Thu, Apr 07, 2011 - Page 8 News List

The US cannot appease the Chinese

By Li Thian-hok 李天福

The CCP abhors Western democracy as alien to Chinese culture and contrary to Chinese imperial and hierarchical tradition, which posits that China is the Middle Kingdom destined to rule all barbarians (ie, all non-Chinese states). China’s national mission is to regain its rightful place as the dominant superpower so the nation may cleanse itself of the humiliation at the hands of the West for a century after the Opium War. This strident nationalism is nurtured by “patriotism education” fed to every school child and reinforced by the media’s anti-Japanese and anti-US reporting.

This is why the PLA has been modernizing at a furious pace. Beijing also wants to develop the capacity to overwhelm Taiwan’s defenses rapidly before the US can intervene.

In his analysis of US-China relations, Glaser also ignores China’s social instability. There is widespread resentment of the CCP owing to official corruption, environmental degradation and confiscation of rural land with token compensation. In 2005, there were 87,000 cases of social unrest. This year’s budget for the People’s Armed Police exceeded that of the PLA for the first time.

In dealing with Beijing, Washington should not assume that the CCP is equivalent to the nation of China, or that the CCP regime will last for many decades. To avoid war with China, the US needs to steer China toward political reform, rule of law and democracy. A government that is held accountable by the electorate is more likely to improve the people’s livelihood and less prone to military aggrandizement and territorial expansionism.

Glaser asserts that China has limited territorial aims and therefore concessions on territory China regards as its core interest will assure peace. In reality, China has expansive territorial ambitions and unilateral concessions will be conducive to war by whetting China’s appetite.

Historically, China has always followed a policy of territorial expansion when it was powerful. During the reign of Qing dynasty Emperor Kangxi (康熙), Chinese territory encompassed Outer Mongolia and a vast expanse of present-day Far Eastern Russia, while China exercised suzerainty over Korea, Indochina (present-day Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia) and parts of Taiwan.

Today, China claims the whole of the South China Sea as its core interest, even though the islands therein are also claimed by neighboring nations. China has a dispute with Japan and Taiwan over the Diaoyutai Islands (釣魚台), known in Japan as the Senkaku islands, and with India over Arunachal Pradesh and parts of Kashmir. Once a PLA admiral suggested to the head of the US Pacific Command that the US should withdraw to Hawaii, leaving the Pacific Ocean west of Hawaii to Chinese control.

The rise of China poses grave challenges to US national security. To keep the peace, the US must face this reality, discard the culture of excessive deference to Beijing’s wishes and implement policies to maintain military superiority, both conventional and nuclear, including cyber war and space war capabilities; reduce the persistent trade deficit and stanch the flow of US wealth to China; steer China toward democratization by engaging Chinese civil groups that favor democracy and by preserving Taiwan’s freedom as a model for China to follow; strengthen regional alliances, particularly with Japan and South Korea; and engage China in economic and strategic dialogue, to promote fair trade and to avoid misunderstanding.

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