Another cold war era inescapable
In 1989, the Berlin Wall came down. In 1991, the Soviet Union disintegrated and Deng Xiaoping (鄧小平) declared that there would be a "new Cold War" between China and the US; that the end of the old Cold War was simply the beginning of a new one.
\nDeng hit the nail on the head -- 15 years on, we can already see the outlines of a new cold war. But Deng didn't get it all right, for he saw the new cold war in terms of a direct confrontation between a socialist nation with Chinese characteristics and a capitalist America.
\nBut in fact, the new cold war seems to be shaping up as a confrontation between a Chinese-Russian alliance and the US, Japan, South Korea and the EU on the one hand, and a battle between Eastern authoritarianism and Western democracy on the other. In the power politics of this struggle for hegemony, the new cold war is not much different from the old cold war. But in regard to the ideological struggle, there are some differences.
\nI have often pointed out, especially in countering the arguments presented in Samuel Huntington's The Clash of Civilizations, that this conflict is not between Eastern Confucianism and Western Christianity, nor is it a clash between Christian and Islamic civilization. In fact it is a battle between Eastern authoritarianism and Western liberal democracy.
\nRecently, Taiwan, South Korea and Japan have all released new national defense policy reports. Most notably, Japan's national defense white paper for the first time clearly points to the rise of China's military capability, noting that China's military budget now exceeds that of Japan, and that the threat posed by China is a fact that Japan can no longer afford to ignore.
\nJapan believes it must now rethink its national defense strategy and strengthen its military preparations, building up its security and defense system on the basis that China is its primary adversary. It has established an Asia-Pacific strategic security network with the US, North Korea and other Asian countries and has hinted at Taiwan's participation.
\nA cold war between Japan and Russia has persisted ever since the end of WWII due to the unresolved issue of Japan's "northern territories," which has caused Japan to see Russia as an enemy.
\nIn addition, the North Korean nuclear weapons issue is still unresolved, and Pyongyang and Tokyo are caught in a hostile face-off. Problems abound in the region and the alliances between Beijing and Pyongyang, and between Japan and the US, make the atmosphere of a cold war inescapable. It is palpable even when you are aren't looking.
\nJapan and the US are making huge strides with the development of a missile defense system, and not only has Japan purchased AEGIS-equipped destroyers, it has even violated its "peace constitution" by selling advanced missile defense technology to the US. Naturally, combined Japanese, US and South Korean military exercises are taking place with increasing frequency. Looking at China and Russia, we see that they have finally resolved border disputes that have plagued relations between the two nations for half a century, with Beijing making considerable concessions.
\nIn the aftermath of the Soviet collapse, Russia sold vast quantities of advanced military technology to China, including missiles, fighter jets, Sovremenny class destroyers, kilo-class submarines and radar systems. There are even rumors that the Russians are considering selling China aircraft carriers. Recently, the largest ever Chinese-Russian military exercises were held, and analysts believe that the trend these exercises represent for Chinese-Russian relations cannot be ignored.
\nThe forceful leadership of Russian President Vladimir Putin and his suppression of democracy, media and his political enemies is reflected in China by President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤), who is also tightening his control over the nation. In the recent Ukrainian elections, Putin's tyrannical behavior was on full display, and in the manner he openly defied the US and the EU he seemed to be clearly marking a return to the power politics of the Cold War period. Putin has made frequent moves in regard to the Baltic States and the countries of Eastern Europe, and is clearly seeking to re-establish Russian influence in the region. These moves are already cause for concern by the EU, NATO member nations -- ?and especially the US.
\nHistory is destined to repeat itself. Deng's prediction that the end of the Cold War would simply be the beginning of a new cold war was spot on. More frightening still are the numerous similarities between the new and the old. The difference is that the old Cold War was a confrontation between communism and capitalism, while the new is between totalitarianism and democracy.
\nIn the old Cold War, the forces of communism collapsed; in the new cold war, history has ordained that the forces of totalitarianism will be defeated. Although the Chinese-Russian alliance may well bring the fight to the joint forces of the US, Japan and the EU, they cannot and will not achieve victory. Does the "peacefully rising" China want history to repeat itself and cause a new cold war to begin, or does it have the will to turn its back on totalitarianism and take the right path of history by embracing democracy?
\nThis all depends on Hu, Chinese premier Wen Jiabao (溫家寶) and the people of China. The fate of Taiwan's democracy is closely tied up with this great current of history, and the people of Taiwan must consider it seriously and respond appropriately.
\nChiou Chwei-liang is a visiting professor at Tamkang University.
\n Translated by Ian Bartholomew
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