Mon, Dec 20, 2004 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: China's dangerous leap backwards

The naive faith that a pan-green failure to secure a legislative majority two Saturdays ago would lead to relaxed relations with China didn't even last a week. That this was the mantra adopted by the foreign media in its entirety after the elections just goes to show how the collective fascination with a rising China seems to lobotomize commentators who should know better.

China is in the grip of a raging nationalism based on a virulent sense of historical wrong. It has the imperial ambitions of Wilhelmine Germany with the sense of historical victimhood of the Third Reich. "Relax" isn't a word in China's diplomatic lexicon.

The message China received was that intimidation works. It ignores -- probably is entirely ignorant of -- the pork-barrel nature of Taiwan's legislative election campaigns, and therefore President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) ability to get out his voters with his irrelevant campaign. What China thinks it sees is voters' rejection of Chen's campaign themes, which it interprets as a result of its own saber-rattling. So, since intimidation works, let's have some more -- also a Hitlerian tactic, by the way.

Thus we can expect at the weekend China's rubber stamp parliament to pass the "anti-secession law," whose purpose is to forbid the secession of any part of what China considers its national territory. Its purpose is to mandate military attack on Taiwan should it declare independence; or, according to some speculation in the Hong Kong papers, remember that no draft of the law has been released yet -- even if it fails to reunify by a certain date.

There are a number of things that might be said about this law. The first is that it is absurd; whoever heard of one country making laws for another?

The second is that, absurd though it might be, it is clearly indicative of China's hegemonic intentions.

China is determined to be master of the Western Pacific, something it cannot be while it does not control Taiwan. Those with strategic interests in the region, the US and Japan, need to wake up to the fact that China's intention to take over Taiwan is not based on some nonsense about the inalienability of historically Chinese-controlled territory -- note that China has made no claim to Outer Mongolia.

China wants Taiwan because it wants regional dominance, for which the "unsinkable aircraft carrier" is the key. There is a lot more at stake here than questions of Taiwanese identity.

Since the US has been so critical of Chen "proposing to change the status quo," it will be interesting to see if they rap China's knuckles in the same way.

It is hard not to see yesterday's news that serving military officers are to be stationed here for the first time since 1979 as anything other than a response to China's plans, though the US move was probably planned long beforehand.

The new law might have the benefit of waking the US up to how it has let itself be hopelessly manipulated by Beijing for the last year or so into putting pressure on Taiwan and working against its better, strategic interests.

But the important message that has to be understood in Washington and broadcast to Beijing is that the new law will be a disaster for any kind of cross-strait dialogue. Taiwan has been willing to talk for a long time. It simply wants to do so without preposterous preconditions which nobody could possibly find acceptable.

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