Mon, Aug 01, 2005 - Page 8 News List

World must wake to China threat

By Jerome Keating

People's Liberation Army (PLA) General Zhu Chenghu (朱成虎) recently showed his true colors when he boasted in a manner typical of a bully and one accustomed to a rigid social hierarchy. Zhu threatened that if the US intervened in a war between China and Taiwan, China would not hesitate to use its nuclear weapons against cities on the American west coast.

There is nothing much new with these kind of threats.

For some, Zhu's statements can be seen as the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) letting the PLA blow off steam and act tough. Others may see it as one of many CCP trial balloons to see how the Western powers react. If their response is tough, the CCP can then deny that Zhu was speaking on their behalf. If however the Western powers show a possible softening of their position on Taiwan's defense, then Beijing can ratchet up the rhetoric.

What is more surprising about Zhu's statement, however, is his unabashed disregard for the lives of Chinese citizens. Chinese leaders have in the past had no qualms about making cannon fodder (and now nuclear fodder) of their citizens. Mao Zedong's (毛澤東) willingness to let millions of Chinese die to serve his aims and ego are well documented. However, in the past the reality of such disregard was always masked with protestations of love for the common man. Not so with Zhu; he brazenly went on to say that China "should be prepared to lose all of the cities east of Xian."

Given that the US' arsenal includes nuclear arms in the submarines in the South China Sea, this statement would also include all cities south of Xian.

Two things stand out from Zhu's threats. First he reveals the typical manipulation of the Confucian superordinate-subordinate roles that pervade Chinese society. The general masses must always believe that the central government has their best interests at heart. Subordinates should always be ready to make appropriate sacrifices. After all, that is why the CCP controls all the media.

Second, Zhu's talk is the standard discourse of the bully who occupies a position of superiority. He points to the vulnerability of the opposition. "You may have weapons but you are vulnerable. We have weapons to destroy US cities and we don't care about our people. So, you better think twice and give in to our demands." Hitler effectively used such posturing with Chamberlain for "peace in our time."

Some Sinophiles in the US have been arguing in Chamberlain fashion that we just "need to understand China, then we can all live in peace." Hello? What part of "If you don't give in to my demands and do what I want, then I will nuke you," don't you understand?

Zhu threatens further that opposing China would be harmful to the US economy, but that vulnerability is a gate that swings both ways. If the US economy and the world's were harmed, China's would be devastated.

When you come down to it, China would be a lot easier to take out economically than most countries imagine. A country no longer needs an army to take out China -- one would not even have to place a single soldier in the country. All a country would have to do is to take out key energy and industrial locations and it would implode. This is a vulnerability that even Japan and other countries in the region could exploit when threatened by China.

China right now depends on its economy, which is rapidly growing at a rate of 10 percent to 15 percent a year. Beneath its surface is a pressure cooker building up. With its own internal troubles and unrest, the government realizes it must keep the lid on and let steam off periodically.

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