Friday, August 13, 2004


Interesting piece by Arthur Waldron and John J. Tkacik, Jr. in the Asian Wall Street Journal (annoyingly unavailable on-line) on the struggle for the PRC's soul between domestic-focused technocrats Hu Jintao and Wen Jianbao and the more aggressive eminence griese Jiang Zemin. Selections:
At a meeting of the Chinese Politburo late last month, President Hu Jintao informed the comrades around the table that, "if national defense construction is not done well, a secure environment for economic construction can hardly be assured." Economic reform, it seems, is no longer the "central task" of the party.

Some of those assembled may have noted that this sentiment hardly gibed with Mr. Hu's stated belief that China's "peaceful rise" is anchored on economic progress, but there was a good reason for the turnabout. The president had been compelled to read this statement by his predecessor, Jiang Zemin, who can't abide the slogan "peaceful rise."

And prescriptions:
Mr. Jiang is deeply unpopular for his vanity and selfishness. Even PLA generals are uneasy about the "two centers" of power in the Chinese Communist Party. China has no institutional mechanism for deciding who will be in charge. The army and secret police are strong. But they are divided. The risk is that the split moves downward into society, pervading and dividing every institution.

The best way for America and its Asian allies to push back would be by quietly, but firmly, flexing their muscle around the region. This, for one, might dispel Mr. Jiang's fantasy of an easy conquest of Taiwan. Cooperation on radar and missile defense, closer cooperation with Japan, returning the Seventh Fleet to the Taiwan Strait on a more regular basis, joint air exercises with the Japanese and others and increasing naval sorties and discreet coordination with Japanese and Taiwan naval forces would do the trick -- provided they are backed up by absolutely unequivocal and authoritative statements from Washington that no wiggle room exists here. Peace in Asia and specifically with Taiwan is the indispensable precondition of the Beijing-Washington relationship.

The Chinese leadership, civilian and military alike, must be made to clearly see that provocative military moves -- like the German reoccupation of the Rhineland in 1936 -- will not go unanswered. Only then will Mr. Jiang's fallacies be exposed and a more reasonable leadership take his place, one that understands that belligerence and displays of force gain nothing, while a prosperous, unthreatening, and democratic China would be warmly welcomed into Asia, not least by Taiwan.
On the other hand, isn't there the risk that taking a firmer stance toward the PRC might empower those who see the U.S. and the PRC as implacable enemies and continued emphasis on the military as the only way for China to prevail?

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