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August 16, 2003

Crouching China, Paper Tiger


by Sascha Matuszak

A plane incident of a different sort is quietly being played out between the Chinese and US governments even as The Six Nations gear up for talks that may lead to temproary peace or disasterous war on the Korean peninsula.

As one of the 124 Consulates and embassies around the world with Marine Security Guard (MSG) detachmentrs, the US Consulate in Chengdu is also slotted to receive high-tech surveillance and security equipment to complement the soldiers and the barricaded walls that surround the complex. It seems a flight from the US to Chengdu carrying this equpiment was held at Chengdu Shuangliu airport for a day while Chinese authorities tried to convince the US that an "inspection" of the cargo was necessary before it could be delivered. The plane promptly flew back and quiet talks are underway, as the US tries to get its military hardware into China without giving the Chinese a chance to "inspect" and/or copy the technology.

The MSG consists of 1100 men and is spread across the globe protecting US interests – one of the largest of these detachments is in Cairo, with over 27 Marines. Karachi also has a reinforced detachment of 36 Marines. In battered "weak" or "unstable" states, these detachments may go unmolested as the countries in question have little option but to resort to shadowy force, which will then bring down Imperial wrath.

But with China, the US is dealing with a rival in the political and economic spheres with enough confidence to demand an inspection without fear of an effective reprisal. The stalemate over the protection of Consulates in China could go on forever – what does China really have to lose?

Cries for currency reevaluation and yet another study depicting the Chinese missile threat to Taiwan only harden China's resolve to be troublesome. Chinese media love to point out the "hegemonic" tendencies of the lone superpower, holding them up to cilvilized, gentlemanly ridicule as the methods of a fearful bully.

When the Pentagon put pre-emption into the Korean limelight, the People's Daily jumped all over it, calling such actions "detrimental" and "unwise." With weapons increasingly becoming the face of US policy, nations such as China – which routinely use force to quell riots by destitute and desperate peasants (just as the National Guard did with miners in Colorado and weavers in New England at the turn of the century) – are able to mask their own lack of credibility and scrape a little more of the same off of the crumbling US visage.

Problems such as the one facing the Consulate in Chengdu are a direct result of a foreign policy infused with the doctrine of intervention and poisoned by unilateral ideals and the actions of our leaders, whose motives have little to do with the values they espouse. Such a foreign policy helps China continue making big money through foreign investment and economic based – instead of security based – alliances with the nations of the world.

And what can the US say in return, when Wall Street is "protected" by armed soldiers?

Currency reevaluation becomes a joke: a final pouting jab at a country which has no intention of reevaluating, no matter what the benfits of a stronger currency may be in the long run for China.

When India recognized Chinese language on the issue of Tibet, it was a major political and di-plomatic victory over the US. Yet another played out bargaining chip has been reduced to a backwater pawn by intra-Asian negotiations.

The slow waning of US power has little to do with values or culture, as the original core values of the American people are sound. It has to do with a small minority who see basic carrot and (a very big) stick diplomacy as the key to maintaining the status quo.

What future Administration officials should recognize is that the predictions of an Asian century, even if they prove partly unfounded, will most likely manifest themselves in an extremely rich China with leverage over the ASEAN countries, mind control over the Indians, peace-maker credibility in NE Asia and an increasingly pervasive image as a money hungry, nationalist but ultimately non-militaristic/non-expansionist behemoth.

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  • Sascha Matuszak is a freelance writer living in Chengdu.

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