In support of the arms embargo on China

A NYT editorial makes some good points about China’s utterly unnecessary “anti-secession law” and why it reinforces the need to continue the arms embargo.

It is hard to imagine what China’s leaders figured they had to gain by pushing through a law authorizing an attack on Taiwan if it moves toward formal independence. Beijing has been threatening such an attack for years, and the Communist Party’s all-powerful leaders hardly need to get their toothless legislature’s permission if they ever decide to plunge ahead with such lunacy.

But it is easy enough to see what damage this action has already done to China’s international reputation and objectives. By reminding the world that Beijing seriously thinks about starting a shooting war across the Taiwan Strait that could conceivably draw in the United States, China has persuaded Europe to slow down its ill-advised drive to lift the arms embargo it imposed after the violent suppression of the Tiananmen Square democracy movement.

President George W. Bush had been urging just such a reconsideration on European leaders without much result. It took China’s legislative authorization of war to prove that Bush was absolutely right. The embargo was initially ordered to demonstrate that what happened on Tiananmen Square was totally unacceptable. To this day, China has not shown the slightest regret for those bloody events, nor has it given any guarantees that they will not happen again.

But the most compelling reason for keeping the embargo involves Taiwan. The island’s official status is best deferred to another day, when passions on both sides of the Strait are cooler than they are right now. Independence-minded political leaders in Taipei need to restrain their rhetoric and gestures, while mainland leaders needed to stop brandishing threats.

Until that happens, selling China weapons that might be used to shoot down U.S. aircraft assigned to defend Taiwan is a terrible idea, and one that could lead Congress to restrict the sharing of American military technologies with European arms exporters.

No matter where you stand on the issue of Taiwan, you have to wonder what the CCP’s strategy was in stoking the flames so aggressively, at the exact moment it wanted to see the arms embargo lifted.

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Richard Burger is the author of Behind the Red Door: Sex in China, an exploration of China's sexual revolution and its clash with traditional Chinese values.

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The Discussion: 24 Comments

Sometimes I am not sure whether people fail to understand the issue, or understand the issue but simply say things from political position. My message is intended to people from the first category.

I think, as time goes by, that law will turn out to be a brilliant move. The current situation is that, on mainland, there is huge pressure from common people to prevent Taiwan from gaining independence. People can argue whether that is due to CCP’s propaganda or not. But the reality is that, no politician will not survive if he allow Taiwan to become independent now.

In Taiwan, some people are actively seeking independence, despite of threats from CCP. They will probably push the limits again and again.

From that perspective, the rally by Chen is actually a very propaganda for CCP. Taiwanese are no longer choosing bewteen a de-facto independent place and real independent country. Instead, they need to choose between PLA tanks and peaceful prosperous life.

March 31, 2005 @ 4:36 pm | Comment

But this had been China’s often-stated position for many years. Why did they need to stir things up at such a delicate time, and make the world think once again that instead of the blossoming enlightened world power China is still its old prickly, paranoid, belligerent self? (And that’s not my personal view of what China is, just the way the media have perceived China to be in the past.)

March 31, 2005 @ 4:42 pm | Comment

Indeed, that has been China’s position for a long time. The problem is that, when some people in Taiwan push for independence, they will tell people CCP dare not attack Taiwan because US will protect them. The leaders in Taiwan use that issue to get votes. They trick people to choose between de-facto independence and “real” country.

By holding a rally, Chen actually tells Taiwanese there will be a price for independence. Instead, they are choosing peaceful prosperous life and a war.

Keeping the status quo now is the best option, and that anti-secession law will help achieve that goal.

I guess everyone agrees that CCP has to be crazy to attack Taiwan now to change the status quo. The only people hating that law are the people wanting to see Taiwan independence now.

Frankly, the way western media portraying this way is like a propaganda. They simply label it as violence and aggression. There is no one actually analyzing this issue.

March 31, 2005 @ 6:04 pm | Comment

Lets be realistic, there are two reasons why the US wants to keep this embargo going.

The US doesn’t want face off against an opponent on a level playing field. If China were to have more advanced weapons then a war between China and the US over Chinese Taiwan would be more costly for the US, it would have to station more troops in Asia to counter a ‘China threat’ and it would face the possibility of heavy casualties.

A lowering of the EU embargo would also give EU arms exporters access to a strong and growing market that US contractors couldn’t access; it would put US firms at a competitive disadvantage.

If lowering the embargo would mean that somebody could stand up to the US military, then I am all for it. I strongly believe that if one side in any conflict believes that it can win a war at little cost to itself, then it far more likely to start said war.

Take Iraq and North Korea as examples.

The US knew that it could take on Iraq without suffering heavy (battlefield) casualties, so it did, but it has not attempted to engage North Korea because it would come at too high a cost to do so. If China can match up against the US in the Pacific, then the US is going to have to bite its tongue over Chinese Taiwan a lot more. This may make things a bit tense for a while, but in the long run it will see balance. Chen won’t become overconfident, Bush won’t push Chen into defying China, and China won’t have any reason to change the current standing because Chen will be less vocal.

March 31, 2005 @ 8:20 pm | Comment

The law does two things;

1. prevents the use of “creeping” actions by the TI movement to push the boundaries towards independence. Limits the possiblity of miscalculated moves that would lead to war.

2. the PRC will be able give more concessions and makes reconciliatory gestures directly to the people of taiwan. This allows the PRC to take the political initative in cross straits ties without giving credit to the Chen’s administration.

March 31, 2005 @ 8:27 pm | Comment

It has been 60 years since Taiwan has not been subjugated by outside forces. It has thrived. Why doesn’t the mainland take the hint, the people of Taiwan don’t need the mainland, apparently don’t want it at this time, and quit all its blowing in the wind? I think it is because Beijing really doesn’t know what it is doing. It is so consumed with the ancient and perhaps outmoded need for territory and soveignty, it cannot put people in the equation. In the short run, is the island of Taiwan worth perhaps hundreds of thousands of deaths and injuries and most assuredly catastrophic damage to both sides’ economies and whatever other devastation would be caused if PRC attacks Taiwan and other countries are dragged into the conflict?

This is not to say the PRC doesn’t have tools to gain Taiwan in some way. Through persuasion and entreaty the PRC can offer potentially palatable terms for resolution. The PRC is stuck on the idea that it needs to dominate any negotiation with Taiwan as a subordinate entity. The PRC says you agree with us or else because we have all this military firepower and if you don’t agree we will blast you into agreement. There is no mutuality of negotiating position that Beijing is trying to force upon Taiwan. No self-respecting people can or should negotiate such things as freedom, political beliefs, human rights and life styles under the threat of death. It is absured for mainland Chinese to believe that it can or should operate that way.

Beijing’s postion really comes down to this ” you agree with us or we will kill some or all of you.”

March 31, 2005 @ 10:19 pm | Comment

“It has been 60 years since Taiwan has not been subjugated by outside forces. It has thrived. Why doesn’t the mainland take the hint, the people of Taiwan don’t need the mainland, apparently don’t want it at this time, and quit all its blowing in the wind?”

Pete, your opening statement is factually false. Remember the KMT was from Mainland China, and they have controlled Taiwan for decades.

April 1, 2005 @ 3:59 am | Comment

“No self-respecting people can or should negotiate such things as freedom, political beliefs, human rights and life styles under the threat of death. It is absured for the Yankees(Northerners) to believe that it can or should operate that way.

Lincoln’s postion really comes down to this ” you agree with us or we will kill some or all of you.”

April 1, 2005 @ 4:12 am | Comment

Personally, I want an arms embargo on the whole region! Just last week, the Bush administration sold F-16 fighter planes to Pakistan. The next day, Condoleezza Rice drops into India offering to sell planes to address the imbalance. Why do these countries with hundreds of millions of poor peasants persist in spending billions on advanced weapons is beyond me. The only people who win is the US arms industry.

The US hypocrisy is beyond belief. The standoff beyond between India and Pakistan over Kashmir is far more volatile and dangerous yet the US is cheerfully selling weapons to both. The only reason why they oppose lifting the arms embargo because they rightfully fear the weapons might be used on them. If China was an ally or under US domination, the US would be quoting shipping rates or the discounts on bullets in bulk.

The US is the greatest exporter of weapons and mass misery bar none! The US has more than 700 military bases in 130 countries. This doesn’t include the hundreds of bases in the United States or the secret military bases across the globe. Every year the US “advisers” trains thousands of foreign soldiers to such purposes as destabilizing governments they don’t like or guarding resources they might need. Yet they want the arms embargo to continue for the peace and safety of the region!

The Christian Science Monitor has an article on how the US is trying to build an alliance with India in order to provide a counterweight to China. This is classic divide and rule the British and other colonizers used to conquer. Spread hatred and rumors between two ethnic groups in order to fight each other. Hopefully, they’ll bring each other down. What China and India should do is pool their resources together and form a trade partnership.

April 1, 2005 @ 5:25 am | Comment

Also on NYT, Thomas Friedman had a fairly good piece on China some 2 weeks ago. In short, he rightly summarized Bush administration’s poor handling of China in the past 4 years, when US position in the game is consistently underminded.

It’s not news to me, but no one mentioned it in Kerry campaign. Nobody. People were so distracted by Baghdad, giving Beijing a free hand.

The European embargo will be gone. It doesn’t mean much more than reflecting European ethics as it is. The end result is not about the military. It’s about whether or not Beijing can corrupt the entire US society by using its slave labor, market leverage, and their Corporate America collaborators. It’s about America’s survival. So far, they have been doing very well. We are keeping donating to their coffer by buying Wal-Mart’s Made-in-China, and I see no sign of abating.

April 1, 2005 @ 5:42 am | Comment

JR

I really can’t see what Americans did to themselves in the past is any justification for what Beijing is threatening to do to Taiwan people and as a consequence would happen to many on the mainland too.

If you think I am being hypocritical, it is hardly so when compared to how Beijing acts when it demands Japan apologize (I think it should) for its actions against the Chinese people in the Anti-Japanese War, but will not do so for gunning down its own people in and around Tiananmen Square in 1989. Your can provide some information here on other points of history that I am unclear about. Has Beijing or the CCP ever acknowledged and apologized for the tens of millions of Chinese that starved to death as a result of the faulty Great Leap Forward policies of the CCP or for millions who died or were injuried or had there lives totally disrupted by the Cultural Revolution?

April 1, 2005 @ 7:12 am | Comment

Citing someone else’s mistake as justifications for your actions is not a very good argument. Most every bad thing possible has already been done at least once, one can say “But *they* did it!” about most anything.

I’m inclined to feel that if most of the people who live somewhere want to be their own country, maybe we should let them, even it it was, say Hawaii .

April 1, 2005 @ 11:47 pm | Comment

Is Beijing Mecca now?

Read the story (in Chinese): After Chinese Antarctica expedition team reaches the top, all kneel down toward motherland.

Another reason to keep deadly weapon from those zealots.

April 2, 2005 @ 5:05 am | Comment

er, well, I have to take issue with Bellevue’s comment that China is “corrupting” the United States. We’ve done that just fine on our own, thank you.

Walmart goes wherever labor is cheapest, and that includes moving its factories from one part of China to the other. There is a Pulitzer-prize winning story about Walmart and its impact on the global economy on the LA Times website that is still available to read. I highly recommend it.

And I think it’s unpatriotic to shop at Walmart.

April 2, 2005 @ 12:23 pm | Comment

“I really can’t see what Americans did to themselves in the past is any justification for what Beijing is threatening to do to Taiwan people and as a consequence would happen to many on the mainland too.”

Pete,

Did you mean or think the “reunification” effort of Lincoln was unnecessary?

“If you think I am being hypocritical, it is hardly so when compared to how Beijing acts when it demands Japan apologize (I think it should) for its actions against the Chinese people in the Anti-Japanese War, but will not do so for gunning down its own people in and around Tiananmen Square in 1989. Your can provide some information here on other points of history that I am unclear about. Has Beijing or the CCP ever acknowledged and apologized for the tens of millions of Chinese that starved to death as a result of the faulty Great Leap Forward policies of the CCP or for millions who died or were injuried or had there lives totally disrupted by the Cultural Revolution?”

I didn’t say you are a hypocrite. And I am sure you can find a lot of hypocritical actions and examples with any politician or government in the world. The point of the discussion is, are you willing to let part of USA become independent, if the people in those states choose to do so. I believe the US Constitution allows states to secede.

April 4, 2005 @ 12:25 pm | Comment

JR, I think we’ve gone over this exact same point literally hundreds of times. If the South had been under its own totally separate government for more than half a century with its own set of laws and an entirely different system, and if it was facing the possibility of having those laws and freedoms rescinded by the North, then yes, it would have been okay for the South to secede from the Union. But the South was under the reign of the US government and under US law and decided to break away. It is not in any way a comparable scenario with Taiwan, separated from the mainland since 1949 and never bound by the laws of the law-loving CCP..

April 4, 2005 @ 12:35 pm | Comment

Richard,

Without US support, Taiwan would not be a seperate entity for 60 years, do you agree with that?

IF Dems want to declare independence for the US west coast and the Chinese Communist Party supports it with military force stationing along the border, are you still ok with this “independence”?

April 4, 2005 @ 12:54 pm | Comment

It all boils down to it being China internal affair. Foreigners should not intervene another country’s internal affair. (Of course, they can discuss about it.) With or without the anti secession law, I don’t believe the Mainland would invade Taiwan as a pre-emptive strike as long as Taiwan doesnt threaten the status quo everyone,including the US, agrees upon.

April 4, 2005 @ 1:06 pm | Comment

Taiwan is not just an internal affairs issue. It has serious global implications. As for meddling in a foreign country’s internal affairs, I’d agree it should be kept to a minimum and used only as a last resort, but it’s done all the time. Many countries are placing human rights demands on Sudan, China, Cuba, Uzbekistan and others, and that is correct. Silence is not always golden.

April 4, 2005 @ 1:37 pm | Comment

Without US support, Taiwan would not be a seperate entity for 60 years, do you agree with that?

Yes, same with Israel. What’s your point? North Korea wouldn’t exist without China’s support. It’s natural for superpowers to look after their allies.

IF Dems want to declare independence for the US west coast and the Chinese Communist Party supports it with military force dtationing along the border, are you still ok with this “independence”?

Not at all. The US West Coast is under US constitutional law. I would never be in favor of such a thing. But it’s a very bizarre analogy, and I fail to see how it relates in any way to Taiwan, which is not under PRC law and has a separate government that would be threatened by rejoining the PRC (like in Hong Kong).

And one more mistake: You write as though I am in favor of Taiwanese independence. That isn’t necessarily my position; I’ve always recommended keeping the status quo.

April 4, 2005 @ 1:45 pm | Comment

“Not at all. The US West Coast is under US constitutional law. I would never be in favor of such a thing. But it’s a very bizarre analogy, and I fail to see how it relates in any way to Taiwan, which is not under PRC law and has a separate government that would be threatened by rejoining the PRC (like in Hong Kong). ”

KMT and the CCP were two opposing governments in China. The KMT controlled Taiwan for the first 55 years of its 60 years after WW2. An analogy should share similarity in some respects between things that are otherwise dissimilar. The only variant in the above case is a powerful foreign country was able to support part of China for 60 years.

On separate government in Hong Kong, The CCP did mininum to affect the Hong Kong government. Yes, the chief executive of Hong Kong is pretty much a puppet of the CCP. Nevertheless, it is not much better under the British governorship. The British governors were always appointed and there was almost no democracy in Hong Kong until the very last decade. The situation was pretty much just a change of ownership from UK to China.

April 5, 2005 @ 12:00 am | Comment

KMT and the CCP were two opposing governments in China. The KMT controlled Taiwan for the first 55 years of its 60 years after WW2.

Yes,the KMT another foreign master for Taiwan .Just like the Dutch,Spanish,Japanese and so on.The KMT only lasted until the Taiwanese could start speaking for themselves.When is China and the rest of the world going to stop and listen to the voice of 23 million people and ask them what they think.

Mark

April 5, 2005 @ 6:28 am | Comment

JR, having lived in HK for nearly two years, I can safely tell you this: You are wrong. Funny, I can’t remember a single million-man-march under the British. Even odder, while China was starving to death and having its brains sucked out under Mao, HK under the brits was becoming the world’s most thriving financial and manufacturing hub, with a fantastically wealthy population compared to its neighbors, peace, freedom and relative happiness.

April 5, 2005 @ 7:44 am | Comment

Actually, there was like 3 million Hong Kong people marching against the CCP the day after 6/4. There were riots against police corruption in the 60s and there was communist sympathizers wanting Hong Kong to return to Mainland China during the cultural revolution. Britain could not maintain the law and order of Hong Kong, offered Hong Kong back to the Mainland but Zhai En Lai knew China was messed up, refused to take it back.

The Brits tried their best to drain Hong Kong economically before 1997, they started to build the massive “rose garden project”. Selling public housing, even the old and bad ones to gain more cash. The enormous property bubble initiated by the Brits, bursted right after 1997. British government was the biggest winner, and Hong Kong people were the losers.

April 5, 2005 @ 10:11 am | Comment

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