Sun, Oct 03, 2010 - Page 8 News List

China’s blustering is insubstantial

By Paul Lin 林保華

Relations between China and the US, which went through a period of tension following the sinking of the South Korean corvette Cheonan, have begun to relax somewhat. The main reason for this is that Chinese President and Communist Party General Secretary Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) is readying the itinerary for his visit to the US this autumn, and such a glorious journey must be given top priority.

China’s earlier threats to the US have not had the desired effect, so the time has come to end the bluster.

As for the US, if it were not for the sinking of the Cheonan and China’s challenges through claims of core interests, the US would not want to get involved in a game of tit for tat. Now that China has decided to give it a rest, the US is happy to follow suit.

Still, China is a country that will do anything to avoid losing face and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) never admits its mistakes, so even while seeking detente, they cannot resist making sneaky moves.

For example, the Aug. 10 edition of Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post quoted a Chinese diplomat as having said that given the tensions between the two countries, Hu’s US scheduled visit next month might be delayed.

However, when, on the same day the report appeared, journalists asked the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs about this, the ministry declined to comment.

Doesn’t this little game fit the model of offering one’s opponent a way out in order to trap him — the 16th of China’s ancient 36 Stratagems?

Obviously Hu still wants to visit Washington, but he put on an act like he no longer wants to go. If this were not the case, why wouldn’t the foreign ministry just say he wasn’t going instead of striking a pose and refusing comment?

The US, hearing this and knowing how hard China finds it to express its true feelings, decided it would be better to make the first move by sending some officials over to help China find a way out.

Receiving the US envoy in Beijing would also satisfy China’s “Central Kingdom” mentality. Those Americans really are such good pals!

So, after fixing things up between the two sides, on Sep. 2, Chinese foreign ministry spokeswomen Jiang Yu (姜瑜) announced that White House adviser and US National Economic Council Director Lawrence Summers and US Deputy National Security Adviser Thomas Donilon would visit Beijing from Sept. 5 to Sept. 8.

Prior to the announcement, Beijing has already used overseas media to generate the idea that whatever happened, it would not be a matter of China taking a step back, but of the US asking to get back together.

On Sept. 1, the day before the Chinese foreign ministry’s announcement, the Hong Kong daily Ming Pao ran an article in its “China comment” column entitled “Beijing defeats US diplomatic offensive by combining tough and tender tactics.” Citing a series of China-friendly articles published in South Korea, Vietnam and Japan, the Ming Pao piece said the US’ diplomatic offensive against China following the Cheonan sinking, including arguments over sovereignty and free passage in the South China Sea at the ASEAN Regional Forum, had come to nothing.

How ridiculous! Does the Ming Pao think the US was behind those China-friendly articles? Besides, the US’ efforts to contain China do not mean that it wants to cut off relations with China altogether.

Next, at a routine press conference on Sept. 9, a US Department of Defense spokesperson told reporters that the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS George Washington would again take part in naval exercises in the Yellow Sea. This clearly shows that the US had not given in to pressure from China not to send its carriers to take part in the war games.

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