Khrushchev’s Words Return to Haunt
By: Rachel Marsden
When Chinese general Zhu Chenghu threatened that China would use nukes if America interfered in the defense of Taiwan, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld—well-known for his wisecracks at press conferences—bombed worse than Sen. Robert “KKK” Byrd (D-WV) at a NAACP convention.
When a country that has barely registered a blip on the local six o’clock news comes up with a zinger like, “We’ll nuke you!”, one would expect the Secretary of Defense to have things under control—or at least to be able to fake it with a snappy comeback.
Instead, this was Rummy’s response: “With respect to the general, it will be interesting to see to what extent his remarks do or do not reflect the views of his government, and I think I'd prefer to wait and see what transpires there.”
So maybe this Chenghu guy is like the Chinese Howard Dean and nobody really takes him seriously? Or maybe he didn’t get the Chinese President’s “Ixnay on the Ukesnay” talking points memo? Or perhaps he has an agenda of his own? In any case, we know one really important thing for sure: Rummy doesn’t know a damn thing about it. How comforting.
This week, the Pentagon released a report detailing what it knows about the extent of China’s military buildup. While America’s military is much more powerful than China’s, the true extent of China’s potential—and, more importantly, its willingness to use them—are largely unknown.
Mixed messages don’t help. Russia’s Kommersant newspaper reported in March that the China-Russia war games slated for this fall are proving to be a bit of a problem because Russian Army Chief Yury Baluevsky “was unable to persuade Chinese partners to change the pattern of the exercises to avoid close resemblance to the practice of military entrance in Taiwan”. In other words, while Russia readies for a friendly “sports day” exhibition match, the concern is that the Chinese might actually be ‘roided up like Jason Giambi and looking to nail the big home run.
Similarly, while CNN and other media outlets report that China has traded military manpower for hardware like amphibious vehicles, there are still experts—like Sino-American affairs expert, Elizabeth Economy, of the Council on Foreign Relations—who say that China doesn’t currently have the capacity to invade Taiwan, suggesting that such an attack would resemble the swimming leg of the Shanghai Triathlon.
Once these discrepancies are rectified, the American government must figure out where it stands on China. Either it’s against human rights abuses, and the military and economic buildup of a communist power—or it’s in favour of cheap Happy Meal toys, trading with communists, and the selling America to Chinese state-run players, starting with the recent bid for U.S. energy giant, Unocal.
Economic power can easily translate into military clout. And China’s economy is growing at least three times faster than America’s. Not to mention that they’re exempt from any Kyoto straight-jacketing.
Still, former U.S. President Bill Clinton was keen to lend them a helping hand—whenever he could free one up from playing “hide the cigar” with Monica Lewinsky: According to the Washington-based Center for Security Policy, the Report of the Select Committee on U.S. National Security and Military/Commercial Concerns with the People's Republic of China “unanimously concluded, according to its chairman, Rep. Chris Cox (R-CA), that real “harm has been caused” by the sorts of policies governing Chinese access to U.S. technology embraced by Mr. Clinton.”
What Clinton started when he traded Los Alamos blueprints for campaign contributions like he was swapping salad for fries at the local Bob’s Big Boy, will stop when the Bush administration determines what its policy towards Beijing actually is.
How about starting with the idea that it likely wouldn’t take much to mobilize these millions of people who slave like automatons in China’s heavily industrialized economy—these people who do the type of mind-numbing jobs filled, in America, by winners of the Tijuana-to-San Diego dash—to get all pumped up in the name of Mother China.
As Economy explains: “One of the things about China is that there’s a lot of inherent uncertainty in its trajectory at this point. We’ve seen what’s happened when nationalism lets loose in China.”
We have indeed. Take the accidental bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade by NATO in 1999: Three Chinese journalists were killed, and from the way China’s official news agency reacted, you would think they had vaporized Buddha
Or consider the events that transpired when a Chinese fighter jet got into a mid-air crunch-up with American spy plane, killing the Chinese pilot. A glorified AAA incident turned into an international standoff.
Economy says that at this point, “there’s nothing to be gained from China posing a threat to the United States, in the eyes of the Chinese.”
Perhaps—but as former Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev once said: “Communism will dance on the grave of the capitalist and we will sell you the rope you use to hang yourself.”