It was announced yesterday that our servicemen, held in China since
April 1, are coming home. The instrument of their liberation, it seems, was
“quiet diplomacy.” We may never know what threats or secret concessions were
made behind closed doors, but we do know that China demanded a public apology
and the U.S. did not give one.

Furthermore, we have learned something about the character of today’s
Chinese leadership. Of particular interest is the ancient Chinese tradition
of testing opponents, which goes back to ancient times. Readers may not
realize the depth and profundity of China’s strategic thought, which includes
the writings of Sun Tzu, Zhuge Liang, and Liu Ji (among others). One must
also not forget the writings of Mao Zedong, who said, “political power flows
out of the barrel of a gun.”

Chinese history is rich in strategic lessons. Related to the question
of hostage-taking a particular episode comes to mind. In ancient China there
was a warlord who took his rival’s favorite uncle hostage. Seeking to force
his rival into subservience, the warlord sent a note threatening to boil the
old man alive.

“Save a cup of broth for me,” came the rival’s reply.

The warlord immediately released his rival’s uncle. By the mere use
of words the rival 1) frightened the warlord with the brutality of his
reply; 2) demonstrated his own toughness; and 3) revealed an attitude
suggestive of strength, resolve and will power.

A test of strength, according to Chinese military thought, is a
psychological affair. According to “The Way of the General,” written by
Zhuge Liang, “Nothing is harder to see into than people’s natures.” But
nothing is more important for strategic success. To understand someone’s
character, wrote Zhuge, “First you question them concerning right and wrong,
to observe their ideas.”

Verbal questions are not the only way to discern someone’s moral
ideas. An international incident — like a collision between two planes —
also involves questions of right and wrong. The Chinese leaders demanded
that America accept blame while preventing America from learning the relevant
details. This shows that the Chinese leaders care nothing for truth or
justice. Also, the Chinese leaders accepted no blame themselves, despite the
fact that their fighters were illegally harassing our reconnaissance
flights. This means that the Chinese leaders hold America in contempt. They
do not consider the rights of American planes and ships, because the
Americans are timid and afraid to take a strong stand. The Chinese leaders
therefore reveal themselves as bullies. And finally, the Chinese took our
intelligence aircraft without any fear of reprisal.

To our credit, we did not apologize. That is important. But even so,
China’s leaders revealed that they care nothing for justice or truth. They
freely insulted us with nonsensical claims and were unafraid of our reaction.
In this context, the American people should ask whether we have any business
dealing with such people. Almost 22 years ago President Jimmy Carter
officially recognized the People’s Republic of China. In doing this he
abrogated the U.S. Mutual Defense Treaty with Taiwan. Some leading
Republicans disagreed with President Carter’s decision at the time.

Sen. Jake Garn, R-Utah, objected that “a staunch and faithful ally
[Taiwan], has been treated in a shabby manner. …” Garn further noted that
recognition of communist China was unnecessary because America’s interests
“were not threatened by a preservation of the status quo.” Furthermore, Garn
said, “we accepted all three of the Chinese pre-conditions [for diplomatic
relations] and received nothing in return. …”

Senator Barry Goldwater, R-Ariz., also objected to Carter’s
recognition of China, referring to Carter’s Dec. 15, 1978, speech as “ten
minutes that lived in infamy.” According to Goldwater, China had “one of the
worst records on human rights in the history of the world.” At the same
time, said Goldwater, the U.S. president “downgraded, humiliated, and
victimized the Republic of China on Taiwan, one of this nation’s most
faithful and valuable allies.”

Sen. Richard Stone, R-Fla., noted, “Conspicuously missing from
the joint communiqu? issued by the U.S. and Peking governments is a pledge by
the PRC not to use force against Taiwan. Statements by PRC officials
reported since then have specifically reserved the military option.”

Not only did we betray our ally for the prospect of an economic
opening to China, but we put our strategic position at risk. And today, 22
years later, we discover that the strengthened Beijing communists hold us in
contempt. And why shouldn’t these bandits and murderers hold America in
contempt? Instead of avoiding relations with mass murderers we kissed up to
them for profit and convenience. We abandoned our faithful ally on the
island of Taiwan.

Today we must face the truth. President Nixon did not achieve a good
result by going to China. President Carter did not prevent a future
Moscow-Beijing alliance by recognizing China as a state. President Reagan
incorrectly rated China as a strategic partner. President Bush did not win
China’s good will by ignoring the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989. It
turns out that Nixon, Carter, Reagan and Bush merely paved the way for
President Clinton, who took cash under the table from Chinese agents. And
today we watch as a new president grapples with China.

In December 1999, Gen. Chi Haotian, then vice chairman of China’s
powerful Central Military Commission, said, “Seen from the changes in the
world situation and the United States’ hegemonic strategy for creating
monopolarity, war is inevitable. We cannot avoid it. The issue is that the
Chinese armed forces must control the initiative in this war.”

Today Gen. Chi is China’s defense minister. It is only obvious that
he wishes to strike at the United States.

The Medieval Chinese strategist Liu Ji, author of the classic “Lessons
of War,” wrote of the “lord of Jin who wanted to attack the state of Qi.” Jin
sent an emissary to Qi to observe the character of the target government.
While dining with the lord of Qi, the emissary drank from his host’s cup. He
attempted to mock his host’s national music. But he was stopped by an
official who intervened and prevented the insults. According to the account
of Liu, the emissary returned to the lord of Jin and said: “Qi cannot be
attacked at this time. I tried to insult their lord and a court noble knew
it; I tried to violate their etiquette and the highest official prevented

The great Chinese sage, Confucius, commented on this famous incident,
saying that a judicious official “could stop a thrust from a thousand miles
away without leaving the table.”

By refusing to apologize for the air incident, President Bush may have
stopped a thrust without leaving the table. For many years we have shown
weakness and earned contempt. Chairman Mao said that the West had “changed
into paper tigers, dead tigers, bean-curd tigers.” By refusing to apologize
we showed a small but critical degree of firmness and strength.

Note: Read our discussion guidelines before commenting.