On May 24 in a vast meeting room inside the grounds of the state guesthouse at Diaoyutai in Beijing, Rear Adm. Guan Youfei of the People's Liberation Army rose to speak.As one of the sources later in the article commented, the Army follows the Party. Guan is not isolated in his thinking, but rather, mainstream. A neat equation is manifest here: victimization + expansion + nationalism + paranoia = war. That's where we're headed. It should be obvious that the path the US is heading down is delusional, though I suspect also that much of the "delusion" is due to the fact that so many policy-shapers are doing business with China. What we should be doing is pulling out of Iraq and Afghanistan, and refocusing on building our Asian trade, military, and diplomatic relationships, and pumping money into rebuilding the US infrastructure and industrial base. But Bush and Obama have us doing what's really important: spending hundreds of billions to make Central Asia safe for Chinese expansionism.
Known among U.S. officials as a senior "barbarian handler," which means that his job is to deal with foreigners, not lead troops, Guan faced about 65 American officials, part of the biggest delegation the U.S. government has ever sent to China.
Everything, Guan said, that is going right in U.S. relations with China is because of China. Everything, he continued, that is going wrong is the fault of the United States. Guan accused the United States of being a "hegemon" and of plotting to encircle China with strategic alliances. The official saved the bulk of his bile for U.S. arms sales to China's nemesis, Taiwan -- Guan said these prove that the United States views China as an enemy.
U.S. officials have since depicted Guan's three-minute jeremiad as an anomaly. A senior U.S. official traveling on Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton's plane back to the United States dismissed it, saying it was "out of step" with the rest of the two-day Strategic and Economic Dialogue. And last week in Singapore, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates sought to portray not just Guan, but the whole of the People's Liberation Army, as an outlier intent on blocking better ties with Washington while the rest of China's government moves ahead.
But interviews in China with a wide range of experts, Chinese officials and military officers indicate that Guan's rant -- for all its discomfiting bluster -- actually represents the mainstream views of the Chinese Communist Party, and that perhaps the real outliers might be those in China's government who want to side with the United States.
Hilariously, it is now 2010, we're on our second Administration attempting to work with Beijing on North Korea, Iran, and other issues, and yet observers are still writing phrases like U.S. officials have also expressed the hope that China would work harder to press Iran. You could change the date to 2005 and still be writing exactly the same line. For example, here's a WaPo piece from 2004....
"We are engaged in a continuous dialogue with China about what I think is a commitment at the top levels of the Chinese government to prevent the spread of weapons of mass destruction," Bolton said at a news conference here after the first of two days of talks with Chinese officials.2004! And the continuing dialogue....continues. Result? China is still happily shipping nuke parts to Iran, a cheap and profitable way to rivet US attention on a region of the world that is less important than Asia. And the US is still pushing China to come on board. When will US officialdom wake up?
Trivia question: which nation is the largest source of foreign investment in Iran? (answer and here too.)
Bonus Question: what year was this written:
US State Department Spokesman Nicholas Burns ("STATE DEPARTMENT NOON BRIEFING) responded to a question.... "I don't have a particular comment to make on that," Burns said, although he added that "we've had a variety of discussions with the Chinese on that particular issue." Burns said that Assistant Secretary Lynn Davis, on her recent trip to the PRC, had "good discussions" that "focused on proliferation concerns." "We believe that China has made important commitments to the United States concerning missile non-proliferation. In the coming year, we would like to build on the commitments that China has made, and that is why we'll continue to raise the specific concerns we have and look for ways to resolve these issues through negotiations and discussions," Burns said. "Secretary Christopher, I'm sure, will be raising some of these issues when he sees Vice Premier Qian Qichen during his trip to Beijing."The answer is 1996. Plus ca change....
Longtime Taiwan stalwart, John Tkacik, writing in the Washington Times, has additional information on the Pomfret piece:
The problem, according to officials close to the program, is that the United States sees the exchanges as a way to develop friendly relations, while China's military has used the exchanges for intelligence-gathering and technology identification for its major military buildup.It's just a classic case of the Chinese willingness to use the American desire for a "relationship" as leverage to make concrete gains. While they derive concrete benefits, we have a "relationship." Lucky us.
"The Pentagon is totally naive about this relationship," said a defense official involved in the program.
An annual Pentagon report to Congress on military exchanges with China's People's Liberation Army reveals that the Chinese military has been granted access to U.S. military expertise despite a legal prohibition on exchanges that could bolster Beijing's power projection capabilities.
The exchanges also provided Chinese military visitors with a look at key strategic communications, logistics and supply capabilities, management methods and tactical combat operations, as well as nuclear policy and strategy, according to a review of the programs.
It should also be noted that the recent weapons sales were proposed a decade ago. The media never mentions that China is peeved about weapons that have taken nearly ten years ago arrive, delayed for years by the KMT in the Taiwan legislature, by the Bush Administration, and by the bureaucracy in both countries. Omissions like this make the Chinese reaction seem more "reasonable" than it actually is. Reality? The Chinese complaints about weapons sales to Taiwan are pure theatre designed to separate the US from Taiwan -- an excellent example, as Pomfret clearly describes, of China's long-term plan is to sever that relationship.
The reaction to the decade-old weapons sales also shows how China consistently moves to transfer the tensions it creates with Taiwan to the US-Taiwan relationship. Chinese "anger" is a policy it uses to manage its relationship with the US. People who write that "tensions have eased" between China and Taiwan are simply missing how they've been transferred to the China-US and the US-Taiwan relationships. Tension with China is never eased; because China uses tension to manage its relations with other nations.
One other point to make. Pomfret writes:
More broadly, many Chinese security experts and officials view the Obama administration's policy of encouraging Chinese participation in solving the world's problems -- including climate change, the global financial crisis and the security challenges in Iran and North Korea -- not as attempts to elevate China into the ranks of global leadership but rather as a scheme to enmesh it in a paralyzing web of commitments.It can't be said enough: as this paragraph makes clear, China doesn't want in. It doesn't want to play in the world system that Washington organizes, and it is simply going to ignore it except where it can derive benefits. US policymakers who continue to push this mad dream that China can be brought into a global system run by the US are delusional. Period.
UPDATE: Gordon Chang makes the same point in a good piece in the Jamestown Brief.
Yet Beijing has moved in the opposite direction in the last two years. American “engagement” policy, however, has remained unchanged. Washington officials talk to their Chinese counterparts almost every day, conducting dozens of bilateral forums each and every year. The two nations, however, are moving further apart on the issues that count. And as disputes between them arise and worsen, Washington will have to consider the possibility that no amount of dialogue, however structured, will convince Chinese leaders to calculate their interests in the way we think they should.MEDIA: A point to make with the Pomfret article. The narrative framework uses the usual unthinking formulaic phrases to add drama. These are invariably Beijing-centric: China's nemesis, Taiwan: Taiwan is not China's nemesis. Nothing Taiwan does threatens China. The threats all run from Beijing toward Taipei. Time to stop writing like this, folks.
[Taiwan] Don't miss the comments below! And check out my blog and its sidebars for events, links to previous posts and picture posts, and scores of links to other Taiwan blogs and forums!