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Threats have consequences...
[J. F. Kelly, Jr.] 7/29/05
trade and mutual prosperity can go far toward dissolving tension
between nations at odds. In the case of
China and the United States, that is an outcome devoutly to be
wished because our futures are linked, though the divisions are
deep. We are the world’s most powerful nation and China
is the most populous. China finances much of our enormous debt
and our addiction to cheap Chinese exports results in a huge
imbalance of trade. On the other hand, China seems content to
hold vast sums in dollars and treasury securities that yield
little interest. Imagine the effect on the U.S economy if that
situation changed suddenly.
J.F. Kelly, Jr.
Kelly, Jr. is a retired Navy Captain and bank executive
who writes on current events and military subjects.
He is a resident of Coronado, California. [go to Kelly index]
the current arrangement seems to work to our mutual satisfaction.
has the huge U.S. market for its cheaply
produced exports, Americans continue to enjoy low interest rates
and investment opportunities for us in China abound. It would
appear that many of the problems between the two nations have
faded into the background. Surely, war with China would be unthinkable.
It’s such a huge country containing about a third of the
world’s population. Can’t we just get along? Aren’t
Chinese leaders mellowing as prosperity and globalism spread
and China regains its rightful place as one of the world’s
I hate to
disturb this tranquil reverie, but let’s recall
some unpleasant realities. China remains a harsh Communist dictatorship
that maintains tight control over personal freedoms. That may
be changing but don’t expect democracy to bloom there soon.
The Tianamen Square massacre, after all, happened only sixteen
years ago. Nor should we quickly forget the regime’s barbaric
population control measures under which female babies were regarded
as expendable. China is one of the world’s worst polluters.
Its industries are largely state controlled and piracy of intellectual
property is widespread. China’s offensive military capability
is expanding at a rapid rate while our force levels are at the
lowest point since the Great Depression. They are building a
blue water navy for purposes known best by them while our fleet
of the harsh anti-American rhetoric of China’s
leaders seemed, for a while at least, to be receding and a new
peaceful era, devoid of belligerence, seemed to be settling in.
Well, maybe not totally devoid of belligerence.
At a meeting
of foreign correspondents recently in Beijing, intended, ironically,
enhance China’s international
image, People’s Liberation Army Maj. Gen. Zhu Chenghu commented
to Danny Gittings, a deputy editor of the Asian Wall Street Journal,
that U.S. military interference in a conflict over Taiwan could
lead to a Chinese nuclear attack on the U.S. In Gittings’s
report, he quoted Gen. Zhu as saying, “According to the
balance of power between the United States and China, we have
no capability to fight a conventional war against the United
States. If the Americans interfere into the conflict, if the
Americans draw their missiles and position-guided ammunition
(sic) into the target zone on China’s territory, I think
we will have to respond with nuclear weapons.” The general
then spoke of targeting “hundreds” of American cities.
fighting words or what? Pure bluster, perhaps, but this was
first high-ranking Chinese military official
to threaten the use of nuclear weapons if America interferes
with China’s efforts to prevent a breakaway by Taiwan which
they regard as part of China. Gen. Xiong Guanghai pointedly remarked
in 1995 that Americans care more about Los Angeles than about
States has a longstanding treaty with Taiwan to defend it against
any use of force by China in asserting its
control. The island nation, a staunch ally of the U.S., has a
highly developed and prosperous economy and a population of 22
million, few of whom have ever lived under Communist rule. Originally
called Formosa by Portuguese explorers, it was under Dutch rule
from 1624 until 1662 when it fell to a Ming general. The island
was ceded to Japan in 1895 and Japanese influence there remains
strong. After Mao Ze-Dong’s Communists took over the mainland,
Chiang Kai-Shek’s Nationalists took control of the island,
which grew into a thriving democracy.
that Taiwan is part of the People’s Republic
of China is open to serious debate to put it mildly. But not
with China, whose leaders turn purple at any suggestion that
the Taiwanese should choose their own destiny. Apologists for
China, who would trade principle for peace, would prefer that
we not get involved in the Taiwan issue just as the peace at
any price crowd would prefer that we abandon another ally, Israel,
to the tender mercies of its Arab neighbors, but what would that
say about America’s honor and reliability as an ally?
It’s never a good idea to back down to bullies. President
Bush said shortly after his reelection that the United States
will stand on the side of people who want to choose their own
form of government and their own leaders. The incurably timid
U.S. State Department branded Gen. Zhu’s menacing remarks
as “highly irresponsible”. “Unacceptable” would
have been a more appropriate adjective. Another appropriate response
would be for Washington to put Unocal off limits to Cnooc, the
Chinese government-controlled oil giant, and make it clear that
as long as Chinese leaders continue to make threats, U.S. companies
with military and strategic value are not available for purchase
by the Chinese. Gen. Zhu may have been merely blowing steam,
but our Chinese trading partners need to understand that all
threats are now taken seriously here and have real consequences. tOR
2005 J. F. Kelly, Jr.