Thursday, December 04, 2003


Keep your eye out for more on this.

Chinese military officers said today that Taiwan's leadership had pushed the island toward the "abyss of war" with its independence drive, making clear that China would consider a popular vote on Taiwan's political status as cause for war.

In lengthy interviews carried prominently by the official New China News Agency and other news outlets, the military officials also said that China would prevent Taiwan from formally declaring independence even if that meant pushing the mainland economy into a recession or destroying its plans to be host to the 2008 Olympics.

"Chen has reached the mainland's bottom line on the Taiwan question," said Luo Yuan, a senior colonel with the Chinese Academy of Military Sciences, referring to Taiwan's president, Chen Shui-Bian. "If they refuse to come to their senses and continue to use referenda as an excuse to seek Taiwan independence, they will push Taiwan compatriots into the abyss of war."

Maj. Gen. Peng Guangqian was quoted as saying that the mainland would attack without hesitation if Taiwan sought a formal split. "Taiwan independence means war," Mr. Peng said. "This is the word of 1.3 billion people, and we will keep our word."

The comments were the most strident in a barrage of explicit threats directed toward Taiwan in recent weeks by mainland leaders, and they may indicate a decisive shift in Beijing's approach to managing Taiwan affairs.

I'm rooting for Taiwan. If we get involved, I'm rooting for us, too. I somehow doubt it's going to come to war, but a couple things make me hedge my bets:

1. China's feeling like a superpower and working overtime to polish its global image, even though it's obviously unchanged at the core.

2. China has always been expansionist. They fit the "imperialist" label much more literally than America does. Look at Tibet if you think I'm kidding: it's flooded with Chinese, and the original culture is practically gone, surviving primarily in Dharamsala (and will it last there much longer?). The Chinese government has brainwashed its citizens into believing that Tibet's people have always been Chinese/belonged to China. It's patent bullshit, but the Chinese swallow this as easily as Noh Mu Hyon swallows Kim Jong Il's spoo. This is how Chinese hegemony works: fool yourself into thinking you own something, then move in as if it's true.

Then there's this from the Times article:

General Peng listed the Olympics, loss of foreign investment, deterioration in foreign relations, economic slowdown or recession and "necessary" casualties by the army as costs China would willingly bear to reunify the mainland. He belittled the idea that China would not dare use military force against Taiwan in advance of the 2008 Olympics, which it campaigned for many years to play host.

The officers are directing the comments at the United States as well as Taiwan. Beijing officials and analysts say the Bush administration needs to take a firmer line against Taiwanese independence, an issue Mr. Wen seems certain to press during his meeting next week with President Bush.


3. People will argue, rightly or wrongly, that the precedent has been set by America for the use of preemptive force. China might well claim its own right to so, interpreting Taiwanese independence as a real threat to Chinese sovereignty.

Since Nixon, we've at least given lip-service to the "one China" doctrine. Maybe it's time to break with that and see what China does. The US inaction re: Tibet has been nothing short of shameful; allowing China to ream Taiwan would be just as bad.

On a side note, I've been kicking around the idea of voting for Bush next year. It galls me because the man's a profligate spender and big-governmentarian-- everything the paleocons hate about liberals. I'm neither Democrat nor Republican (certainly not a paleocon), but I do sympathize with the classical Republican notion of localized responsibility. Bush, and many Republicans too in thrall to the religious right, don't share this feeling when it comes to matters of private conduct. Bush's stance on gay marriage is completely backward-- a refusal to acknowledge that times have changed. And Bush has managed to help generate a deficit that's already huge and about to become monstrous.

These two issues in and of themselves make me think that writing in Daffy Duck (which is what I'm most likely to do) will be the best course of action. But for me, foreign policy matters more right now than our economy. That sounds counter-intuitive, but I think we're a clever enough people to figure ways to survive whatever economic hell Bush plunges us into. Right now, I'm worried about Democratic leaders who will (1) listen a little too closely to "allies," (2) once again cut spending on national defense and give the wolves another reason to attack us on our soil, and (3) practice the same kind of appeasement and terrorism-support we see in South Korea, France, and other places-- but in low-grade form. Bush's own policies seem in many ways incoherent, but the Dems don't seem to have their shit together, either. When push comes to shove with foreign policy, I'll prefer the guy who shows that je ne sais quoi-- call it backbone, insanity, bravery, or a stupidity-fueled ignorance of (immunity to?) critical opinion. Whatever keeps NK and other totalitarian states nervous, on their toes, and on the defensive is fine by me. Bush fits the bill nicely; I somehow doubt Howard Dean would seem quite so menacing (or unstable!) to the likes of Kim Jong Il.

Wish list for Bush (who I assume, at this point, will easily win his second term):

1. PUSH THE ANGLOSPHERE TIES. I haven't seen much from Sullivan et al. about this in recent months, which is too bad. We've got friends in surprising places, if only we'd approach them. Australia and Eastern Europe come readily to mind. Italy, screwed up as it is (and admittedly not part of the Anglosphere), has been an unexpected friend in most cases this past year, Berlusconi's elegies to Mussolini notwithstanding. All of that needs to be nurtured, for diplomatic and military reasons.

2. Figure out clever ways to fund the Iraq campaign. Send the message to the people that grass-roots support-- time, money, effort-- is always welcome. We're a country with deeper pockets than we admit. It's a trait of the rich to plead "not enough money." That's how they stay rich. Right now is not the time for such people to be hoarding: to the contrary, since many (if not most) rich folks are Republican/conservative (Hollywood liberals and Washington socialites/politicos excepted), and since most such people have been strongly advocating the project in Iraq, it might be nice to see these people put their money where their mouth is and contribute private funds to the cause.

3. As a corollary, DON'T SKIMP ON TROOPS IN IRAQ.

4. As a corollary to that, DON'T SKIMP ON INTEL. You've got satellites to update? Then update 'em! You've got Arabic-speakers to train? Well, they've been in school since September 11, 2001, and the first wave is graduating. Their services, in the intel offices and in the trenches, are badly needed. Lucky for us, we're a country that loves to learn and loves a challenge; I think we're going to have formidable intelligence resources in Arabic-speaking lands in the near future.

5. Promote interreligious dialogue. Now is not the time for our country and culture to succumb to the stereotype that Islam is only a religion of violence. As I've contended plenty of times before, Islam (as is true for any religion) is as it is practiced. Want a peaceful Islam? Work toward making one-- that goes for both sides of the dialogue table. Giving up on this project, writing all Islam off, is not acceptable. And trying to "pacify" Islam only through force isn't acceptable, either. I don't say that because I'm a pacifist; I say that because it's an age-old rule of human nature: violence begets violence. Or as the Buddhists say, same karma, same action (dohng eop, dohng haeng).

6. Don't back down on North Korea. Make verification-- the way WE want it done-- an absolute requirement before negotiations can go any further. While we're at it, this should be true in places like Iran as well. And keep the military option firmly in view. By the same token, don't back down on South Korea. Keep repeating the mantra of self-responsibility until, by some miracle, it starts to sink in. A huge economic power comprised of 45 million people has little right to whine. South Korea could use some balls about now.

7. Make a break with past policy on Taiwan. Stop actively affirming the "one China" doctrine. True, we already supply Taiwan with arms and have a thriving economic relationship with it. That won't be enough if China brings things to a head. Taiwan needs to know who its friends are, and if this means a bold declaration affirming Taiwan's sovereign status, be prepared to make such a declaration.

8. LISTEN TO RUMSFELD. The man is right about making a less unwieldy military. He's also on the right track about troops in Korea, though I hope he eventually comes out and says the obvious: our troops need to leave. And if he's writing memos critiquing where we are in the war on terrorism, don't ignore them or spin them. I trust his instincts on this.

9. Continue to find new, hi-tech ways to project force-- ways that don't require us to have so many bases in foreign lands.

10. Be nice to the environment, man.

There's more... there's always more, but that's all I can think of at the moment.


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