China Can “Win” – If It Cleans Up Its Act

This is a guest post from my cyberfriend William Stimson. I don’t necessary agree with everything William proposes; a lot of his suggestions make me say, “Easier said than done!” But it’s certainly worth thinking about — especially the concept that China has a unique oportunity to demonstrate to mankind that its mightiest strength “lies not in tyranny but in freedom.”

“China Can Be The Big Winner”
by William R. Stimson

How strange China should be undertaking such a huge military buildup, and conducting so much of it behind the scenes, in a clandestine fashion. One wonders who it perceives to be its enemy when the whole world benefits from its new prosperity and success, welcomes it with open arms, scrambles to invest in its big future and wants “in” on its economic miracle. Schoolchildren the world over are learning Mandarin. Everybody knows China is the future. “Nobody is going to attack China,” stammers the U.S. Secretary of Defense Rumsfield, apparently at a loss to understand why it is hurrying so to arm itself.

Across the water from China sits peaceful little Taiwan, with its bustling democracy and free market economy — the major engine of China’s growth. How many other developing countries wish they had a Taiwan off their shore. It would be hard to calculate the extent to which Taiwan benefits China day in and day out. How strange then that following Taiwan’s disastrous earthquake a few years back, China prevented emergency relief from being flown in to Taiwan over Chinese territory. At the height of the SARS episode, China blocked Taiwan’s entry into the World Health Organization. A pandemic bird flu disaster looms in the region. China continues to block Taiwan’s entry. Again and again, Taiwan has said it wants peaceful relations with China. Yet China now has hundreds of missiles aimed at Taiwan. Can anyone doubt that the armada of modern troop ships, submarines and airplanes that China is currently amassing at such a breakneck pace is for use against Taiwan?

Stranger stories every day come out of China, one after another. Recently a Chinese journalist who wrote against corruption in his newspaper and won an award for his probity was beaten and had some fingers hacked off. That writer will never type again. Another Chinese journalist received a long prison sentence, just for sending an e-mail. The Chinese doctor who blew the whistle on SARS was “disappeared” along with his wife for speaking out truthfully about the Tienaman Square massacre. The internet in China is tightly controlled; yet, no sooner did Japan announce it would come to Taiwan’s assistance in the event of a Chinese attack, than an anti-Japanese movement easily organized itself on China’s controlled internet, sent out all the e-mails it wanted and staged riots across China. Chinese police stood idly by as demonstrators smashed Japanese property. What was it all about? The excuse about Japan’s offenses during the war would be more believable if China hadn’t itself committed those same offenses in Tibet. The excuse about the Japanese textbooks would be believable if China’s textbooks didn’t still omit the truth about Tibet and about Tienaman Square. The excuse about the Japanese leader paying homage to an offensive shrine would be believable if Mao’s picture wasn’t still prominently displayed as an object of reverence in Beijing. Japan’s commitment to defend Taiwan was the reason behind China’s temper tantrum.

China has not only probed Japanese waters with its submarines but is insanely probing weaknesses in the defense system of the United States, Taiwan’s chief protector. “We are smarter than you!” Chinese sites brag to the Americans — uncensored on China’s highly censored internet. On 9/11, Chinese sites expressed glee over pictures of the burning towers in New York City — likewise uncensored. Earlier this year, sites all around China likened the visiting American Secretary of State to a “monkey” because of her African ancestry and called her “ugly” and “stupid” — also uncensored. Towards any country standing in the way of its designs on Taiwan, China behaves less like a modern civilized nation, than like a primitive and crude barbarian.

If we look at China’s history, we can see why. Over the last 5,000 years, China has again and again been conquered and ruled by barbarians — barbarians from the outside, and “barbarians” from the inside. Never once has it been conquered and ruled by its own people, like newly democratic Taiwan. This is the real threat Taiwan poses to China — it is free. And so long as it sits there free — prospering, and making China prosper; thriving, and making China thrive; bristling with enterprise, and making China bristle with enterprise — democratic Taiwan shows up the lie of China’s barbarian rule and the lie of Chinese history. China wasn’t made weak by foreign invaders. It was invaded by foreigners because it was made weak by its own corrupt despots. China’s weakness has been its lack of freedom. This is still true today. Where there is freedom people can speak out and put an end to corruption and the abuse of power that tear a country apart at its root.

The huge military buildup underway in China today is not to protect China and the Chinese people from any outside enemy because China has no outside enemy. Its purpose is to protect China’s rulers from the Chinese people. It is poised to strike Taiwan because Taiwan is an embodiment of the pre-eminent danger felt by those rulers — Taiwan is a shining example of Chinese people successfully governing themselves, making their own decisions, being free — and thriving as a result, and making everyone thrive all around them. The very existence of Taiwan’s huge success cries out to China’s tyrants something they are terrified the rest of China might hear — “The people can rule themselves.”

Because of the reason for which it is being carried out, the effect of China’s military build-up will not be to make China strong, but to perpetuate its historic weakness. The same is true for China’s ongoing inquisition against those of its own people honest and courageous enough to openly speak the truth. And the same is true for China’s censorship of the internet, blocking of websites, and suppression of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement. All these policies perpetuate China’s historic weakness. The way to strength is to confront and expose weakness, and then eliminate it. For China to be great, this is the strategy it needs to take. It is time for those who love China, in its military and in its government, to stop covering up China’s weakness and inner corruption and to make China strong instead — by making it free. The only ones who might be hurt by this are those who are doing the damage — China’s real enemies. The corrupt, not the honest, need to be rooted out and put in jail.

China can’t keep wasting precious resources fighting the truth. It needs to get on with the business of the day — which is to throw off the barbarian model, and allow itself, for the first time in its long history, to be conquered finally by its own people. Democracy and freedom alone can release Chinas vast and unfathomable potential. It happened in Taiwan. It can happen in China the same way.

Instead of bullying Taiwan or trying to make a grab for it, China should be doing everything in its power to assist its successful little brother and to follow his proud example. A good first step would be for China to let the people of Taiwan themselves decide their future. Nobody in the whole world is against Taiwan being a part of China, if the Taiwanese people choose that. If China could only bring itself to give the people of Taiwan this choice, then no matter which way the Taiwanese people decide to go, China will come away the big winner — because it will have discovered, finally after 5,000 years, that its strength lies not in tyranny but in freedom.

* * *

William R. Stimson is a writer who lives in Taiwan. More of his writing can be found at

The Discussion: 33 Comments

Let’s be more specific Richard, Mr. Stimson’s main points are easier said than done, true… the Chinese people under their present circumstances. I mean, will they ever have a choice on any of the things advocated in this piece? Of course not.

Even if they (the people) were given any say, I strongly suspect that the rampant government-sponsored nationalism and xenophobia would heavily deter them from “cleaning up it’s act and winning”.

The web-sites Mr. Stimson cites, while extreme some would argue, are broadly representitive of the very high (and acceptable) levels of hatred which exist in China.

These important decisions on the future direction of China will be left to the real enemies of the Chinese people, those who have only everything to lose, the CCP.

I have always found it to be a huge contradiction that, although the west has contributed greatly to China’s recent breakneck development, China remains deeply suspicious of the west. You have to wonder if this general unease is caused more by the domestic agenda of the CCP and their determination to remain in power come what may.

I agree wholeheartedly that China’s real enemies are the corrupt cadre class which holds both political and economic power in equal shares. However, this is a war that China dare not wage as it would be waging war against itself. Has anyone here ever seen a poor cadre or state-owned company manager?

Re Taiwan, the CCP have whipped up the population into such a frenzy that the present belligerent course of action cannot now or ever be changed. China can only ever lose with it’s current policy towards Taiwan.

The truth is, while the way forward for China partly advocated by Mr. Stimson will almost surely benefit China and her development, it will be looked upon as nothing short of blasphemy by the Chinese and most definitely a flagrant interferance in China’s internal affairs by foreigners who don’t understand China only want to keep her down!

June 18, 2005 @ 1:04 pm | Comment

Look, eswn, these fingers have eventually found their way into the walhalla of the freedom fighters!

June 18, 2005 @ 1:16 pm | Comment

Great point Leo, best not drink and post, eh?

June 18, 2005 @ 1:32 pm | Comment

On the website “A Big Step For China” is a must-read.

In fact, all the short articles under ‘Newspaper Articles’ are great.

June 18, 2005 @ 6:35 pm | Comment

great essay, and i really appreciate the point about history that’s the biggest block to freedom.

June 18, 2005 @ 8:46 pm | Comment

Martyn, that is a really profound and totally depressing comment, with scarcely a trace of optimism. What makes me even more depressed is that I can’t disagree with anything you say.

John, William’s site has lots of treasures. I hope everyone checfks it out.

Henry, you seem like an exceptional guy. Even though you just started blogging, I’ve added you to my blogroll.

June 18, 2005 @ 9:26 pm | Comment

->Can anyone doubt that the armada of modern troop ships, submarines and airplanes that China is currently amassing at such a breakneck pace is for use against Taiwan?

I think it’s got a number of purposes, but there’s one that stands out for me.

show of power. the central government feels, possibly rightly so, that it’s losing its grip over the people. not just taiwan, but mainlanders. corruption is spiralling out of control, demonstrations, protests and general disagreement unheard of 20 years ago happen on a weekly basis all over the country. people do not seem ot be as deterred by prison as they were by public executions. a big military buildup says ‘hey, it’s time to stop messing with us, we’ve got really big guns and you’ve just got sticks.’

-> Has anyone here ever seen a poor cadre or state-owned company manager?

I’ve seen some poor cadres. maybe not poor in the financial sense, though. there are public secrets, unwritten rules, and if you want to provide a good life for your family you’ll have no choice but to get roped in to the corruption. if you want to be manager of that plant you have no choice but to join the party, otherwise you will not be the manager. once in you’ve got to play by the rules, whether you like it or not. and while some people really don’t seem to care as long as they’re getting rich, some people hate what they have to do.

it’s easy to argue that they could just not take the job, could stay ‘good’. but that’s so much easier said than done.

June 18, 2005 @ 10:11 pm | Comment

well, is the nationalism fanned up by the CCP?

for a neutral data set, consider hong kong. it is not subject to CCP propaganda manipulation; if anything, it is the opposite — because they object to whatever the CCP wants to say.

on the subject of anti-japanese sentiments, any question on issues such as the textbhooks or shrine visits, support levels are around 90% in hong kong.

on the subject of taiwan as a part of china, you won’t find many hong kong dissenters either.

so maybe the CCP has co-opted the issue to consolidate its power, but you shouldn’t think that those sentiments would be absent otherwise. those sentiments are there, and any government (CCP, democratic or otherwise) is unsurvivable if it just lets taiwan go.

about the fingers issue, this is just standard to cite myths to bolster arguments. at least i am glad that my two other hang-ups were not brought in as well:
– the chinese navy flotillas sent to hong kong to intimidate the democrats
– beijing’s imposition of its chief executive candidate onto hong kong

June 18, 2005 @ 10:22 pm | Comment

Stimson is doing CCP a great favor by combining taiwan independence with chinese democratic movement. Anyone supporting Taiwan independence is essentially ostracing himself from chinese community. What a idiot.

June 18, 2005 @ 10:45 pm | Comment

thank u for link.
exceptional? i’m just outspoken or down-to-earth. anyway, thank you as well.

June 19, 2005 @ 1:59 am | Comment

“Stimson is doing CCP a great favor by combining taiwan independence with chinese democratic movement. Anyone supporting Taiwan independence is essentially ostracing himself from chinese community. What a idiot.”

To the person who wrote this, I can see merit in some of what you say … but some of that merit is lost by your refusal to give yourself any kind of handle. You don’t need to use your real name, but at least use a consistent handle of some description. Otherwise, I tend to think negatively of you and your views, right from the beginning, and I doubt I’m the only one.

I thought the essay was a good one … but I disagree entirely with his premise about why China wants to attack Taiwan. It’s an issue of historical jihad, not a fear of Taiwanese democracy.

June 19, 2005 @ 4:55 am | Comment

(*Taiwan**e ind**endence*) It’s an issue of historical jihad, not a fear of Taiwanese democracy.” FSN9

Largely it is and that’s a fair comment. Historical jihad? I like that phrase as it sums up China’s world view of it’s periphery that largely maintains that the periphery of China proper should be firmly under Chinese domination.

I would cite XJ and TB as examples of this. I.e. despite the fact that both XJ and TB have at various times dominated China proper, as soon as China has the military might to enforce it’s domination, it sends the army in as we saw in the 1950’s.

However, I would disgree as to the extent of completely writing off the Chinese fear of Taiwanese democracy. I consider that there is a abeit small fear of the freedoms there and, of course, the CCP would rather the island still be under KMT fascist rule.

China fears democracy in any of it’s perceived areas of control. I.e. Hong Kong because of the fear that “the masses” will continue to vote for anti-CCP/independence figures or simply those who might claim to have a mandate to oppose the CCP.

Democracy fever will never spread throughout China like wildfire simply because it is the system in Taiwan or possibly Hong Kong but let’s not forget that Taiwan already has, and many Hong Kong people want, a system based on universal francise, rule of law, accountability of elected representatives and resepct for individual freedoms.

In a nutshell, these ideals are the polar opposite of everything the CCP stands for so I’d expect a certain amount of wariness from the Party re Taiwanese democracy.

Martyn, depressing analysis certainly but I also cannot disagree with what you write above.

Joh01, thanks for the tip. I’ll go and read WRStimson’s site now as I also enjoyed his above piece.

June 19, 2005 @ 5:17 am | Comment

Allan. Fair call.

June 19, 2005 @ 5:22 am | Comment

Leo, excellent point! don’t understand zoe’s comment but if she’s right then keep drinking..

June 19, 2005 @ 5:31 am | Comment

KLS, I don’t understand Leo’s point either. Would you explain?

June 19, 2005 @ 5:34 am | Comment

If I was the CCP with its present economy I’d certainly be ploughing cash back into the military.
Rumsfeld’s comments were daft: everybody knows the US would like to neuter China all but as a trading partner, and it’s natural for China to want the means to protect / project its influence in the region.

what I want to know is what people here think about the role of the military on Hu/Wen. Deng and then Jiang owed them for 1989, is there any debt the present government owes? or is there much military presence in the present government?

I read somewhere that the army has always been the loudest champion in the CCP leadership of forced reunification with TW.

June 19, 2005 @ 5:41 am | Comment

Thanks KLS. Can anyone else explain?

June 19, 2005 @ 5:57 am | Comment

I understand Leo was cryptically referring to an ESWN post about Wen Chong, the journalist who had two of his fingers chopped off. ESWN pointed out that plenty of western commentators immediately began…

“…denouncing Hu Jintao for not speaking out to condemn the corrupt government officials and their triad friends for intimidating journalists”

but these commentators ignored later police reports that the attack was paid for by a disgruntled lover the journalist was dumping.

of course it may be that the police have gone to elaborate lengths to concoct a false story, just so a few western jouranlists and bloggers will be reassured that this was not an incidence of press “censorship”.

but that’s a big maybe.

instead those fingers seem to be ending up as a false totem for discussions about China and the press, as we read in the Stimson piece. a symptom of people assuming the worst…

this is the eswn link:

zoe could have found it by going to ESWN and opening the search function of her browser and typing the word finger. rather than assuming Leo was drunk.

June 19, 2005 @ 5:58 am | Comment

Many thanks. Something was tickling the back of my brain but for the life of me I couldn’t think what. Now all revealed.

Mind you, what’s that got to do Taiwan?

Why do I feel really thick at the moment!

June 19, 2005 @ 6:07 am | Comment

Yes, sorry for being so negative, I’m not as arrogant as to say I’m right, It’s just my individual take.

I admire peope like Echo who look for the good, KLS, who can put it all in a broad historical perspective, eswn, who can take a detached and logical view.

Still, if I tried a smug, fuzzy and intellectual spin on this, I’d only be fooling myself.


I agree with your above comments re China’s Taiwan “problem”. As I said, China can only ever lose with it’s current Taiwan policy.

I notice that Mr. Stimson and also Mr. Keating have well and truly caught the Taiwan bug as everyone does when they go to live there. You can’t help but compare it to China and by doing so China loses on multiple levels. You also can’t help falling in love with the place and the people.


Thanks for the heads-up re Mr. Stimson’s site. I read his “Newspaper Articles” this afternoon and every single one is essential reading. Whether you agree with his views or not, they contain some very unique takes on several big issues.

June 19, 2005 @ 7:54 am | Comment

Oh I forgot.


With respect, please take a leaf out of Allan’s book and ask if you don’t understand something. It isn’t nice taking swipes at people and no-one likes it. You failed to even make a point for goodness sake.


June 19, 2005 @ 7:56 am | Comment

bing, bingfeng, Henry>

Did any of you read this piece? What are your opinions on it?

June 19, 2005 @ 8:11 am | Comment

It’s a nice article but seems to be sort of airy and dreamlike without any hard facts behind it. I see no news reports of China actually building up a military force to invade Taiwan. When the US invaded Iraq, the buildup took months and was well reported on. China would need a massive armada and air superiority that can easily by countered by the US and allied forces. Realistically, China doesn’t want to invade Taiwan because that would mean losing the Olympics. They’re counting on the Olympics to bring in a tourism boom to hopefully pay off the bills of hosting the Games.

As to the rest of the article of China being conquered by foreigners because of its cruel and weak rulers and lack of freedom, I can’t comment on that since I’m no expert. I will point out that Africa, South America, most of Asia, and the Middle East was conquered and colonized by the British, French, Spanish and other European countries. Was it because they weren’t free or was it because of superior weaponry and organization of the Europeans?

A lot of people like comparing India and China since both are next door neighbors, both have a billion plus people, and both are developing countries. India is a liberal democracy with freedom of the press and voting rights. Yet by almost every account and statistic, India is doing worse than China in economic terms whether you use literacy rates, GDP, or rate of corruption. Shouldn’t it be the opposite?

June 19, 2005 @ 12:43 pm | Comment

Okay, point taken. Sorry, I misunderstood but should have asked..

June 19, 2005 @ 1:00 pm | Comment

wlk, but the Chinese military and govt often talk about Taiwan as being the justification, or at least part of justification, for the build up of the PLA. Hyberbole perhaps and/or maybe purposely adding to the threats against Taiwan but it’s happening nonetheless.

I do not think Stimson is talking about a immediate build-up as per the Iraq War, he means the 600+ missiles in Fujian as well as the general development of the armed forces.

As regards being invaded by foreigners, Stimson is suggesting that China’s weaknesses, such as supression of freedom and corruption, caused it to be conquered and re-conquered by non-Chinese. We all know how rampant corruption was evident at the end of each dynastic cycle. Look at China today.

He suggests that in order to avoid such historic weaknesses, China should move towards a more free society and declare real war on very deeply ingrained corruption. Only then might China prosper and move towards a bright, just and sustainable future.

I think it’s an interesting way of thinking. I need to give it slightly more thought but anything must be better than the present. China is essentially at war with itself at the moment. The PLA, in the near future at least, are more likely to shoot at the Chinese people themselves than any so-called foreign threat as Stimson implies. Who dare argue with that?

Sorry for my earlier remark, I’ll watch my manners in future Richard!

June 19, 2005 @ 1:46 pm | Comment

A lot of people like comparing India and China since both are next door
neighbors, both have a billion plus people, and both are developing
countries. India is a liberal democracy with freedom of the press and
voting rights. Yet by almost every account and statistic, India is doing
worse than China in economic terms whether you use literacy rates, GDP,
or rate of corruption. Shouldn’t it be the opposite?

That’s a simplistic argument. If China is doing better than India, does that mean it’s because of China’s repressive government? There are many complex factors behind this seeming anomaly. Do you think if the Indian government became more tyrranical and censored everything their economy would soar? I really don’t think so. And I’d hardly call India a liberal democracy — on the way, maybe, but it’s got a distance to go.

June 19, 2005 @ 4:03 pm | Comment

I think there are many things that are different in comparing India and China that have had an effect on their economic develpoment. Those things have more to do with the countries’ economic policies than their political structure IMO. China has for 25 years sought foreign money, by way of tourism first and then foreign investment. India on the other hand is later to the game. Its early policies either did not allow foreign investment or discouraged it. China as “represented” by the CCP (and I mean this sarcastically, but truly too) who speak for the mass in an unified voice and force for the path that it decides to take. For the past 25 years that has been economic growth. In India there is no single voice, as befits a democracy, but also that may make achievement of policies slower and less assured. India is behind China, but to evaluate each country’s relative progress by comparison of their political systems is a false comparison unless you are a Chinese nationalist. That would be like saying Mussolini’s Italy, Hitler’s Germany and the old USSR were better economies that the US in that period. But they all had command economies and looked what happened to them as a result of criminal mentalities and actions of those governments.

Say what you will, but I am for growth the old fashioned way.

June 19, 2005 @ 11:00 pm | Comment

Richard W from The Three T’s has this interesting quote on the sidebar of his site. I hope he doesn’t mind if I cut and paste it below:

“It is probably only a matter of time before the faddish fascination with China switches to booming India. Once it does, it is unlikely ever to switch back, as investors realize what it is like to have a haven where the law works, albeit too slowly, and democratically elected politicians are not just accountable, but persuadable and approachable”

The so-called rise of China ; Asia’s power game (Jonathan Power – The International Herald Tribune April 09, 2005)

June 20, 2005 @ 4:19 am | Comment


Where are you man? I’ve been waiting for your comments on this post for days?

C’mon get yourself in gear!!

June 21, 2005 @ 9:17 am | Comment

Haha.., I just realized that this article is targeting someone as bad as me?

Actually I feel hard to digest it. Many things were listed, but not well or logically connected . Will a free democratic China stop spending for a better defense, or let Taiwanese themselves to decide the future of Taiwan. Anyone, Anyone cares the voice of mainland Chinese?
not to mention the current status of Taiwan was at least partially earned from the blood many mainlanders shed in WWII.
More open questions:
How come US defense budget alone overwhelm that of rest of the world… amazing…….Actually I rationalized the fact in this way. Chinese army is spending for defending Taiwan, but US army is spending for defending the World. Fair enough? I wonder if Canada will eventually let Quebec be independent without a huge fight even if over 50% are willing to split? How about northern ireland? What’s your opinion? well, I agree with author Chinese should have freedom and democracy…..but I am being patient for now..

June 21, 2005 @ 5:10 pm | Comment

Sorry, the last post by me, somehow I put Allan’s name in it. you now know how strange i am, Richard, could you change that?

June 21, 2005 @ 5:12 pm | Comment

China’s real enemies are the English, the French, the Dutch, the Japanese, the Russians who each raped and pillaged China in turn.

Taiwan is a U.S. puppet of “democracy”. There is no democracy in USA. It is more oppressive and controlled than China. If students try to protest against Bush’s anti-Iraq policy, they will get arrested and blacklisted and not receive funding for college.

Any country who does not have a strong military buildup will be invaded…look at Kuwait.

The thing is how to balance expenses spent on military buildup without damaging local economy by siphoning too much money out into Defense.

China was strongest under its most wicked rulers. Chin Shi Huang. He was brutal to his own Chinese people. Millions of lives were sacrificed building the Great Wall of China. During the Han Dynasty when China was the strongest.

If Beijing can successfully control 1 billion people, it is no wonder it is now controlling the world. Compared to George Bush who has only entry-level experience at government, the capitalist “Communists” have MBAs in governing massive numbers of people.

It is a force too great that no one can fight. We had better get used to it

June 24, 2005 @ 11:25 am | Comment

My word. You think China is “controlling” its people? Heard about all the riots lately? As far as the control goes — anyone can “control” another by brute force. China does that a heck of a lot more than the US! Please get your facts straight and get your head our of your posterior.

June 24, 2005 @ 11:36 am | Comment

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