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China: Friend Or Foe - Or Neither?

Patrick J Buchanan

October  22  2003

Now that we have crushed Iraq and are confronting the surviving Axis-of-Evil member states Iran and North Korea over nuclear weapons, China seems to have vanished from our radar.

One wonders why? China is, after all, a country as large as our own with four times our population and nuclear weapons. Its regime has a history of repression of both Han Chinese and ethnic and religious minorities. Its military is being modernized with Russian submarines, warships and missiles that can reach any U.S. base in Asia. And Beijing has deployed 450 missiles opposite a nervous Taiwan.

With the president wrapping up his Asia tour, it is time to ask again: What should U.S. policy be toward the Middle Kingdom?

Since Nixon opened China in 1972, there have been conflicting views.

The hawkish view is this: China is ruled by men full of grievances over 19th century imperial maltreatment by the West and of resentment at China's humiliation. They have put aside a discredited Marxism and exalted an ideology of nationalism and race.

Their long-term goals are to seize Taiwan, annex the Paracel and Spratly islands in the South China Sea, detach Siberia from a dying Russia, become hegemon of Asia, and expel the United States from the Western Pacific.

Thus, America should practice Cold War containment with China and adopt a policy of strategic denial, cutting China off from the hundreds of billions in cash and capital investment she earns from her privileged access to the American market.

The view behind the Bush policy of strategic engagement is this: Yes, China is ruled by ruthless men with long rap sheets. But, compared to Great Helmsman Mao's murderous regime, this crowd is benign. And its behavior is improving.

When Nixon visited China, millions had been murdered in Mao's madness. Hundreds of thousands would perish in his Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution. All that is history now.

Moreover, engagement and that $130 billion we will pump into China this year in a trade surplus is creating a middle class that will reject warmongering and demand more freedom. As China becomes ensnared in the economic webs of globalism, and profits from trade with and investment by the West, she will acquire an expanding and vested interest in peace.

Why would China attack Taiwan and risk war when that would end her access to a U.S. market where she sells and ships 10 percent of her GDP?

Finally, China fought hard to bring the 2008 Olympic games to Beijing, to show the world the New China. She is unlikely to risk a confrontation that might trigger a U.S. pullout from the games, as happened to Moscow in 1980 after the Afghan invasion.

The arguments of the China Lobby have carried the day in the Bush White House, as they did with every president since Nixon, Ronald Reagan not excepted. Indeed, Reagan reaffirmed Nixon's Shanghai Communique, in which the United States agreed that Taiwan was a part of China.

Yet engagement, which China is using to convert herself into the factory floor of the world and her military into the most formidable in Asia since Imperial Japan, is not without risk.

What if China's long-term goals are as the hawks believe them to be? What will be said of the generation that gave Beijing a trillion dollars in trade surpluses with which it bought the weapons of war to cow Asia and expel us from the Western Pacific?

What should U.S. policy toward China be? It should be to preserve our vital interests while avoiding the kind of wars that destroyed the great power rivals of the 20th century, Germany and Great Britain.

And China has the same vital interest. A clash with the United States would risk not only the markets upon which her economy depends, but do immense damage to the nation itself. If China believes time is on her side in the struggle with America for pre-eminence in Asia, why press the matter when she is weak?

Moreover, while China challenges U.S. hegemony in Asia, she is no threat to U.S. vital interests i.e., those interests for which we should be willing to go to war. Moreover, China is already largely contained by the suspicion and hostility of her neighbors Russia, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Vietnam, India and Pakistan.

North Korea is where America needs leverage now. China should be asked to provide it. If she will not, we should take another look at the regime we are helping build into a Great Power.

2003 Creators Syndicate, Inc.

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