China’s Foot and Mouth Epidemic Spreads Worldwide

Even Peruvians are suffering from the Chinese contagion. Photo courtesy of Hugo VT@Flickr

I mean really, why don’t they just make the entire Blue Team China’s diplomatic corps? Let’s recap recent events, shall we? In the past three months alone six Chinese officials have done more to make China look like it’s run by a bunch of humorless hermit dictators who don’t know the difference between honest, open diplomacy and a tank rolling over your grandmother than all the hordes of the Reverend Moon combined.

* August 16: Zhang Qingli, CPC Secretary of Tibet, told Der Spiegel that the Dalai Lama “deceived the Motherland” and compared him, implicitly, to a retarded dog.
Possible gains: domestic nationalists feel he’s a tough hero.
Possible losses: everybody else thinks China looks like a big bully, loses face. Dalai Lama book sales increase.

* August 17: Sha Zukang, Chinese Ambassador to the UN, told the BBC that the United States should just “shut up”. Result: looks unprofessional and overly defensive.
Possible gains: Those with anti-American sentiments feel some schadenfreude, slap China on the back.
Possible losses: China looks undiplomatic, unprofessional, overly defensive – not unlike a petulant 6 year old.

* October 31: Yang Xiaoqun, attached to the Chinese Embassy to the UN in Geneva, tells the Internet Governance Forum there is no censorship of the Internet, while on a panel moderated by a BBC reporter, no less.
Possible gains: I can’t think of one.
Possible losses: Chinese diplomats believed to be bald faced liars with way too much chutzpah. Lose MySpace friends.

* November 10: Jia Youling of the Agricultural Bureau told AP in a statement there is no Fujian-like virus variant, which is a dumb idea, as Imagethief made clear.
Possible gain: look authoritative?
Possible losses: look like idiots and/or bald faced liars if such a virus does emerge. Allow deadly virus to wipe out one quarter of humanity.

* November 14: Sun Yuxi, Chinese Ambassador to India, repeats China’s claim to the disputed Indian province of Arunachal Pradesh on CNN-IBN,
Possible gains: Chinese nationalists, Party appreciate toughness.
Possible losses: Nuclear war with India.

* November 16: Jiang Yu, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, said the report of a Chinese sub surfacing near the US Kitty Hawk carrier group was “not in line with fact”. Meanwhile Chinese officials told Admiral Roughead, PACOM commander, that the sub was there, but it was international waters and within its rights.
Possible gains: none.
Possible losses: Foreign Ministry looks like it issued a knee-jerk denial, doesn’t talk to the navy. Fuel Bill Geertz’s delusion that he somehow makes meaningful, intelligent contributions to the human race.

During the Cold War, Soviet and American subs played cat and mouse all the time, and there’s a good argument to be made that submarine espionage reduced tensions more than it heightened them because it allowed each side to better judge the other. It’s the lack of knowledge of the opposing side that leads to fevered imaginations dreaming up implausible scenarios – like, say, the Soviets testing nuclear weapons on the dark side of the moon. The Foriegn Ministry, making denials simultaneously contradicted by naval officials, simply feeds the “China Threat” drum beating of a hack like Geertz. It feeds into the idea that the Cold War continues on between China and the U.S. and can easily spiral into a self-fulfilling prophecy. The goal ought to be making Bill Geertz look like an idiot – not the other way around.

Luckily, unlike Bill Geertz, US Pacific Command understands this. Admiral William Fallon, according to The Australian, “said the description of the Chinese submarine as “stalking” Kitty Hawk was “rather sensational” and urged an end to Cold War concepts of China.” You hear that Geertz? The US Navy says STFU.

The Discussion: 10 Comments

One thing I’ll never understand about China is the delicate balance between the concept of face and the total loss of it through instances like these. Now, I have a sociological question. Is outright lying /denial a product of a confucian system or actually a relatively new phenonmenon caused by the arrival of communism? I wonder if it’s only a temporary problem that will be fixed once China realizes that the rest of the world finds it laughable.

November 18, 2006 @ 11:33 am | Comment

Trust me, Gertz isn’t listening. He is the quintessential agenda-driven reporter. His article last week got picked up by the usual hysteria-driven bloggers like Malkin and Powerline, who are ready to declare war on China. Gertz caters to this crowd.

Superb roundup of the idiocies of certain Chinese officials.

November 18, 2006 @ 11:51 am | Comment

Is it just me or does the entire world have a leadership stupidity problem? Good summary.

November 18, 2006 @ 12:47 pm | Comment

In general I agree with Dave’s assessments, except for the last incident.

What the Chinese Foreign Ministry was denying was almost certainly the characterization that the sub was -stalking- the U.S. carrier. They were not denying that their sub was in the area, or that it surfaced in striking range of the Kitty Hawk.

One thing Gertz failed to consider is that the top speed of the improved Song (Type 039G) while submerged is less than 20 knots, making it physically impossible for the sub to “stalk” the carrier, which normally travels much faster. (The newspaper articles don’t make it clear, but I think it’s save to assume it was the very quiet improved Song class — the original Song class is noisy and ancient.)

Over on Chinese’s forum, I’ve read at least two possible theories to explain this incident. One is that the Chinese have developed the ability to track distant carrier groups in real-time (such as by satellite), and the Song positioned itself ahead of time to lay in wait for the carrier group. This would make the incident either a test by the PLAN, or a demonstration to the Americans. Nobody on the forum seemed to consider whether or not this would have been the result of the PLA/PLAN or the sub captain acting without authorization from the political leadership.

The other theory is that the whole incident was unplanned — that the Song didn’t know the CG was going to roll in, and that it surfaced to -avoid- a serious incident. Personally I think this is the more likely explanation.

Either way, Gertz is wrong about the “stalking”, but I do think the incident is an embarrassment for the USN; I’m sure that — while publicly keeping very cool about it — they are carefully investigating how this could happen. It should serve as a warning to overly gung ho Blue Team dudes who would actually -love- a war with China — the USN has a force stronger than the rest of the world’s combined navies, but that doesn’t mean that a war over Taiwan wouldn’t be costly for everyone.

November 18, 2006 @ 6:35 pm | Comment

@Danfried: I really appreciate someone commenting talking details on this. Kudos.

On the MFA comment: if you look at the transcript, Jiang Yu does not say anything beyond “The Washington Times report is not in line with fact”. If by this she meant she took issue with the word “stalk”, she didn’t say it. She should have – one extra sentence would’ve been that much more suave. In the context of all the other poor communication, I think it would’ve counted for something.

On Theory #1: If this is true, then it would stand that it’s both a test and a demo, since surfacing makes it a “public statement” to the USN. Doesn’t that make this, in a sense, a form of dialogue? Why not just sneak away after proving to yourself you can do it?

On Theory #2: I think this is extremely plausible, and again it does signify a form of openness “Hey, we’re here, we don’t mean nuthin’ by it”.

And again, by surfacing, the USN has something to investigate in the first place. So once again, I think it reflects a move towards dialogue between the two navies on the Chinese side.

As for the Blue Team getting the warning, I think you’ll agree with me they’ll interpret as even more reason to strike sooner rather than later.

November 18, 2006 @ 6:53 pm | Comment

Oops. Just looked at the relevant thread on, and more than one person _did_ mention that this might be the case of the PLA or PLAN deliberately undermining Hu’s attempts at better relations.

I know Jiang Zemin stacked the Central Military Commission with his appointees, but I’m skeptical that Hu hasn’t established firm control at this point. But I’m willing to listen to other opinions.

November 18, 2006 @ 6:55 pm | Comment

@Danfried: Even if it’s still Jiang Zemin appointees, I don’t see how that would necessarily translate to an attempt to undermine Hu Jintao. To follow that, we’d have to know “to what end”? Replace him with a Zeminite?

One thing I have noticed is that the Chinese navy has some its own Thayer Mahan adherents, and Mahanian naval ideas are usually pushed in the US in order to procure funding. I’ve wondered if maybe its similiar in China – perhaps they did pull this stunt in order to lobby for a bigger naval budget?

November 18, 2006 @ 7:17 pm | Comment

Danfried, good comments. I too think that theory 2 is what actually happened in this case.

Dave, I doubt this incident was anything planned by the PLAN to lobby for a bigger budget. If an cheap outdated conventional Song class submarine can “stalk” a US aircraft carrier group, then why would the government give the PLAN more funds for building new Yuan class submarines, purchase expensive Kilo subs from Russia, or develop nuclear attack subs?

November 19, 2006 @ 6:56 am | Comment

Let the games begin!

China will watch us, we will watch them.

It is the way the world is folks..

Happy espionage to both sides….

November 19, 2006 @ 11:32 pm | Comment

Gotta agree with Richard on this one, Gertz is a windbag. The first clue should have been his statement that the Chinese sub was not detected. The USN does not ever under any circumstances reveal classified info on anti-sub capabilities. The article also mentioned the 2 nuke attack subs accompaning the CG. Strage he felt the need to ignore that the CG was also accompanied by fast attack subs and hunter/killer subs. It is highly unlikely the Chinese sub was undetected. It may have surfaced in response to one of the hunter/killer subs locking its weapons systems on it. This was a common practice by both the Soviet and US subs during the cold war. The Chinese commander may have felt it prudent to surface and show non hostile intent.

And since this occurred in international waters, just what options were there for the CG? The sub had just as much right to be there as the CG. Is Gertz suggesting that blowing it out of the water and starting a war with China was an acceptable response?

November 22, 2006 @ 5:36 pm | Comment

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