Sat, Mar 26, 2011 - Page 8 News List

How US can avoid war with China

By Alexander Young

George Washington University professor Charles Glaser wrote in the recent issue of Foreign Affairs that, because a crisis over Taiwan can easily escalate to a war, the US should consider making concessions to China, backing away from its commitment to Taiwan. His views may be questioned on several bases:

The first involves a foreign policy theory question. According to Glaser’s nuanced realism, China’s rise needs not be dangerous, because the outcome of China’s rise will depend less on the pressures generated by the international system than how well US and Chinese leaders manage the situation.

Glaser minimizes the pressures of the international system, but the recent changes in Chinese foreign policy from former Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping’s (鄧小平) low-posture “hide brightness, cherish obscurity” dictum and Chinese President Hu Jintao’s (胡錦濤) earlier “peaceful rise” line to a more assertive stance represent China’s response to a shift in the international system, namely, China’s rapid rise to a continental and sea power and the US’ relative decline. US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates’ report to Congress last year agrees, citing Chinese leaders’ view that the initial decades of the 21st century are a “strategic window of opportunity,” for China’s rise to regional pre-eminence and global influence.

Second, Glaser’s grasp of China’s status and goals is questionable. Many specialists consider China an “anti-status quo,” not a “status quo,” state. -However, Glaser writes that “while the Soviet Union during the Cold War was a highly revisionist state bent on radically overturning the status quo ... there is no evidence suggesting that China has such ambitious goals.”

He shows little understanding of China’s self-confidence and rising nationalism, passionately bent on ridding the century-old history of shame of being turned into a semi-colony and intent on reviving the glory of imperial China’s hierarchical world order in which China ruled the tributary countries by military power, cultural attractions, and economic and diplomatic manipulations.

Glaser’s view that “the US should not rush to impute China’s conventional and nuclear buildups malign motives and should be sensitive to the possibility that they simply reflect China’s desire for security” is also naive.

Third, China may not oppose Glaser’s assertion that Taiwan is the US’ secondary interest, but will vehemently dispute him if he described Taiwan as China’s secondary interest. Despite Taiwan’s undetermined status, China has long claimed Taiwan as its core interest. As far back as 2002, a Naval Research Institute director stressed Taiwan’s strategic importance. Without Taiwan, he stated, enemies could blockade China inside the first island chain (Japan to Taiwan, Philippines, Borneo and back north to Thailand), attack China and prevent it from exiting to the Pacific Ocean.

Control of Taiwan would allow China to break the blockade, extend its defense line to the second island chain (from Japan’s northern territories, south to the Mariana Islands in Micronesia and New Guinea) and allow a -growing blue-water People’s Liberation Army Navy to project its power way out to the mid-Pacific.

Japanese and US experts agree Beijing’s control of Taiwan would turn seas stretching between the East China and South China seas into Beijing’s inland lake.

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