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PeterRS

Why Do Leading US Politicians Get Asia So Wrong?

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With Congress Leader Nancy Pelosi seemingly determined to lead some of her flock on a visit to Taiwan despite the ire of the Beijing leadership, the US is once again misreading the signals and leading the USA into somewhat uncharted waters. Whereas the USA supported Chiang Kai-shek's often brutal dictatorship in Taiwan after he lost the war with Mao, it was purely for political reasons - precisely the same reason they supported the murdering, thieving Marcos in The Philippines. For well over a year the corriders in Washington rang out with the refrain, "Who lost China?" The thought of a second huge communist nation in the world was too much for the power brokers to accept. Many willingly believed in Chiang's boast that his refuge in Taiwan was merely temporary and he would soon return to defeat Mao and rule China again.

Nixon's 1971 handshake with Mao in Beijing was the start of a major realigment in US realpolitik in the region. Soon, Taiwan was all but off the radar. US adopted a one-China policy which has remained firmly in place virtually since then. This is backed up by the Taiwan Relations Act, three joint US-China Communiques and six formal written Assurances. The US Department of State webpage makes it clear that US policy "opposes any unilateral changes to the status quo from either side; we do not support Taiwan independence" although it adds "we expect cross-Strait differences to be resolved by peaceful means."

With China's National People's Congress meeting later this year, with President Xi hoping that his cronies will give him another 5 years in power, Taiwan has yet again become very much a hot button issue. In another thread elsewhere, I have detailed the wartime agreements made at Cairo and ratified at Potsdam in and after World War II that the Japanese would return all their colonial possessions to the countries from which they were stolen. As China had ruled Taiwan for some 250 years, naturally Taiwan was returned to China. But after China soon became communist, the USA did everything in its power to nullify those earlier Agreements, even conniving with the Japanese at the San Francisco Peace conference to change the return of Taiwan to China to the Republic of China. This has resulted in a field-day for international lawyers, but by far the majority accept and agree that the USA's tinkering isn't worth the paper it is printed on.

But it did not all start with Taiwan.  From before World War II US politicians were to get Asia so wrong for decades with often disastrous consequences. First Pearl Harbour. The staunchly isolationist US had cracked Japan's diplomatic codes, it had long known Japan was preparing for war and aware that a task force had sailed from Japan on November 26. In an era without satellites it just assumed it was heading to the Philippines and the oilfields in Indonesia. Yet The Philippines was only days away from Japan and no attack had taken place. The base in Hawaii was not put on any form of alert. Being a Sunday, many of its forces on the base were stood down. We know the result.

Then Korea. Aware that Russia had taken over North Korea, when the US Secretary of State Dean Acheson publicly announced the US strategic Defence Perimeter in January 1950, the US was much more focussed on possible Soviet advances in Europe. So when Acheson forgot about Korea and left it out of his policy announcement, no one in Washington even thought about it. But the Russians certainly noticed it So in June they helped the North Korean regime to invade the South. As a History Channel series presently being shown in Thailand makes clear, the US and its allies were completely unprepared for war. Tactically General McArthur made huge mistakes. They were also totally unprepared for a Korean winter and Chinese participation, the more so when that country had no heavy weapons. Having turned around the initial attack and advanced into the North as far as the Yalu River marking the border with China, the retreat of US and UN forces that followed became a national humiliation. General McArthur, who had asked for approval to use nuclear weapons on China, was finally relieved of his command and replaced by General Ridgeway. Eventually, after huge personnel losses and tens of thousands suffering from frostbite, after 3 often senseless years the status quo was restored at the 38th parallel. 

Vietnam and Indo-China was a similar blunder. The USA totally failed to understand that Ho Chi Minh was in essence a nationalist. He had written to both Roosevelt and Truman begging them not to allow the French to return to their former East Asian colonies. It seems that neither replied. The US was staunchly anti-colonial and forced some of its allies to start a decolononisation programme soon afer the War. The French leader Charles de Gaulle refused. Allegedly he informed Truman that he would rather have Soviet troops march through France to the Atlantic than give up Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. It was a bluff, but it worked. So the French returned to their murderous rule in Indo-China. Ho was far from a saint and his people in the north suffered considerably. But he and his excellent General Giap ahd learned from the Chinese tactics in Korea. They lured the French into an open area surrounded by hills. The French defeat at DIen Bien Phu was a total disaster for de Gaulle and the end of French occupation. 

But Eisenhower and then Kennedy believed the US had a duty to protect democracy in the south just as they had propped up the murderous Syngman Rhee in Seoul, despite South Korea's democracy being a sham. That south Vietnam had a hugely corrupt government and that few in the south had much faith in it meant nothing in Washington. It even had the CIA help engineer a coup to get rid of and murder one Prime Minister and replace him with another rifdiculous man as President, General Ky. As Max Hastings says in his excellent relatively new history of that war, "Ky was a slick dandy, with a pencil-thin moustache; he affected a custom-made black flight suit and impressive procession of wives and girlfriends. He was publicly affable, fluent, enthusiastic about all things American but the taste of Coca-Cola - and as remote as a Martian from the Vietnamese people."

Even before then, the CIA had secretly and illegaly - as it was without Congressional approval - created what was effectively the world's largest airport in the jungle in northern Laos. Later came the secret and similarly illegal intrusion into Cambodia which was to so destabilise that impoverished country that it led directly to the rise to power of the Khmer Rouge. And we know what then happened.

China now, though, is very different from the postwar period. Under Xi it has become more hardline, it has broken international law in Hong Kong and got away with it, and the world seems to pay little attention to the disastrous policy in Xinjiang Province with the Uighurs. Xi's re-election bid is not certain and he has to have a considerable number of enemies in Beijing. He needs to go into that Congress with the air of a strong leader. Pelosi's trip threatens at this delicate time to awaken the dragon. There is absolutely no need for her to go at this time. The US has a lot of military power in the South China Sea. If there is any degree of misunderstanding, could this be yet another US disaster in the making in the region? I would not bet against it!

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34 minutes ago, Latbear4blk said:

Do American politicians get right any International area?

No - they don’t get anything right.

It’s one disaster after another - mainly in search of a foreign war to satisfy the defense contractors and their lobbyists.  War is required to justify the enormous military-industrial complex and all the money baked in to buy off American politicians.  It can’t last forever though because the US is nearing a tipping point due to lack of domestic spending to take care of the American people.  In the past 40 years (since Reagan), almost every part of American society has been neglected (infrastructure, education & healthcare to name a few) and the consequences are coming.  American civil society is unraveling and I really don’t think it’s fixable - it’s just too far gone.

The core problem is everything is for sale, to whomever (foreign or domestic) will pay the highest price and very few politicians care about the American people or democracy in general.  It’s all a performance for money and their own self-interest.

Look no further than the recent 180 on Saudi Arabia after Biden’s vows to hold MBS accountable for Khashoggi - the minute gas prices got too high, all of those promises went out the window.  No moral high-ground & no principles.  It’s the same for all the US politicians, regardless of party. 

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9 hours ago, TotallyOz said:

How is her trip playing with the regular Taiwanese people? Do they see this as a mistake or are they happy she is wanting to visit?

Apparently according to news reports and a friend I just spoke to it's being very much played down. I looked earlier at the online edition of the Taipei Times. I can see nothing on the news pages but the lead editorial suggests her visit should be shelved. Against that there is an op-ed in which the writer takes the opposite view. But this writer is Dutch and teaches the history of Taiwan at the George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia. Based in the USA it is perhaps not surprising that he very much spouts the Pelosi line, whereas the editorial is clearly the 'Taiwan view'.

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I think China has also misplayed the US. Once you publicly threaten Pelosi for making a visit, you vastly increase the odds that she'll make the visit. How do you even benefit from doing that other than playing to a domestic hardline audience? Xi is playing to his own version of congress.

 

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3 hours ago, Slvkguy said:

 It can’t last forever though because the US is nearing a tipping point due to lack of domestic spending to take care of the American people.

 

This is precisely the point made by the British historian specialising in international relations, economic and military might, Paul Kennedy, in his excellent 1988 book "The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers since 1500". Empires cannot last. Kennedy argues that there will always come a point when expenditure on the forces required to defend borders and overseas interests reach such a level it so destabilises a country's national economy that it has no option but to reconsider and retrench. This is particularly true in peacetime. Past empires have collapsed because over the longer term productive and revenue-raising capacities on the one hand could not continue to finance the military strength on the other. Thoroughly recommended reading.

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11 minutes ago, caeron said:

I think China has also misplayed the US. Once you publicly threaten Pelosi for making a visit, you vastly increase the odds that she'll make the visit. How do you even benefit from doing that other than playing to a domestic hardline audience? Xi is playing to his own version of congress.

Xi is unquestionably playing to his own power base. Frankly, I don't think at the present time he gives a damn what happens in the USA - or any other country for that matter. He has far too many major problems and developing problems at home to be concerned about other countries. If Pelosi makes the visit, Xi's hand among the power brokers in Beijing is strengthened almost whatever he does.

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Now we know that Pelosi has a long history of being anti the government in Beijing. On an official visit in 1991, she escaped from her group for a quick visit to Tiananmen Square where she unfurled a banner stating "To those who died for democracy in China." CNN's correspondent Mike Chinnoy was part of her group. He was arrested for several hours although he had nothing to do with Pelosi's actions. As he stated, "It was my first experience with Pelosi's penchant for high-profile gestures designed to poke China's communist rulers in the eye - regardless of the consequences."

This year she issued a statement to mark the 33rd anniversary of the Tiananmen demonstrations, calling them "one of the greatest acts of political courage." 

As far back as 1993 she opposed every Chinese attempt to host the Olympic Games. To the anger of Presidents Cllinton and Bush, she pushed for China's trade status to be linked to its human rights record and to attach conditions to its entry into the World trade Organisation. I wonder how strongly she has reacted to other dictator-led regimes and their human rights records?

In other words, Pelosi is a loose canon. Little wonder that Biden is trying to stop her planned visit to Taiwan - fearful of what she might do in what is probably her last year as Leader of Congress.

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-china-62343675

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4 hours ago, kjun12 said:

The most obvious thing that I glean from PeterRs posts is that he is anti-Pelosi and anti-US

 
I don’t think that is really it.
 
I think it is just for some reason (and I’ve noticed this with Peter’s posts over the years) he seems to have a massive fondness for the PRC regime - no idea why (shrug)
 

 

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8 hours ago, PeterRS said:

Now we know that Pelosi has a long history of being anti the government in Beijing. On an official visit in 1991, she escaped from her group for a quick visit to Tiananmen Square where she unfurled a banner stating "To those who died for democracy in China." CNN's correspondent Mike Chinnoy was part of her group. He was arrested for several hours although he had nothing to do with Pelosi's actions. As he stated, "It was my first experience with Pelosi's penchant for high-profile gestures designed to poke China's communist rulers in the eye - regardless of the consequences."

 
Admittedly Pelosi was more careless than she should have been regarding the possible consequences for the press team on that occasion. However,  I think if I was a US citizen in 1991  and  if I was looking at my Congress representatives, I would be far more embarrassed about the fact that the rest of them went to Beijing in 1991, just two years after the PRC government had massacred thousands of protesters in Tiananmen Square,  and had NOT made some form of protest.
 
 
And as regards the title of this thread, I think if you look at the grand arc of her career on China policy, Pelosi has been much more correct in her analysis than say, Bush or Clinton, who as you point out she so annoyed. Back in the 1990s, when China was somewhat isolated, and Clinton’s administration were in favour of allowing them to join the WTO and to bring it into international organisations, it was on the basis that it was as China got richer it would then become more democratic.
 
Around that time there was discussion of China hosting the Olympics, and the "China Dove" side (who were dominant in both Clinton and Bush Jr's State Department) argued that it would be a good thing as China would have to open up a bit when hosting the Olympics. Tibet was the region most in the news at the time, and the argument was, "well China won’t want to be embarrassed by being oppressive to the Tibetans during the Olympics,  it will surely ease up."
 
Didn't happen.
 
In general, Clinton and the other China doves were certain that, as China got more more integrated into the international community, it’s authoritarian nature would slowly decrease (a bit like what happened in South Korea and Taiwan between around 1970 and 1990).
 
It was a genuine debate at the time, where Pelosi was obviously on the opposite side to Clinton and Bush. However I think history is showing that Pelosi was in the right side of the argument. If you had said to a China "dove" in 2001 that by 2022 China would have an economy as large and integrated into the international markets as it is now, and yet people are still debating not if, but when, it would invade Taiwan, they would be shocked.
 
I think some of the criticism Peter has made of Pelosi on this thread may well have merit (if Biden is saying that the military do not want Pelosi to visit Taiwan, it is concerning).
 
However, in general, Peter, would you not agree that Pelosi has been proved to have been LESS wrong on China than the State Department "China Dove" consensus of 1990s and early Naughties?
 

 

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1 hour ago, forrestreid said:
I don’t think that is really it.
 
I think it is just for some reason (and I’ve noticed this with Peter’s posts over the years) he seems to have a massive fondness for the PRC regime - no idea why (shrug)

I think you are pretty near correct - although I would question the adjective 'massive' and the noun 'regime'. I would prefer 'major' and 'admiration for the achievements of the PRC'. And my own personal journey as it relates to China is a large part of the reason.

The fact is that many who have theories about China hardly know China or people who live in China. Their views are understandably shaped by what they read in the media and see on television. Perhaps they find a non-democratic form of government anathema. Perhaps the horrors of Stallinist Russia resulted in many to assume that communism equalled a form of massive internal genocide. And then they read about Mao's actions in the 1950s, '60s and early '70s and were convinced. So, I completely understand.

What most people never seem to consider is the historical context going back at least two centuries and why China is both where it is and how it is run. They seem to assume that the 'century of humiliation' during the 19th century when China was virtually raped by many western powers and Japan was just an historical fact. And as with much history the Chinese should just put it behind them as they move on. That is hardly possible. Just as the Chinese plan far more into the future than other countries, so they have long memories. They do not forget.

Admittedly by the start of the 19th century Imperial China was finally rotting from within. It was unable to stop the British traders from forcing it to accept opium instead of payments in silver, an act which condemned millions of Chinese to a dreadful death but one which had found favour in the government in London. It was unable to stop the missionairies who followed in the wake of the traders who, as they did almost everywhere, attemped to persuade tens of millions that their ancient historical and cultural beliefs were sinful and to follow Christ instead. That bred the 14-year Taiping Rebellion in which at least 20 Chinese million were killed. This was led by a Chinese who persuaded his followers that he was the brother of Jesus, a name all but unknown to almost all Chinese until the missionaries landed. Those who condemn China today conveniently tend to forget what the western powers did in those decades was the adoption of practices which in themselves should be more than roundly condemned in international courts.

The rise of European and American settlements in which those nations' laws were followed instead of Chinese law resulted in what even today are called the Unequal Treaties. A weakened China simply did not have the internal administrative structure nor military power to resist. Chinese leadership in recent decades has several immutable aims - one being that China will never ever again allow itself to become as weak as it was in the early 1800s.

If there was one act that so angered the ordinary Chinese that it remains an unresolved stain even today, it was the act of colonial powers towards the end of the Opium Wars. British and French troops were sent to Beijing to force the Emperor and his Court to open up more of the country to trade. When they failed, they went on what can only be termed a criminal rampage. Outside Beijing, they looted and destroyed one of the world's great series of cultural buildings, the Summer Palace. Today this has the same historical relevancy to all the peoples of China as the Crusades did in Arab eyes almost a millennium earlier. It will never be forgotten or forgiven.

I'll skip over the fall of the Q'ing Dynasty, the birth of modern China and then its internal turmoil as warlords and criminal gangs fought to control the country. But it is important to remember that in Asia China had been on the side of the allies in World War 1 and had even sent 150,000 labourers to Europe who were then treated abysmally and of whom a huge number lie in simple graves in northern France. In most cases their families had no idea what happened to them. At the Treaty of Versailles, the Chinese diplomats assumed they would be given some concessions, especially in getting rid of at least the German foreign settlements on its coast. They were humiliated when the alies gave the settlements to Japan. They came away with absolutely nothing.

Follow that with the Japanese occupation of Manchuria and the dreadful trail of death and destruction as they made their way down the coast and ended with the Rape and destruciton of Nanjing, the capital of Nationalist China - one of the most horrific acts in history with up to 300,000  citizens raped, beheaded and otherwise slaughtered by a seemingly mad Japanese military.

After all these and many more events, what China and the Chinese desperately wanted was one thing - stabiliity. Mao seemed to offer that which is why he was so warmly welcomed. Little did the people of the country know that Mao's mad campaigns over the next 25 years would result in the deaths from hunger and murder of almost certainly at least 50 million, if not more.

After that preamble, I found myself in Hong Kong at the start of 1979, just as the Cultural Revlution was finally over and Deng Xiao-ping restored to power. Deng was clearly a great pragmatist. He knew China needed to change its philosophy and that much of the economy, especially in the communes in the countryside, had to be set free. That needed cash. And so he first tapped the Chinese diaspora with great success. The first Special Economic zone was a fishing village across the creek from Hong Kong. Shenzen then had around 25,000 inhabitants. Now it is an economic powerhouse with a poulation in excess of 12.5 million.

After my first year I took the daily tourist train across the border to Guangzhou. I saw the farming communes. I saw how poor the people were. I saw a slowly developing Guangzhou where I was a guest of the new US Consul there, Dick Williams. The Consulate was on the top floor of one of the few better hotels in the city. One morning, we went to walk by the river to see where the western powers had had their 'factories' for trade and which had been the origin of the Opium Wars. I saw almost every man wearing a loose grey Mao-style light suit and only a few of the ladies wearing anything but grey. It was like going back in time 100 years!

Since that first visit, I have been in China well over 100 times. I have friends in several cities. I happened to be in Beijing for meetings with clients in May 1989 as Tiananmen Square was filling up. I was back in late July the same year to meet the same clients. All were totally shocked at what had happened and told me that the government had lost Beijing.

But such feelings eventually were put to the back of minds as incomes rose at such a rate with Deng's reforms pulled well over 400 million out of poverty, the largest number in the shortest time in history. As incomes rose, I noticed what I can only describe as a vast increase in personal freedoms. In early 1997 I was in the city for a 3-week project. I stayed at the Beijing Hilton in the city's north east, one of many western chain hotels that had opened. In the eveing I often walked about half a mile to the Sanlitun area north of the Embassy district. Here about 3 dozen private cafes, bars and small restaurants had opened. At one I visited several times, I chatted a lot to a very cute waiter who was studying at one of the universities during the day. His English was virtually fluent. He made one point that stuck with me. He said all his colleagues admired the USA and more than a few hoped that perhaps they might have the chance of studying there. He then added "but some cannot understand why so many in the US government hate China so much!"

Like those reading about China in other parts of the world, that view was largely based on what they were reading and being told. But my student friend and many of his friends realised that they did not trust the government's official media. They made up their own minds. Long before then, China realised it had to make friends in the west which in turn opened the doors to a vast new source of investment to further fuel the country's development. Perhaps the hardliners of whom there remain even today quite a number in the top leadership failed to realilse that this would open the country's internal affairs to greater worldwide scrutiny.

But nowhere today is that leadership more unified than regarding the country's borders. Anyone who fails to understand this need only look back to 1969 and the 7-month border war with the Soviet Union. The Soviets were seriously considering the use of nuclear weapons but held back. Earlier there had been the 1962 border war with India. The Chinese actions in Hong Kong, Tibet and Xinjiang, however much the world condemns them - as indeed do I, are totally rooted in border control issues. Similarly with Taiwan, although as i have stated in an earlier post, I believe international law and wartime Agreements make it more than clear that the ultimate authority in Taiwan has to be Beijing.

I fully accept that two blacks do not make anything other than two blacks. But it is easy to condemn China when we assume that ordinary Chinese are not able to think for themselves and what they really want is a different form of government. I consider these wrong assumptions. Equally, I think we have a tendency to forget the failings in our own systems of government. I wonder what the Chinese people think of a government which permits its citizens to own more guns that there are citizens, for example?  Or where 41.5 million of the population exist as a result of food stamps. Or where so many in so many democratic countries now realise there are in fact major failings in the democratic systems these countries have adopted. 

I loathed Li Peng and his fellow hardliners in Beijing who undercut Deng and his reformers and directly led to the events of early June 1989. Many assumed Xi Jinping would be a reformer, given that his father, Xi Zhongxun, a companion of Mao on the Long March, and later a Vice Premier was very much a liberal reformer in the government who enjoyed a close, friendly relationship with the Dalai Lama. The elder Xi had championed the rights of the Tibetans, Uighurs and other ethnic minorities. Many felt his son would pursue similarly liberal policies - but only once he was totally assured of this own power base. From the purges near the start of his reign, it is clear that Xi had more enemies than the pundits thought. Will he change if he gets his new term at the next National People's Congress. Somehow I doubt it.

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Hitler and Stalin both pulled their countries out of poverty and created powerful states, but at what cost? It’s easier for dictators to put forth reforms because they get rid of anybody that disagrees with them. The prosperity they achieve is rife with collateral damage: lost lives and generations of their offsprings. The majority of the latter, by the way, do not believe that their “sacrifices” were worth it.

As far as the unequal treaties are concerned, I have a couple of questions. If I’m not mistaken, Russia, by far, holds the overwhelming majority of the land Chinese consider historically theirs. So, (1) how do they feel about Russia selling them resources (at the “deeply discounted” prices) from the territory they deem to be theirs? And (2) how does that influence their geopolitical stance?

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On 7/28/2022 at 2:24 AM, TotallyOz said:

Fascinating and informative. Thank you.

How is her trip playing with the regular Taiwanese people? Do they see this as a mistake or are they happy she is wanting to visit?

I doubt anyone cares what they think, this is major-power war gaming. They're pawns. 

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99% of international drama is theater now as huge diplomatic missions are in touch with each constantly, pre-agreeing how much one side can posture and what the consequences from the other side will be beforehand. That's why it's so amazing how poorly the US is gaming it's moves in this administration. The Russian and Chinese responses to US proposed moves are "sure go ahead and do xyz, if you're that stupid, you will regret it". And we do end up in disasters. I can't believe the US regime honestly is as intent as it seems to have a nuclear war but it certainly acts that way, as if the US is not the most important thing to protect in the world. I have to think it's just incredibly bad gamesmanship and foresight. But that's a huge problem too. 

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7 hours ago, alvnv said:

Hitler and Stalin both pulled their countries out of poverty and created powerful states, but at what cost? It’s easier for dictators to put forth reforms because they get rid of anybody that disagrees with them. The prosperity they achieve is rife with collateral damage: lost lives and generations of their offsprings. The majority of the latter, by the way, do not believe that their “sacrifices” were worth it.

In general that is perfectly true. Yet the Third Reich lasted less than 15 years. The Soviet Union barely 70 years before it collapsed. The Chinese regime has already outlasted them and is unlikely to collapse any time soon, despite the almost unprecedented challenges now being faced by that leadership. A key question for those who for their own valid reasons object to the Chinese leadership is, I believe, a relatively simple one. Get rid of that leadership and what do the Chinese people put in its place? You cannot create democracy overnight as we have surely seen in Russia where the alleged democracy is a total sham. Let's also remember Japan which was all but forced to open up with the Meiji Restoration and how shogun rule was replaced not by a functioning democracy but by its military rulers who were intent on building an Empire just as the western powers had done. The relatively simple actions of Commander Perry and his warships in 1853 was no doubt approved by many in the US administration, yet it came back to haunt them dreadfully in World War II. No doubt Pelosi's actions will similarly seem just and reasonable to some in present-day USA. But will they be worth the effort? Will they actually achieve anything useful to US interests?

In such a massive country as China that is the second largest economic power on earth, where are the democratic institutions, the rule of just laws, even a basic understanding of what democracy is all about? How does a people which has for millennia been subject to strict rule imposed from the top change? Unless a country is defeated in war, as with Japan in 1945, you cannot impose political change from without. It must come from within. And with my knowledge of the country, however limited that is, I see no movement for change in China - at least for a long time to come.

After Tiananmen Square, there were many stories appearing in the Hong Kong media that some of the leadership of the more prosperous southern Province of Guangdong were considering a breakaway from mainland China. It must have been discussed at some levels but it was never to happen.

What makes China and the reforms of Deng Xiao-ping different from Stalin is that the only disagreements came from the hardliners in the leadership. Private ownership of land was anathema to them. But Deng got his way. In freeing up the economy and pulling hundreds of millions out of poverty, I do not believe China got rid of anyone. Yes, that's speculation. But when you are massively improving the lives of those who had hithertoo been eeking out a miserable existence, I doubt if there were any in the countryside who disagreed with the policy and were therefore "got rid of".  

7 hours ago, alvnv said:

As far as the unequal treaties are concerned, I have a couple of questions. If I’m not mistaken, Russia, by far, holds the overwhelming majority of the land Chinese consider historically theirs. So, (1) how do they feel about Russia selling them resources (at the “deeply discounted” prices) from the territory they deem to be theirs? And (2) how does that influence their geopolitical stance?

I admit I know much less about the history of the Sino-Russian conflicts over land than I do about other areas. Treaties signed during the Q'ing Dynasty transferred land including most of Manchuria back and forth between the two countries and were indeed regarded as unequal treaties. As in the west of the country, there were skirmishes on the disputed northern border in 1969. The difference seems to be that whereas the western powers refused to renogiate those "unequal" treaties, the Soviet Union and later Russia along with its earlier satellite states bordering China did enter into extensive renegotiations. The 1991 Sino-Soviet Border Treaty put in place the terms under which negotiations would take place. The issue was finally resolved satisfactorily in 2004.

I regret I have no idea of China's existing economic relations with Russia nor how they affect the country's geopolitics. I can only assume that the Chinese leadership is doing what it regards as best in its country's interests.

As an aside, it is I think useful to remember that Manchuria was a haven for fleeing White Russians after the Russian Revolution. I have only been to Harbin, but the influence of Russia extends even to the main roads being signposted in 3 languages - Chinese, English and Russian. In the city centre there is an imposing decommissioned Russian Cathedral and Russian restaurants abound. China has never made any attempts to de-Russify that part of its territory.

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2 hours ago, tassojunior said:

99% of international drama is theater now as huge diplomatic missions are in touch with each constantly, pre-agreeing how much one side can posture and what the consequences from the other side will be beforehand. That's why it's so amazing how poorly the US is gaming it's moves in this administration.

Re Taiwan, both the US and China have been ratcheting up tension. As long as that is all it is, I see no major problem as this happens all the time in international relations. But this and future US administrations always have to have in the back of their minds that China in 2022 is not the China rotting from within of 200 years ago. It is a modern country with a huge army, a vast arsenal of weaponry and air power - and a large stockpile of nuclear weapons. If China decides - or let's even suggest provoked - to take over Taiwan by force, what can the US do do stop it? The sanctions put in place over the Russian invasion of Ukraine have achieved nothing to stop the war. Would similar sanctions against China be more effective? A few aircraft carriers in the Taiwan Strait will achieve precisely nothing unless the US population is ready for outright war half a world away. I am sure it is not. And let's never forget that during such periods of tension accidents do happen.

One happened on 3rd July 1988. During the Iran-Iraq War the US was patroling the Persian Gulf to ensure no interruption to the supply of oil. The guided missile cruiser the USS Vincennes shot down an Iran Air Airbus over Iranian airspace on the assumption that it was a military jet determined to fire missiles at the ship. Since civilian airlines had different radio frequencies from military ones and a whole host of other errors (the Vincennes had actually strayed into Iranian waters), the radar operators continued to assume the Airbus was a warplane. As a result 290 innocent passengers and crew were were killed.

At first US authorites claimed the Airbus was flying outside the commercial jet corridor. A month later, they had to retract that statement and confirm it was indeed within the commerical jet corridor. Furthermore, when shot down it was continuing its ascent and not descending as the radar operators on the ship had claimed. The US Navy blamed crew error and paid US$62 million in damages to the familes of those on board.

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How many times has the CCP said the US is "playing with fire"? And what have they ever done about it? I follow a couple of Western guys on YT who lived in China and traveled very extensively there for over a decade. They're fluent in Mandarin. They were essentially forced to leave when Xi started his anti-Westerner campaigns. They are of the opinion that China's threats should be acknowledged but that giving in to their threats would be a bad idea.

https://www.youtube.com/c/laowhy86

https://www.youtube.com/c/ADVPodcasts

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China has been the world's most powerful country for much of human history off and on and is again. It's in recession from a covid epidemic just now and more important, it still only has a fraction of the nuclear warheads that Russia and the US do. If it had Russia's #1 arsenal of nukes, it would be different as the US is a distant #2 without hypersonics. (for a small fraction of our military budget, Russia gets much better product, especially nukes). 

For many years there have been "back channel" discussions between countries to set up theater for the public on the order of "if we do xyz what is your public response going to be and how should we time it and what will your ultimate action be?" negotiations. That's civilized and avoids unnecessary conflicts.  From what I hear from friends now the Biden administration has lost almost all back-channel communications or doesn't want to use them to show strength (take your pick- I tend to believe the latter- it's intentional). That is extremely dangerous. 

 

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1 hour ago, fedssocr said:

How many times has the CCP said the US is "playing with fire"? And what have they ever done about it? I follow a couple of Western guys on YT who lived in China and traveled very extensively there for over a decade. They're fluent in Mandarin. They were essentially forced to leave when Xi started his anti-Westerner campaigns. They are of the opinion that China's threats should be acknowledged but that giving in to their threats would be a bad idea.

https://www.youtube.com/c/laowhy86

https://www.youtube.com/c/ADVPodcasts

No, China has not dropped a thousand nuclear bombs on the US so far. 

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PeterRS,  your explanation of how your life has impacted your view of the PRC was interesting. You obviously have a lot of experience of living and travelling in China over many years.

However, I still think the way you view the subject of this thread (how US politicians have reacted to the rise of China) is incorrect.

You know more than me about the various political manoeuvrings that ended up with the ROC controlling Taiwan and the PRC controlling the mainland by 1950. However, the fact remains that, whatever the history, at the present moment there is in Taiwan a highly developed country, with a democratic government. This is versus the undemocratic PRC regime.

Therefore, I think the USA is morally correct to support Taiwan.

That does not mean I believe they should necessarily intervene militarily if Taiwan is attacked. As the PRC is a nuclear armed power I think that policy would be too dangerous. In that regard, I have not sure what the reasoning is behind Biden dropping the so-called “strategic ambiguity“ stance of the US recently over the question of whether America would support Taiwan militarily, if it was invaded. It is a policy that needs careful consideration.

I do think the USA it should be more blunt about what it would do in such a situation. The whole reason for “strategic ambiguity“  from the 80s until recently was that the USA was hoping that the PRC, while claiming Taiwan, would never actually invade. There are many places around the world where one country claims piece of land not currently occupied by it (Spain and British-controlled Gibraltar for example) But no one really expects Spain to violently invade in the reasonably near future.

That appears not to be the case any more with the PRC and Taiwan.

In my own view, the USA should make clear it would not military intervene if the PRC invaded Taiwan, but state that it has the intention to help build up as much of a modern military arsenal (excluding nuclear weaponry) as possible in Taiwan to enable it to defend itself. And just make it as difficult as possible for the PRC to wipe out the democratic government of Taiwan, if the Taiwanese people are prepared to defend themselves.

 

Regarding the more general point about the century of humiliation for China and the "unequal treaties" , that is true. However China was not the only country to undergo that. Korea, Vietnam and the Philippines are actually fully colonised during that period. However the Chinese reaction to this colonisation it’s not to show any solidarity with those Asian countries. In fact it’s rebound from its weakness of the 19th and early 20th century mainly seems to involve bullying countries like Vietnam and the Philippines for over territory that is much closer to those countries than the Middle Kingdom.

For those reasons, and also the fact that the much-heralded "coming liberalisation" of the PRC that the China "doves" based their advice on seems unlikely to ever arrive before a Taiwan invasion, I think that a more hawkish policy is quite justified.

 

 

 

 

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I believe there may be an obligation under US law for the US to help defend Taiwan. At some point it seems like the world will need to recognize the reality that Taiwan is already an independent country. 

Ultimately Taiwan is a country of 25 million people. In the face a PRC with a billion plus people it will be very difficult for them to defend themselves even with American weapons systems. 

The PRC is a big country with many big problems looming on the horizon. The economic problems invading Taiwan would create certainly won't help with those problems. Even if they did invade and managed to takeover the country they'd have to deal with a population that doesn't want them there. Crushing Hong Kong was one thing, crushing Taiwan will be a much bigger job. And to what end? To have a destroyed island under CCP rule might be quite a pyrrhic victory.

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I think it is premature to say that the sanctions on Russia aren't working. Russia is, of course, saying that, but I'd rather trust a Yale study.

https://www.businessinsider.com/russia-economy-imploding-sweeping-sanctions-corporate-exodus-yale-study-2022-7?op=1

I do not begrudge China its rise. But, I loathe strongmen everywhere. When the fate of a people rest on the whims of one man, it often ends badly.

 

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8 hours ago, forrestreid said:

the fact remains that, whatever the history, at the present moment there is in Taiwan a highly developed country, with a democratic government. This is versus the undemocratic PRC regime.

Therefore, I think the USA is morally correct to support Taiwan.

I fully respect your views. Yet you will not be srprised that I do not agree with some of them. The above comment is one. Yes, Taiwan is to all intents and purposes a highly developed country. Democracy is now not only understood but practised in many levels of government from local to national level. As I think you may know from having read some of my past posts, I am a huge admirer of Taiwan and for almost a decade prior to covid visited quarterly for roughly 10 days each time. And yes, the PRC is not at all democratic other than with some democratic institutions at very local level. 

But to suggest that this is sufficient reason in international law for a part of one country unilaterally to secede and become a totally new country, I find that view very strange. I do not agree that conditions of Britain's annexation of and continued rule in Gibralter or indeed the Falklands is anything like an exact parallel. Historically the facts are different. Georgaphically Britain is nowhere near either territory. It is factually impossible for anyone to argue, legally or otherwise, that Taiwan was not a part of Imperial China for 250 years prior to the Japanese invasion. Even though Sun Yet-sen led the party following the demise of the Q'ing Dynasty and Chiang Kai-shek maneouvred a take-over after Sun's death, they were still heading the government of China. Republic of China was merely a name to differentiate from Imperial China. SImilarly the People's Republic of China merely differentiates from the Republlic of China.

Equally, as I have repeatedly stated, world leaders including the USA agreed that Japan's stolen territories would be returned to the countries from which they had been stolen. Taiwan/Formosa was stolen from China. Mao roundly beat Chiang in the civil war. That in no way changed the fact that the country they both ran was China. And that in no way changes the fact that Taiwan was returned to a China government ruled from Beijing.

That the USA used Taiwan for its own ends during the Cold War is uncontested. That, as far as I am aware, sowed seeds for an unofficial agreement in line with Chiang's intention to return to the mainland, take on Mao's forces and this time beat them. But had that happened, would Chiang have agreed to Taiwan becoming independent? Of course not! Chiang was a gangster, a self-serving thug who used murder and the Chinese triad gangs, especially the Green Gang in Shanghai, to maintain his power. Taiwan would have remained a part of China. But it would have been a China gladly backed by the USA and Taiwan would never have been allowed to veer away from Chiang's rule.

8 hours ago, forrestreid said:

There are many places around the world where one country claims piece of land not currently occupied by it (Spain and British-controlled Gibraltar for example) But no one really expects Spain to violently invade in the reasonably near future.

That appears not to be the case any more with the PRC and Taiwan.

Back to Gibralter. Can I suggest you read the following article which appeared in the Taipei Times in April 2021. In effect it is a rebuttal of an earlier argument put forward comparing the two territories. A few points which I believe illustrate the difference between the situations as they exist in Gibralter and Taiwan.

"Creating analogies to illuminate the elusive nature of one object of study by comparing it with a more familiar one is a common form of explanation. But it also entails a conscious way of discursively constructing meaning according to the interest of the subject elaborating such analogy. First of all, analogies are not innocent tools of analysis, insofar as the mere choice of the object B with which A will be compared depends on a starting point, a common sense, as Gramsci (1971) would put it, in which the creator and the reader are unavoidably embedded. At the same time, as will be seen in this article, the analogies about Taiwan reproduced in mainstream media embarked in an anti-China narrative are not merely intended to explain to the rest of the world—and to the Taiwanese society itself—what Taiwan is or should be. Rather, these discourses seek a performative result through the establishment of a chain of equivalences around what Taiwan means, until it becomes naturalized as the truth—a mechanism perfectly explained by Laclau and Mouffe (1985)’s discourse-theoretical approach.

"This short article begins with a recent analogy comparing Taiwan to Gibraltar, made in the Taiwanese media outlet, published in English, the Taipei Times, and written by Jerome Keating (2021), a 'writer based in Taipei'—these are the credentials with which he signs—who shows in each of his articles an undisguised hatred of China. His recent article, which does not deserve additional analysis, ends with this assertion: 'For the US and its Asian allies, Taiwan remains a solid rock of democracy; it can also be their Rock of Gibraltar for peace; they only need to step up to the plate'”. 

"Gibraltar is still an obvious reminder of colonial and imperialist times. Indeed, more than a safeguard of peace, Gibraltar is a centre of conflict. As a product of colonial occupation, Gibraltar has been a reason for constant sieges and threats between countries: it is now a source of diplomatic conflict due to the desire of the Spanish nationalists to recover the rock and the nostalgia of those who want to maintain the British colonial pride."

. . . "what is here depicted as negative is not imperialism, but Chinese imperialism. The connection of this narrative with the current wave of Sinophobia is clear: anything coming from China is evil and jeopardizes 'all the rules, values and relationships that make the world work the way we want it to' [my emphasis], just as Anthony Blinken boldly stated (see Toosi, 2021) . . .

" the real reason that justifies the transformation of Taiwan into a new Gibraltar is to instrumentalise Taiwan in order to subdue China or, better still, to incite a military conflict of which the main beneficiaries would not be neither China nor Taiwan but the US and its world hegemony."

https://invisiblearmada.web.nctu.edu.tw/2021/04/10/gibraltar-as-an-anlogy-of-taiwan/

I must also take you up on your analogy between the effects of colonialism on China in the 19th century and the colonisation of Korea, Vietnam and The Philippines. The latter three were taken over completely by their colonial masters. There was no nationalist ruler in the countries other than those imposed by the colonial masters. Imperial China was never taken over by colonial powers. They merely ate away at large chunks of its coastline and eventually some of the cities like Shanghai and Qingdao. In parts of one independent power humiliatingly they imposed the rules and laws of their own ruling powers. It was like today's China taking over parts of various US states and imposing Chinese rule and laws. How would the US feel about that? 

Lastly, for those US citizens who advocate independence for Taiwan, is there not more or less a parallel closer to home. In the late 1840s the USA engaged in a war with Mexico. This was after the US had unilaterally annexed the state of Texas. The US then tried to negotiate with the Mexicans who refused to do so. War was declared by the USA and eventually won by US troops. As a result much of New Mexico, Nevada, Arizona, California, western Colorado as well as Texas was ceded to the USA for $15 million.

So Texas is part of the USA, just as Taiwan is part of China. What would Americans think if Texas decided it wanted to become independent and apart from the USA? Would the USA permit it? Of course it wouldn't!

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