World watchers agree: Countries seeking to undermine the will of U.S.
foreign policy often make blustery, albeit empty, statements that they
“are determined to do XYZ” if the United States does “XYZ” first. It
happened all the time during the Cold War, when the U.S. and USSR
maneuvered for influence in several parts of the world, often
But the predictable nature of those days is over, and the new U.S.
nemesis — China — is a horse of a different color, no pun intended.
Since Taiwan’s government unilaterally declared that Taipei and
Beijing should be considered by other world leaders as “two different
states,” the latter has been making loud grumbling noises and suggesting
that force may have to be used in order to “bring Taiwan to its
senses.” According to the most recent analyses of the situation that
I’ve read, I believe the confidence the U.S. is exuding in its belief
that Beijing will not directly attack Taiwan in some
manner is false bravado.
China may have no choice. After all, China’s leaders thrive on the
perception that they are ultimately in control of China’s destiny. If
that notion is ever destroyed, it’s lights out for the communist regime.
Having said that, I do agree that mounting a full-fledged, D-Day-like
invasion of Taiwan by naval elements of the People’s Liberation Army
(PLA) is, by all estimates, beyond China’s technical capabilities.
Everybody knows that — the U.S., China and Taiwan. But there clearly
are a number of other options left to the Chinese that can be used; the
question remains, will China choose to use them and if so, will the U.S.
be forced into a confrontation with China?
It is ominous that China has already begun mobilizing a huge force of
some 500,000 soldiers — mostly reservists and former soldiers — in
their Fujian province, the province closest to Taiwan. Land, air and
sea exercises have begun, and the PLA has even deployed elements of
their “Delta Force” — the Flying Tigers — to the province as well. And
China has the ability to shower Taiwan with ballistic missiles in
numbers no one is sure about.
Considering the trouble China has internally with Tibet and Muslims
in its Xinjiang province; considering China’s faltering economic
situation; considering China’s belief that the Taiwan “declaration” and
ensuing U.S. show of force in the region with a pledge to defend Taiwan;
and considering China’s perception that the U.S. is bent on pulling
another Kosovo at Beijing’s expense, the PLA indeed may have to be used
in order to prove to Chinese citizens that the old men are still in
charge and mean what they say.
Most Chinese already agree, regardless of other factors, that the
best legacy left by Mao Zedong was the fact that he drove all foreigners
out of China (except the British and they left Hong Kong per a treaty
agreement), allowing the world’s most populous nation the sovereignty it
always sought. Any move seen to disrupt this solidarity is, in essence,
an affront on all Chinese, regardless of whether or not it is true.
Under this auspice, I believe, lies the heart of a coming conflict
with China over, among other things, Taiwan.
But wait, you say — isn’t President Bill Clinton China’s “boy?”
Isn’t he beholden first to Beijing, then to Washington? Perhaps he is,
or, rather, was, when he needed their cash to stay in the White
House. But those days are over and besides, who’s to say China didn’t
use Clinton (for access to vital U.S. technology) more than Clinton used
China? Clinton’s hand may very well be forced to order the defense of
Taiwan anyway because, as one U.S. official recently put it, America is
on “autopilot” regarding its pledge to defend Taipei.
Whether China merely assaults a couple of islands controlled by
Taiwan, as it has suggested, or tries to block some Taiwanese shipping
or lobs missiles at over 200 military targets Beijing has identified on
the island over the past several weeks, I believe it is a mistake to
think the Chinese government has no vested interest in attacking
Taiwan. They have to save face with an increasingly anxious population
that cannot be allowed to see any sign of weakness in the leadership.
What Beijing’s leaders don’t know — and can’t know until
after the fact — is what our response will be. Neither country,
however, can afford a long, protracted and bloody conflict because there
are too many variables — North Korea, the Middle East, and our own
domestic computer problems — that are more pressing. Even Russia, for
what it’s worth, is a variable here since they have mutual cooperation
agreements with China.
For all our intelligence agencies know, China may be counting
on/waiting for any one of these other situations to manifest before they
make their move. But as sure as you’re reading this, I believe they
will make that move eventually. Do you agree?
I also believe it would be a mistake because in the end, U.S. forces
would clean their Chinese clocks, no question about it. But at what
cost? And are we willing to pay it? Should we even have to pay it?
Now might be a good time for a couple of things. First, if you’re so
inclined to do (and I hope you are) you might want to pray this doesn’t
escalate. Second, if you’re so inclined to do (and I hope you are) you
might want to get on the horn to your elected representatives and plead
with them to think before they act in this situation. Better now than
after the shooting starts.