October 25, 2002

'We Make You Play Bad Card'
Chairman Jiang Visits the Ranch

Jiang Zemin's visit to Bush's ranch on Friday may prove decisive for US plans to wage war in Iraq. The Chinese government is thoroughly enjoying its relatively neutral stance throughout the War on Terrorism, while reaping the benefits of having its own "terrorist movement" in East Turkestan. Aside from deflecting the Bush Administration's early attempts to categorize China as a strategic competitor, China has also gained US support for its suppression of the Uighurs, reduced pressure on "illicit" arms deals and, now, its very own FBI attache office in Beijing.

While Jiang smiles and nods in Texas, business leaders convene for the 6th annual CEO meeting in Beijing and John "Crackdown" Ashcroft helps the masters of domestic suppression streamline their tactics all in the name of fighting terrorism. For now, China remains the darling of suits worldwide and increasingly of the less-hawkish of the hawks who see the Chinese as a powerful ally in the new war. China is known for zero tolerance of rebellious elements in society, and this will fit nicely with Aschcroft's vision of a "safe and secure" New World Order. It would be interesting to hear what tips the FBI and its Chinese counterparts whisper to each other in the coming months on the grounds of the new FBI office in Beijing ...

A vote on the "hardline" resolution proposed by the US and its toady Lesser Britain to the UN Security Council concerning disarmament of Iraq is coming up, and fears of a China, France, Russia blockade of US war aims can be effectively set aside. France will most likely break down at the last moment – grumbling. Russia may fight to the bitter end, but China will see the advantage in abstaining: continuous US support and decrease in China rhetoric, more business pouring into the "stable" investment environment and after the Bali bombings, a new reason to request further aid and cooperation.

China's oil and gas interests in Indonesia are extensive and vitally important. Just a few weeks ago, China and Indonesia signed agreements and pledges designed to keep the energy business thriving and China's dependence on Middle East oil at a minimum. China is now seeing all of its energy sources endangered by terrorists or would-be terrorists – it would be very wise for China to jump on the bandwagon and "fight the good fight." In Central Asia, the Middle East and now South East Asia, there is a need for China to establish a stability of sorts to insure a free and steady flow of oil and gas – for this reason alone it would be worth it for China to disregard American aggression and allow the hardline resolution to pass through the council, thereby giving America what it already possessed before the UN negotiations began: a free hand to blow stuff up in the Middle East.

If anyone was in the dark about China's stance on the upcoming Iraq War, just take a quick glance through the party controlled media: whereas prior America-led wars were criticized harshly and dubbed machinations of a hegemon, recently the media has been conspicuously silent. This means China approves – albeit from a distance. Unlike Europe, Australia and the vacation spots of the world, China does not come up on the list of terrorist targets. One reason being that China is very quick to execute terrorists and their neighbors, dogs, water buffalo etc. but also because China is not yet a tourist haven for affluent westerners and China is still considered by many in the West to be an enemy ... kind of.

China could be one of the safest spots in the world these days. And the cautious yet neutral stance helps to keep both legs dangling on either side of the fence. There is enough denunciation of hegemony and unilateralism to keep the US hawks uneasy, enough smiles and handshakes to keep the moderates convinced and enough business opportunities to keep the suits clamoring for a peaceful relationship between China and the rest of the world.

So far, the Chinese government is doing a great job of making the US play bad cards. The Hainan Incident was seen by many to be US instigated – only Communist hatin' patriots clamored that spying is good and we should be allowed to do it, because everybody does. The Bush crew's attempts to make China into an enemy unnerved everybody and would have been scrapped eventually regardless of 9/11. Even foolish George can count the money his pals are making in the Middle Kingdom. And throughout the new war China has kept relatively silent and let America pile up bodies and enemies while China piles up cash and invitations to international shin-digs. If there really is a conflict between a rising power and an established superpower, than the guy on the rise is doing a good job of dodging blows while the champ busts himself in the mouth.

The fly in the ointment (or the biggest of the many) is North Korea's admission that they have nukes. China most definitely held N. Korea's hand throughout the whole nuke-building process. The Bushies are embarrassed and don't know what to do – the whole argument for invading Iraq were the potential WMD capabilities of Saddam. Now that there is a member of the dreaded "axis" with nukes, a starving populace and a naughty leader, it would make sense to reverse and start a troop buildup in Japan, right? But fighting in East Asia ain't the same and the last time the US fought in Korea waves of Chinese soldiers crossed the border and turned a rout into a stalemate.

Can China keep a leash on its starving puppy? After the US torpedoed the Sunshine Policy with its ridiculous axis of evil statements, the chances of North Korea retreating back into never never land increased. Why they would suddenly decide to nuke somebody has not yet been explained and if the US really does care about the rights of non-Americans the world over then why not engage North Korea and bring sunshine into that crazy spot?

Well. I haven't heard of any big exports coming out of N. Korea and Iraq has no friends, least of all a friend like China. So I suppose it does make more sense for the US to beat up on Iraq. Why not finish it once and for all and help out all those Iraqis who have been waiting for so long for respite?

This may very well be the main topic of discussion during the 90 minutes or so of time slotted for face to face important chit chat between Jiang and Bush. The terrorism problem, the business deals, the Taiwan question, human rights and all that stuff – these things are the stuff of rhetoric. Both countries seem to have gained an understanding on these issues. But the Korea problem remains a wildcard. Because now the whole world knows what the US government has known all along. If the North decides to do something rather ... rash, the poo will hit the fan.

I'm sure along with reassurances of an abstaining vote, continued Opening Up of the economy, no moves on the strait and more cooperation in hunting down bad guys in turbans, the two leaders will need to come up with a concrete plan to deal with a nuclear armed North Korea.

-Sascha Matuszak

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Sascha Matuszak is a teacher living and working in China. His articles have appeared in the South China Morning Post, the Minnesota Daily, and elsewhere. His exclusive Antiwar.com column (usually) appears Fridays.

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