Thu, Sep 30, 2004 - Page 8 News List

Hu's US Civil War analogy is inaccurate

By Richard Kagan

Last year, when Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) met with US President George W. Bush, he told reporters they should understand that China's Taiwan policy has parallels in American history. He used the historical analogy of the American Civil War. He presumed that China was the Union, and Taiwan the Confederacy.

However, even the most basic understanding of the American Civil War would show that Beijing is actually the Confederacy.

Let us take the comparison step by step. The president of the Confederacy, Jefferson Davis, helped design the Confederate flag. He placed 13 stars in the flag to represent 13 states. However, his exaggeration and false prediction was exposed when there were only eleven slave states.

Isn't Beijing also fantasizing about the "extra" province of Taiwan?

The South relied on a pre-modern economy -- slavery plus cotton. Slaves represented about 60 percent of the planters' capital. The economy required a considerable amount of workers who were not free to make the South competitive in the national and world markets.

The Chinese Communist Party has created the considerable wealth of the country through its own control of the people and the economy.

The system survives in part because of a vast reservoir of unemployed and economically exploited lower-class workers and farmers with no health insurance, poor shelter, polluted rural areas and the increasing threat of diseases and viruses from unsanitary living conditions. Like the Confederacy, the best gift to its population would be freedom.

The South failed to win the war for two reasons. Both can be applied to China.

First, the Confederacy could never enlist women and slaves in its cause.

There is a lot of evidence that the South might have been successful if the full population supported its slavery system and the sacrifices of the war. However, over 50 percent of the population did not join the war effort with any enthusiasm, and many actively subverted the morale of the soldiers and the strategy of the military.

I have asked many people in China, especially women, if they would sacrifice their sons and daughters to fight Taiwan. The response was an overwhelming no. In fact, most people who talk without fear of the government or their colleagues say that they really do not care about Taiwan. Government authorities aborted a student poll at Beijing University that inquired about attitudes toward Taiwan.

If China's military expenditures and military outcomes of an attack on Taiwan can be linked to economic and human losses, will the wives, mothers and youth of China support this sacrifice?

Second, the military tide turned for the Confederacy when it abandoned its defensive strategy and tried to mount an invasion on the North. The Confederacy's military change of heart had disastrous consequences for the nation and led to international blockades and non-recognition.

If China seriously believes it can attack Taiwan without its own economic implosion and international isolation, then the leaders are even more ignorant of reality than Davis was for the Confederacy.

The South suffered from the consequences of the Civil War for over a century. If China compares itself to this war, it should consider the consequences of acting like the Confederacy.

It amazed me that no American in the audience with Bush questioned Hu's Civil War parallel. Hopefully now he will not be able to make this oft-stated analogy without someone raising an objection.

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