron, jade, and other resources, when it comes to adopting risky strategies with respect to transfer of nuclear technology to Iran or threatening Taiwan and other countries located near the South China Sea or on the Mekong River, the Chinese seem to think short-term. The same is true of their attitudes toward labor relations and the environment. They are remorseless polluters; for example, they are willing to defoliate the Siberian forests without concern for replanting or sustainable harvesting. The West learned these lessons a century ago; China's short-term thinking about pointless risk taking with respect to transfer of nuclear materials and technology, labor relations, and the environment, should benefit from the West's recent errors, but it does not.