February 1, 2010


Obama's Dangerous China Game: Obama’s arms sale deal with Taiwan has provoked Beijing at a particularly delicate moment. Leslie H. Gelb on why neither nation has thought through the consequences of a collision. (Leslie H. Gelb, 2/01/10, Daily Beast)

Don’t be surprised if the United States and China start rattling each other’s cages again, and this time, perhaps seriously. The Obama administration triggered this latest round by announcing on Friday a $6.4 billion arms sale to Taiwan. For Chinese leaders, this is the worst affront, since they consider Taiwan part of China. They retaliated immediately, mainly by announcing sanctions against unspecified U.S. companies involved in the arms sale. Similar byplay has occurred many times before, but never at a time when American fortunes seemed on the decline and Chinese prospects so bright—and never before with Chinese leaders at once so self-confident, even arrogant, about their international power, yet still so insecure and paranoid about their internal control over political and ethnic dissidents.

A state that can't hear the truth about itself ought not be taken seriously. No one was served well by the West pretending that the USSR was a superpower and it didn't take much more than Ronald Reagan branding them a failed state--on their own terms, as well as ours--for their collapse to begin.

Suppose that President Obama decided to emulate the Gipper instead of Ike and rub the PRC's nose in the futility of its quest for great nation status. To begin with, he could point out that not only is Taiwan never reverting to control by the mainland but that Tibet, Hong Kong, and Uighurstan--to begin with--will soon be free and independent as well. Follow that up by pointing out that because of the demographic catastrophe their inhuman regime has inflicted on itself they'll tip over into the same sort of decline Japan and secular Europe face, but will do so before ever attaining the affluence of the others. Mention the obvious geostrategic fact that America has encircled them with an alliance of democratic states--India, Australia, Indonesia, Taiwan, Japan, Russia-sort-of, etc.--against which they would be overwhelmed in the event of a war (though it really only takes the U.S. to do the overwhelming). And remind them that their "economic miracle" is not based on any Chinese innovation--not political nor economic--but on their willingness to assemble stuff for us more cheaply than a grown-up nation would do the work.

Give it to them with the bark on. It'll help them in the long run.

Posted by Orrin Judd at February 1, 2010 2:32 PM
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