Tuesday, December 12, 2017

TENSHUNZ: ZOMG its WAR if US navy calls at Taiwan port

Not China.

Chinese diplomatic bluster once again gave us a ZOMG TENSHUNZ moment. Reuters reported, headlining China, Taiwan spar over Chinese diplomat's invasion threat:
A threat by a senior Chinese diplomat to invade Taiwan the instant any U.S. warship visits the self-ruled island has sparked a war of words, with Taipei accusing Beijing of failing to understand what democracy means.
Since the Taiwan government doesn't sell papers by hyping tension, Focus Taiwan more rationally headlined Taiwan responds to Chinese diplomat's threat with call for peace
Taiwan's government wants peaceful development of relations across the Taiwan Strait, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) said Saturday in the wake of a comment by a Chinese diplomat that threatened military action by China if U.S. Navy ships are allowed to call at Taiwan ports.


The issue arose after the U.S. Congress on Nov. 30 passed the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act, which includes clauses that would allow the U.S. to look at the possibility of reestablishing "regular ports of call by the U.S. Navy at Kaohsiung or any other suitable ports in Taiwan" and permits the U.S. Pacific Command to receive ports of call by Taiwan vessels.
I'll return to the media in a moment....

On Twitter Julian Ku pointed out that the comments were not disavowed by the foreign ministry while Dan Blumenthal, always perspicacious on things Taiwan, observed:
Daniel Blumenthal‏ @DAlexBlumenthal
The facts are plain: the Chinese Ambo wrote a threatening letter to Congress and a Chinese “diplomat” threatened in public; Congress dropped language about port visits to Taiwan in the NDAA. A political influence campaign that worked.
(love the quotes around the word diplomat, DAB). Julian Ku wrote in Foreign Policy that the US backed down against China again. Sad. Blumenthal also observed:
It’s important 2 understand how many times China threatened war (GO talks, enhanced cooperation, enhanced arms sales) between 1999-2009 DOD went ahead anyway and all was fine.
Mark Stokes, one of the quietest but sharpest observers of Taiwan, noted:
Modest USN port calls would be consistent with US One China policy and unofficial nature of relations with TW. Besides, care to guess how many USN vessels (including contracted) or USAF aircraft have visited TW over past decades? This CCP provocation warrants firm response.
Rupert Hammond-Chambers of the US-Taiwan Business Council remarked:
R J Hammond-Chambers‏ @RJHCUSTBC
It’s non-credible that the PRC would start a war over a port visit by a USN visit. They’re counting on self-censorship as a means to curb US support for Taiwan
Not to be left out, the always-bellicose Global Times gave a good imperialist harrumph:
Li's words have sent a warning to Taiwan and drew a clear red line. If Taiwan attempts to hold an independence referendum or other activities in pursuit of de jure "Taiwan independence," the PLA will undoubtedly take action.
The PRC has been using similar language for years. Yawn.

This diplomatic bluster is one of the many Chinese influence operations in the US. The current debate over China's influence in Aussie politics is just a proxy for the debate over its influence in the US. Good to see it though, since it helps make such a debate possible in the US.

No question that the Chinese "diplomat" is trying to deploy the idea of tension to manage the US policy response and the media reporting. That is the whole point of "tensions". The media always refuses to point that out, though it is well known in media circles and among those of us who follow Taiwan. Instead, the media reports on the "tensions". They are news, ya know.

Yet, it also important to remember that Chinese bluster is aimed at domestic audiences as well. They might even want a port visit by US ships, because then they can present that to their own people as evidence of US bellicosity. "Look at what the US is doing!" The Chinese people are no doubt reluctant to go to war, like most ordinary people, and so must be slowly convinced of its necessity.

That said, this does need a response. The US might consider sending an innocuous vessel, such as a US navy research ship, supply ship, or minesweeper, to Kaohsiung port. Another option would be to send the USS Blue Ridge, which visited Shanghai in 2016, to Taiwan (as a friend snarkily Tweeted, did the US navy vessel's appearance there mean Shanghai was seceding?). It could imply, or overtly state, that is a clear signal of even-handedness.

J Michael's analysis is here.

MEDIA: Reuters loves to sell tension (remember when it manufactured clickbait tension out of the phone call?) and so it sexed up the event by using terms like spar and war of words. Here's the conversation:
BEIJING: We are gonna kill you and your US buddies.
TAIPEI: We want peace. You hurt us.
REUTERS: Stop sparring, you two!
It's not "sparring" when one side refuses to fight, but instead makes gestures of hurt and peacefulness.

Still obsessively pursuing its quest to supplant Xinhua as the number one source for the Chinese government's point of view, Reuters wrote:
At a Chinese embassy event in Washington on Friday, diplomat Li Kexin said he had told U.S. officials that China would activate its Anti-Secession Law, which allows it to use force on Taiwan if deemed necessary to prevent the island from seceding, if the United States sent navy ships to Taiwan.
As I wrote about BBC writing the same 'gwash in 2008:
Earth to BBC: the laws do not "legalize" the use of force against Taiwan. They are pure propaganda, and should be treated that way. Wouldn't it be more neutral to say that the law is a simple declaration that "calls for the use of force if Taiwan formally declares independence" or something similar? "Legalization" simply plays to Beijing's desire to leverage Western cultural expectations about the normative force of law in its drive to crush Taiwan's democratic existence and gives its expansionist desires legitimacy. The BBC would never say "China's national security laws legalize executions of democracy activists" if it were discussing China's security state and that nation's treatment of its political prisoners. So why does it do that here, when the Anti-Secession Law simply does wholesale what China's security laws do retail? Simply put, murder is always wrong, whether it is done by bullets in a prison or by missiles and bombs in city streets. Stop abetting Beijing, guys.
Would Reuters say that China's security laws "allow" it to imprison, torture, and murder dissidents? No, such language would be unacceptable. The AS law does not "allow" anything -- laws are not needed, as China can murder and maim Taiwanese to annex their island any time it wants, for any reason it likes. Language that normalizes evil as lawful should not be permissible. Observe that when Lee Ming-che was "tried" in China, Reuters did not say anything about what the laws "allow" and even had statements showing how the laws and trials were bullshit.

The Reuters report would be far less harmful if it weren't a news service that other news services relied on.

It would also be nice if the term "seceding" were put in quotes since Taiwan is not currently part of China.

Wouldn't it be awesome if the media supported democracy, democratic values, and the nations which espouse them?
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Anonymous said...

Problem for China is that when its bluff is called........what's it gonna do?

Anonymous #2 said...

To Ananymmous #1,

China doesn’t need to do anything. its collaborator inside the US, in the government, media, and all that, will take it over from there.

Anonymous said...

I think this article provides a good argument against the "Chinese" Model:


Democracy is better because it is easier to change direction when the situation changes.