Heritage Foundation on the Jiang-Hu-Wen Show

Everyone following the melodrama will want to check out this perspective by the conservative thinktank’s China hand John J Tkacik Jr. Not surprisingly, he sees China’s “peaceful rise” threatened by Jiang’s strong stance on Taiwan — and he is confident Jiang has the upper hand here.

For Jiang, Taiwan a big exception to ‘peaceful rise’

The Central Party School commentary concludes that it is fortunate “Americans regard getting involved in wars … especially getting involved in foreign wars that are unjust, all as something that [should] be done very carefully”, because this is a “basic restraint on the American government’s decisions to go to war”. For the Jiang faction, Taiwan is a very big exception to “peaceful rise”. Americans see democratic Taiwan as a part of communist China in the same way that Chechnya is part of the Russian Federation, and hence understand China’s legitimate (indeed “sacred”) right to invade it, the commentary argued. The American people will oppose their government’s efforts to engage in such an “unjust” war against China, it said. This truly is a dangerous assumption.

Japan, it seems, is another big exception to the “peaceful rise” concept. At the end of June, Georgetown University Professor Robert Sutter wrote that “Chinese officials and specialists also admit that Japan poses a special problem for China’s peaceful and moderate approach to Asia”. [17] And given China’s renewed historical claims on the ancient Korean kingdom of Koguryo, it doesn’t seem that “peaceful rise” is necessarily a key component of Beijing’s relations with Seoul. [18]

Despite the harsh and persistent propaganda attacks on the United States and its support for Taiwan, some Western reporters persist in the fiction that Jiang emphasizes “the relatively cordial relationship he built with the United States in the late 1990s”, as opposed to President Hu’s supposed Europhilia. [19] Quite the opposite is true. As the Central Party School article shows, in inner councils Jiang’s attacks on the US are a staple of his new “army first” policy that sets military modernization as the key to a paramount task of “unifying the motherland”.

If anything, Jiang argues that his hardline stance on Taiwan has intimidated Washington, and hence that his US policy has been successful. At the highest levels of China’s leadership, Jiang has won the debate over China’s “peaceful rise”, and it is an ominous sign for the United States and its democratic friends and allies in East Asia.

As always with the Heritage Foundation, you have to remember its loyalties and its origins. But it’s an interesting take.

The Discussion: 12 Comments

From the same article:

“But Hu and Wen almost gained the upper hand during last year’s severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) epidemic when Jiang’s cronies were seen throughout the country as having covered up the extent of the contagion and the military hospitals in Beijing kept secret the hundreds of cases they had treated in the months before the SARS outbreaks came to light. [2] Demonstrating minimal courage, Jiang and his top lieutenants actually evacuated Beijing in April 2003 and ordered Hu and Wen to stay behind to handle the crisis. [3]”

Seen in another light, this could be an attempt for Jiang to get out of the spotlight and make way for the new government.

In fact, that is more likely the case. What do you need the courage for? It’s extremely unlikely that any of the people at the top would actually get infected.

Heh. Had Jiang stayed, he would probably have been accused of using SARS as a weapon in his power struggle.

As for the rest:

1. The Chinese government understands very clearly American willingness to involve themselves in any war with Taiwan, regardless of circumstances. It’s just too important for America to lose. That is why the military upgrade that the PLA is undertaking is focussed entirely on the scenario of American involvement.

On this topic, a link:


It’s really, really long. Just read the abstract. It covers a range of views.

2. “Chinese officials and specialists also admit that Japan poses a special problem for China’s peaceful and moderate approach to Asia”

Taken entirely out of context. The document he is quoting from is here:


The problem, as R. Sutter states, is that domestic politics means that Japan and China just can’t get along. Japan views Chinese ‘peaceful-rise’ concept with suspicion. Not, as the article implies, that China is getting ready to attack Japan.

3. On Koguryo:


In short, there’s no way for China to get good press, so long as America controls most of the world media.

September 7, 2004 @ 9:49 pm | Comment

America controls the world media? Are you CRAZY? Everywhere I look I see horrible articles about bush and America, all over the world media!!! Wake up.

September 7, 2004 @ 9:58 pm | Comment

Call me cynical, but the whole analysis seems a bit too black & white for me: Jiang is responsible for all the bad stuff (military threats, overt nationalism, mis-handling of SARS, repression of the press etc.), while Hu is responsible for all the good stuff (emphasis on peace, eventual better handling of SARS, opening up press freedom).

Maybe that is the case, but it does seem like everyone is giving Hu & Wen a very easy ride, on fairly flimsy (so far) evidence. How do you know that Hu & Jiang aren’t just doing a classic “good cop/bad cop” routine? Making everyone think China wants to reform (so is worthy of investment etc.), while still keeping everyone a bit afraid of getting on the wrong side of China (e.g. Taiwan). Anyway, whoever is handling the western PR for Hu is doing a damn fine job!

September 7, 2004 @ 10:42 pm | Comment

Only time will tell, David. I don’t think Hu and Wen are saints by any stretch of the imagination. But I do think they’re better than Jiang, and for that I hope they succeed. There have been a few genuinely tantalizng hints at improvement, but then then somehow we’re always pushed back to square one. But I can’t really imagine the whole thing is a hoax — why would they bother?

September 7, 2004 @ 10:50 pm | Comment

I agree, where is Conrad when you really need him to denounce the Western media as “useful idiots”? Ah well, time will tell if Hu is as politically moderate as people assume him to be.

September 8, 2004 @ 12:51 am | Comment

Richard, I’m not saying it’s a grand hoax – it’s just that it might be convenient for Hu to have evil uncle Jiang as the strongman/fallguy in the background. Hu keeps a reputation as a visionary reformer even if he does very little (“Of course, I’d love to reform more, but the Jiang faction are stopping me …”).

Conventional wisdom seems to heading towards: anything good is Hu’s success, anything bad is Jiang’s fault. I’m not convinced it’s that simple.

September 8, 2004 @ 1:15 am | Comment

America, of course, includes also the Democrats. The criticism of Bush, in fact, serves my point: America controls so much of the world’s media that it can use it as a glorified campaign tool.

Just look at the sheer volume. How much of the world’s published English media comes out of America? How much of the rest is controlled by American companies?

Of course, the powers that be in America are not in the white house, anyway.

It may not be all Republican voices. But it certainly are all American voices.

For the rest, realize that nobody has any first-hand evidence whatsoever of the top-level workings of the Chinese government. So it’s how you choose to spin it.

September 8, 2004 @ 1:41 am | Comment

i strongly disagree with number guy. maybe you should read some al-jazeera reports on China, and then tell me if al-jazeera is controlled by the United States. Because I kind of doubt it….
negative reporting on china is a result of the united states? the usual blame game. the chinese govt has no one but themselves to blame for negative press.

September 8, 2004 @ 8:09 pm | Comment

Perhaps this is why al-jazeera is closed now, yes?

I never said ALL. You don’t need all the media in the world to toe your line. You just need most of them.

Hell, even if only a quarter of the world’s media answers to your beck and call, you would be a very, very powerful man indeed. America has far more.

September 9, 2004 @ 3:35 am | Comment

al-jazeera is not closed, only in iraq. i just think that we could all agree that al-jazeera is not owned by america, and then maybe you could tell me how they report on china. you think american media is the only type of media willing to point out problems in china? no, of course not. but of course you are unwilling to face the truth, and just want to push negative reporting about china off on the shoulders of the america media, which is pretty much similar to everything else you say: non-sensical high-school level drivel. a lot of negative reporting about china just comes from stupid and wrong things happening in china, face it!

September 9, 2004 @ 7:14 pm | Comment

Number Boy, you sometimes make some interesting points, but you really gotta think before you comment. When you make a patently ignorant statement (like al jazeera being closed) you lose your credibility, just like you did in the other thread, implying that Mao defeated the Japanese in WWII.

September 9, 2004 @ 7:55 pm | Comment

Al-jazeera is closed in Iraq. I know this. Perhaps I should have said so more explicitly.

Now ask: why is it closed? Is it for its criticisms of China? Or is it for the coverage of some things not protected under freedom of expression?

Al-jazeera DOES report in ways not favorable to china, obviously. The world is a large place. It has all kinds of voices. Some are going to be critical of China regardless, if only by law of statistics.

They would not be almost uniformly critical, however, if it weren’t for the American influence.

My point is this: America controls a large portion of world media, and is using it to its strategic advantage.

Now that you know what my point is, perhaps you can refrain from putting words in my mouth.

Same with the WWII thing: the average person can distinguish between what I ‘implied’, and what they made up in their head, yes?

Last: my name. 403200. It takes two seconds with the keypad. A matter of common courtesy, known to all with even basic manners.

September 10, 2004 @ 8:55 am | Comment

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