Joseph Kahn on the Jiang – Hu power struggle

Not much we don’t know already, but a decent overview of the escalating tug of war.

The Discussion: 10 Comments

Asia by Blog

I’m going to make an offer. If you send a trackback ping to this Asia by Blog series, I will look to include a relevant post of yours in the following edition. I’m also going to cut back on the number of links in each edition to prevent this from getti…

September 2, 2004 @ 1:23 am | Comment

Asia by Blog

I’m going to make an offer. If you send a trackback ping to this Asia by Blog series, I will look to include a relevant post of yours in the following edition. I’m also going to cut back on the number of links in each edition to prevent this from getti…

September 2, 2004 @ 1:27 am | Comment

I most certainly love Hu’s intentions to focus more on corruption, health care, income inequality and pollution, and to cool the overheated economy.

But I like Jiang’s support of China’s private sector and of delegating power to the provinces to control their economies. This needn’t be necessarily all that wasteful.

I don’t see any inconsistencies between Hu’s wish to forge closer ties with European nations, and Jiang’s preference for consolidating on the cordial relationship with the United States. China is ‘big’ enough to accommodate both sides of the Atlantic.

September 4, 2004 @ 8:47 pm | Comment

I’m rooting for Hu on this. Jiang’s had his go at the top of the foodchain. He is going to have to hand over power sooner or later. By clinging to power, he’s just getting in the way of the new government.

September 5, 2004 @ 7:57 am | Comment

I was talking about policies rather than who I prefer to be the top dog. Indisputably Hu is now, though one needs to concede the powerful PLA is behind Jiang.

The more important point is about consensus, and an amalgam of ideas and preferred policies to bring out the best for China strategic growth.

September 5, 2004 @ 5:28 pm | Comment

Best strategic growth? That would be Hu, too. Hu is the better diplomat. And in a world where America holds all the millitary and economic power, an alliance with weaker states is the best way to protect Chinese interests. Hu is doing this quite well.

The largest problem facing China, the only thing that is a ‘real’ threat to CCP power, is Taiwan. Losing the war there is unthinkable. To succeed, China needs to ‘suss it out’ with all the stakeholders, minus America (who’s in it regardless, barring something drastic). This includes Russia, Japan, the Koreas, Australia, ASEAN, even India. Almost all the great powers, past, present, and future. Hell, even EU might get dragged in.

It is not something to be solved by military means.

While a war there is probably inevitable, it is within Chinese interests to delay it as much as possible. Every passing day makes China stronger, militarily, diplomatically, economically, in relation to America. Jiang is too blunt, too agressive, when it comes to Taiwan. His saber-rattling and agressive military spending would only start the war while China’s not ready.

September 6, 2004 @ 3:57 pm | Comment


I think what you are fantasizing is very dangerous. You don’t exclude a powerful nation like the USA from your international engagements nor do you attempt to form an alliance of anti-US forces – the Cold War is already over.

In fact I advocate the exact opposite, but without excluding any ‘smaller’ nations like the Europeans. China should present herself and act as a responsible member of the international community, live its international commitments i.a.w the UN Charter, and engage every nation in as fair and friendly manner as possible. Trade rather than fight.

Additionally, the US is important for China’s growth. I see many common values between the US and China, and how these two great nations can be partners if not friends. Naturally there are some differences now – political ideology, culture and values, spread of wealth, but I prefer to focus on the commonalities rather than the differences.

There’s not going to be a war over Taiwan. Taiwan is an integral part of China. China is BIG enough not to be bothered with a small province like Taiwan saying a few provocative statements. Think of all the consequences, economic, military and political, and how these will set China and the Chinese people back. Taiwanese are Chinese too.

Except for a few small Pacific Islands that will eventually be swamped by rising seas because of the global warming (sorry, just a cheeky stab at their insignificance), everyone accept the “one China” policy, and they include the UN, US, Europeans, etc. The current Taiwanese president can say what he wants to say, but making independence a reality and a viable reality is a different thing altogether. Already 40% of Taiwan’s exports go to the Mainland – you think those Taiwanese business people want to annoy China?

No one is ever ready for a war – some may think they are but reality tells a different story altogether – look at the US and Iraq. There are no winners in a war – look at Korea and Vietnam.

Peace is more difficult to achieve and that’s why it’s better, but it can be done.

September 6, 2004 @ 7:35 pm | Comment

Oh dear. This is going to be a long post. I can feel it in my bones.

MMkay. From the top:

I am not proposing that China keep the US from its international engagements. In fact, for the next twenty, thirty years, America is what Chinese policy should focus around. This, however, does not necessarily mean they will stay friends.

To paraphrase some dead guy or other, there are no everlasting friends in geopolitics. Only everlasting interests. And Chinese and American interests are destined for a direct clash.

The old Cold War may be over, but the new one is just beginning. Take a world map. Note down all the countries with US military presence. Notice the ring around China? The first move has already been made.

And so has the first counter-move. China’s policies, according to Deng, has been ‘Hide our strength and bide our time’. Hide it from whom? Why bide for time? Ah. You understand.

The International Community is a joke. There is no real law, no real way of punishment, only this: to the victor goes the spoils. The International Court is perfectly happy to execute a few Nazis or whomever loses their war, but they have neither the power or the inclination to do anything against the great powers.

In an environment devoid of law, the life of countries is brutish, nasty and short.

Much more real is the trade blocks and the shifting pseudo-alliances. All countries belong to some clan or other – for additional trade, but more for protection against other clans. China needs to forge its own. This is what diplomacy is for – a way of ensuring that, if there IS a conflict, other countries would at least keep their neutrality.

The US is indeed good for China. Everybody likes the peace and the prosperity that it brings with it. Peace brings great rewards. Peace kicks ass. But war may be inevitable. Not because of all the hyped-up crap about Clash of Cultures. Nobody really cares if the other guy don’t worship the same god so long as you can make money off of him. But here is why:


Taiwan is, depending on how you look at it, on either a very good, or very, very bad spot geographically. It is the Unsinkable Carrier from which it is possible to wreck the entire Chinese industrial/economic zone, plus the Three Gorges Dam. It can choke off the oil to Japan. It can become the launchpad for the spreading of Chinese influence into the pacific. Or it can blockade the entire sea route to China.

If China gets its hands on Taiwan, Japan would be, first of all, in deep shit. US interests – by which I mean troops – in the area would need to be pulled back. India would have to contend with a strategic competitor that just got stronger. The importance of Russia as alternative supply route would decrease. EVERYBODY LOSES.

The reason anybody toes the Chinese line on Taiwan is because, well, China has nukes. Oh, and a market. And if push comes to shove, China is willing to sacrifice everything, for Taiwan.

This is not, actually, because of national interests. Important as Taiwan is, China can wait. It is close. When China gets strong enough, it’ll cave in sooner or later, by military means or non. But the CCP has backed itself into a corner.

With half a century of propaganda, the CCP has staked its legitimacy on Taiwan. The popular sentiment demands war should Taiwan declare independence. They have been brought up that way. If the CCP does not respond to this, it would be replaced and the war would go ahead anyway.

It is like the old Chinese saying: when you’re riding a tiger, you can’t just get off.

So what is Taiwan’s position in this? The Taiwanese wants independence. We know that already. President Chen is playing off on that. He is doing reasonably well, even if he’s too shrill about it. Taiwan is increasingly anxious: time is not on their side. The economy is integrating with the mainland, and sooner or later it’ll be part of China by default. Nobody wants that. And Taiwan is convinced that if they declare independence, US will come to their aid anyway. (They are right.)

It takes just one of the three main sides – US, China and Taiwan – to miscalculate. Anybody blinks, and all hell breaks lose.

It might break lose anyway, even if they all stay cool. Other countries may have something to gain from a major war in the pacific. A rerouting of the two major economic centres – US and Asia. And all it takes is a little push…

It is as the old roman dictum: if you want peace, prepare for war. Peace might come. You never know. But it is best to be prepared.

September 7, 2004 @ 1:08 am | Comment

Incidentally, there ARE winners in modern wars. Usually, whomever pitches in last – or not at all – wins.

America won WWII.
Germany won the Cold War.

Who won Vietnam and Korea? Probably Japan.

Well, actually, nobody lost there except Vietnam and Korea. China got the ‘we-won-two-wars-against-america’ thing, however pyrrhic, and everybody learnt to avoided a ground war against China (except India). America got a foothold in South Korea to complement the one in Japan, and it has done much good for American Interests ever since. Not without costs, though. It’s a draw.

September 7, 2004 @ 1:23 am | Comment


Having read your postings here, I sure like to put you together with Conrad.

No, insofar as I am concerned it won’t be a long posting – I have said my piece.

September 7, 2004 @ 4:53 am | Comment

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