Feeling particularly good about our recent stunning military victory in
the armpit of Europe, I do not consider it wise that the United States
should now sit upon its laurels. Now that we’ve got the jingo-mobile
running at full throttle, I say we should slap on the war paint, gird up
our Air Force loins and drop a few thousand bombs on China. After all,
when you’re on a roll … .
The developing situation in China, regarding Taiwan, bears striking
resemblance to the recent hullabaloo in the Balkans. The case of
characters is the same, monotonously so: You’ve got the big, mean
dictatorial country, the little put-upon province, and a United States
that likes to stick its nose into everything — almost a cookie-cutter
Clinton war just rearing to go.
As the history books tell it, the island of Taiwan has been a separate
country from Red China from the day Mao graduated from dirty peasant boy
to dirty despot in 1949 — upon which he chased the Chinese nationalists
off the mainland and across the water to Taiwan. Mainland China likes to
think of Taiwan as something other than a next-door national neighbor,
despite the fact that the two countries have separate governments and
different political systems. It considers Taiwan a “renegade” state —
something like a runaway teenager on a slightly larger scale.
Seeing his nation in a far different light, however, Taiwan President
Lee Teng-hui last week decided to remind the Reds that they were in fact
twain rather than one. Lee accomplished this mnemonic task by publicly
disavowing the “One China” agreement between the two countries during an
interview with a German radio station. Said Lee, “We have redefined
cross-strait ties as nation to nation, or at least as special nation to
nation” — in other words: “China, we ain’t playing your game any more.”
This didn’t make the fossilizing officials in Peking very happy.
The One China policy is basically a protection racket. China is large
and nasty and drools at the opportunity of recapturing Taiwan and
reinstating it as a member of the Dung Dynasty, something about which
the Taiwanese aren’t so keen. So, to throw them a bone, the islanders
reached an understanding with the mainlanders — that unification is the
ideal, though unrealizable at the present. It was Taiwan’s way of
protecting its rear end. The Chinese want Taiwan? OK, say the Taiwanese,
we’ll give it to them — in spirit. For the last 50 years, that has been
the only way of keeping the Reds on their side of the water.
But nowadays China may be thinking extra hard about trying on the
snorkels and swim trunks. After hearing President Lee’s pronouncement,
the waxy-pallored oligarchs in Peking got in a snit and began to levy
military threats against the little island (so much for honor among
Chinese). The thing to note about China’s fighting words is that they
threaten to obliterate the most notable exception between Kosovo and
Taiwan — that the Reds aren’t committing any sort of “cleansing” yet.
Of course, this isn’t really any trouble at all. If we wanted, we could
just doctor a few pictures of mass graves and — viola! — instant
holocaust. Given the way the American clamjamfry gobbled up the
exaggerated Kosovo reports like pigs on corn, I shouldn’t be surprised
if some tabloid-quality touchups on a few postcards are all that’s
necessary to whip up anti-China sentiment to a war-hawk fever pitch of
Not that it’ll be necessary. Taiwan may be able to buy coffins in bulk
without any press manipulation. If China gets any more flustered about
Lee’s statement, it just might send a passel of troops across the strait
to bust a few pagodas — and soon.
As reported in last Thursday’s South China Morning Post, “The PLA is
ready to crush attempts to split the country.” Clearly fixated on the
notion of Taiwan as the rebellious stepchild rather than a separate
nation, China’s defense minister, Gen. Chi Haotian, said that “The PLA
is ready at any time to safeguard the territorial integrity of China and
smash any attempts to separate the country.”
In other words, give the stepchild a good thrashing; don’t let it move
Sure enough, the front page of Hong Kong’s Peking-crony Wen Wei Po
newspaper sported a threatening picture of a massive amphibious beach
landing. And while the caption did not read, “Coming to a Taiwanese
coastline near you,” the banner headline said just about as much:
“Beijing: Will not renounce force to counter Taiwan independence.”
As the Morning Post recounted, “Mr. Lee told members of the
Committee” of his party “to ‘remain confident’ in the face of Beijing’s
wrath.” This may prove difficult.
Let us remember that China’s military isn’t using Daisy air-powered BB
guns and farm rakes any more. After sneaking out of U.S. laboratories
with our nuclear secrets tucked under their slender white lab coats,
Peking has a pretty impressive wild card: nukes. Boasting about its
newfound nuclear know-how, the nation has truly positioned itself as the
new Red Menace (after all, neutron bombs, it seems to me, rank pretty
high on the “menacing scale”).
Given our Kosovo criteria, what all this adds up to should be very
apparent: we need to pin on our International Policeman’s badge, cross
the windswept Pacific and put those Chinese in their place. Right?
It doesn’t take a Harvard graduate with a memory like an elephant to
recall that we heaved munitions on the Serbs to “degrade” their ability
to harass the Kosovars. Compared to the Chinese, the Serbs are like
Campfire Girls. The Reds are well-armed tough guys threatening a little
Podunk island — and threatening it with nukes, no less. That’s beyond
ethnic cleansing — that’s everything cleansing. So where’s the U.S.
Anti-Bully Patrol in all this? Where are the hawks clamoring to
Whatever happened to our massive panel of pugnacious pundits and “make
war not love” cheerleaders who were so anxious to pop off Slobo only
months ago? Why aren’t they getting a rash over Taiwan? Given the
obvious incongruity here, it’s not the Chinese that are inscrutable;
it’s America’s warmongers.
The truth is, I’m not so eager to launch Cruise missiles at Chinese
hospitals, cigarette factories, cardboard tanks and passenger trains the
way we did in Kosovo. I’m just wondering why no one else is either.
Perhaps, in this world of bizarre inconsistency, what’s good for
Kosovo’s goose just isn’t so hot for Taiwan’s gander.
Joel Miller is the Assistant Editor of