April 27, 2001
A Sensible China Policy For The American People
I do not really perceive any threat from China to the world or to the region.
~ Dick Cheney, Member of the Board of Directors, Morgan Stanley (1997)
Now that President George W. Bush has announced that America will do "whatever it took to help Taiwan defend theirself" [sic], it looks like we may be headed for a showdown with China. We’ve staked our superpower reputation on Taiwan’s independence, and we have "face" to save here, damn it. So what if popular opinion on Taiwan overwhelmingly favors reunification? When the president says "whatever it takes," it means US troops will be on hand to fight the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), regardless of how solidly pro-US the Taiwanese are. To hell with the lessons of Vietnam, and to hell with the fact that our latest pronouncements on Taiwan sound like direct provocations. Beijing may have thought it would only have to wait, and sooner or later Taiwan would drop into its hand like a ripe fruit. But now we’ll show ‘em. If there’s a new Chinese Civil War, those ChiCons may have to fight against Americans.
Maybe it really is about time we took off the kid gloves with these Commies. Don’t believe what you hear about the Chinese being only a regional military power. The ChiComs have been getting set to turn the whole world Communist by force at any moment. The PLA is getting ready to march down the Malay and Korean Peninsulas to export the Chinese variant of Communism to all of East Asia, and the Japanese and Vietnamese governments will be too scared to say a thing about it. Never mind that China doesn’t have a Warsaw Pact or any client states around the world. The PRC is the new USSR. Its leaders are so crazy they could launch nuclear missiles at California in the blink of an eye.
On the bright side, it’s good to know we’re going to have another enemy besides Saddam Hussein. He was getting kind of boring, hanging out in his bunker all the time. Now we can expect to hear a lot about the evils of Chinese Communism as the Cold War gets rolling. If we’re going to go to the brink with the ChiComs though, our China policy could be a little clearer than it is. Now that we have a really principled administration – one that views China as a "strategic competitor" instead of a "strategic partner" – maybe it’s time to send some clear signals as groundwork for a tough China policy. These ChiComs need to be put in their place so they know where they stand with Uncle Sam. So here’s an attempt at some constructive proposals on US policy toward what the Washington Times’ Bill Gertz calls the "China Threat."
America’s vocal denunciations of China’s human rights record began in 1989, when the regime in Beijing swept student protesters out of Tiananmen Square. Of course, we’d made an ally out of China much earlier, at a time when China’s human rights record made Tiananmen Square look like a picnic in the park, but that was "strategic." Back then, Chinese Communist Party Chairman Mao Zedong (the ultimate "Butcher of Beijing") was still launching terror drives willy-nilly in the country’s towns and villages, but we liked him anyway. Besides, when President Nixon went to Beijing to shake hands with blood-soaked Mao in the early 1970s, he kept some of the foil sachets of disinfecting "moist towelettes" from the airplane in his pocket.
So in 1989, when the US talked human rights to Beijing, the ChiComs had to know we meant business. When Tiananmen Square happened under the ancient and comparatively benign Deng Xiaoping, we were going to get tough, by golly. The blood on the streets was barely dry when two senior US officials from the administration of George Bush, Sr., headed straight over to Beijing on a "secret mission" to lay down the law on behalf of the American people. The American people evidently wanted it to be "secret," and so it was recorded for history as a "secret mission." Okay, so CNN covered it as it was happening and showed footage of National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft clinking wine glasses and raising a toast with the very leaders who had ordered the crackdown by the PLA. And yes, it almost looked like Scowcroft was raising a toast to the speed and efficiency of the Chinese leaders in crushing the demonstrations. But all that was obviously inadvertent, and CNN clearly wasn’t representing the American people when it didn’t keep the mission a secret.
Scowcroft and Undersecretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger went to Beijing to let the ChiComs know how the American people felt. They came armed with a US State Department document entitled "Themes," prepared just two days after the crackdown. "Themes" was supposed to provide a "framework" for discussions between the two envoys of the American people and Deng, and it must have scared the hell out of Beijing. It described the American people as "shocked and repelled by much of what they have seen and read about recent events in China." However, according to Scowcroft and Eagleburger, the American people apparently weren’t so "shocked and repelled" that they didn’t want to preserve the "strategic relationship" between the US and China. "Strategic interests" came first in the minds of the ever-watchful American people.
This stance may have confused the Chinese, since the American people at the time didn’t seem to be saying any more than they usually do about Tiananmen Square or anything else involving the internal affairs of foreign states. After a brief "ooh" and "aah," most Americans evidently went back to watching the ballgame on the other channel. So although Scowcroft and Eagleburger undoubtedly understood the American people’s enduring outrage a lot better than the Chinese leaders at the time, such a muddle had potential for creating future complications. To avoid that, I propose a firm and unambiguous policy, a statement of the American people’s position directed squarely at those leaders in Beijing. That statement should be as follows:
The American people are very, very concerned about human rights in China. We’re so concerned that we want to make something perfectly clear. Where our strategic interests are at stake, we’re not going to stand in your way if you violate human rights. But if you ever, EVER violate human rights when there are NO strategic interests at stake, boy you guys are really in trouble. Let that be a warning to you.
This would clear things up handily. It would let China know exactly where the American people stood, and would avoid the risk of sending conflicting signals such as those sent by Scowcroft and Eagleburger. That isn’t to imply that Scowcroft and Eagleburger didn’t do the right thing for the American people back then. Both Scowcroft and Eagleburger surely had the American people in mind when they sought to keep open the "lines of communication" with China right after Tiananmen Square. Even if the American people can’t be completely certain what other "themes" were discussed in their secret meeting with the leaders in Beijing, therefore, they can be confident that when Scowcroft and Eagleburger set up their respective consulting practices in Washington to win contracts in China for their business contacts at a healthy fee, they had the interests of the American people at heart.
Some of the American people got really mad when the PRC authorities took 24 US servicemen and women into custody on April 1st. They tied yellow ribbons to trees and stood next to their congressmen and senators to express their outrage and indignation. Lt. Shane Osborn announced after returning home that he had been "tortured" in captivity. He hadn’t had a decent night’s sleep in over 24 hours and those ChiComs kept waking him up to ask him questions. Back home, there must have been some former inmates of Vietnam POW camps who could really sympathize with Lt. Osborn’s harrowing torture tale. So we need to send a message to Beijing that the US military means business. It’s one thing for the brutal leaders in Beijing to crack down on their own people. But if they mess with the American people – be afraid… be very afraid. That’s why I propose the following.
The Bush administration (on behalf of the American people) currently plans to outfit the entire US Army with black berets as a way of raising the flagging morale of that branch of the armed forces. Formerly, only one unit of the Army wore black berets, the super-elite Rangers. The black berets delineated the Rangers from the rest of the Army and symbolized the special training they had to go through to become Rangers. Obviously, making the black beret standard issue for the whole Army would likely lower the Rangers’ morale, but the morale of the Army as a whole would be bound to go up, at least for a month or two!
What does this have to do with China? Well, since the Army has ordered the berets from the PRC, and the American people are so outraged about the spy plane incident, the Army has a couple of choices. One option is to rip out the little "Made in China" tags from all the berets so our regular Army soldiers have no idea their new headgear isn’t as American as apple pie. Another option is for the Army to acknowledge openly the origins of the berets and adopt a more politically useful approach.
When the US Army receives the approximately 3 million black berets from the PRC, it should give the berets it doesn’t use to the Taiwanese. Since 3 million is a lot more than the number of soldiers in the US Army, and Taiwan supposedly has an army of about 430,000, by giving half a million black berets to Taiwan and convincing the Taiwanese to make them part of their army’s uniform, the US could achieve a tremendous psychological coup and really show those Chinese Commies that American military solidarity with Jesse Helms’s "Free China" isn’t to be trifled with.
Imagine American and Taiwanese soldiers all wearing made-in-PRC black berets, standing shoulder-to-shoulder in a show of force against the mainland. What an ominous sight! We could say to Beijing: "You guys may have made these berets and we may have paid you for them, but now the Taiwanese are wearing them too, and we mean business!" Our senior army commanders could hold a high-profile joint press conference with the Taiwanese army chiefs wearing their new hats. We could send US Army advisers to Taiwan wearing the berets as well, and they could sit around somber military briefing rooms with their Taiwanese counterparts, planning the defense of "Free China" against the coming ChiCom onslaught. The strategies that came out of such sessions would be brilliant, since everyone would be wearing his "thinking cap."
Beijing has complained publicly about Washington’s decision to sell military hardware to Taiwan, including four destroyers and some submarines. The US was going to sell Taiwan one of its most advanced combat radar systems, but ultimately decided against it. Yet still the government of the PRC complained.
We need to get tough with these ChiComs. When they complain about our sale of weapons to Taiwan, we need to tell them to shut up and stop griping. We should point out to the whole world that ht ChiComs have nothing to whine about, because America sold them avionics upgrades for their F8-II fighters, including guidance and weapons systems improvements. We allowed their military officers into the US to work with Northrop Grumman (one of the American people’s biggest defense manufacturers) to modernize their fighters – including the one that collided with the American people’s plane over the South China Sea and resulted in our servicemen and women being taken into custody.
While we’re at it, we can point out to the ChiComs that Israel, the "strategic" ally of the American people, sold them the very same Python 3 air-to-air missiles that were on the ChiChom jet that collided with our EP-3E surveillance plane over the South China Sea. Israel also sold Beijing the Phalcom airborne early warning system. Do these Chinese ingrates think Israel could manufacture and market this kind of equipment without the comfortable multibillion-dollar cushion of annual aid it gets from the American people?
The American people’s largest defense contractor and producer, McDonnell Douglas, allowed their procurement agents to inspect the plant where B-1 bombers are assembled and let them take lots of pictures of production lines. Another American firm, Loral, transferred advanced satellite technology to the ChiComs and the US also sold 77 "supercomputers" (capable of 13 billion calculations per second) to Beijing. And these guys have the nerve to complain about a few subs and destroyers going to Taiwan? It’s time for Uncle Sam to put his foot down. The man to deliver the message on behalf of the American people should be James G. Roche, President Bush’s nominee for Secretary of the Air Force and corporate vice president of Northrop Grumman.
Those ChiComs had it coming to ‘em. American businesses have come into China with the best of intentions and tried to act as a great moral force in Chinese society. And look how Beijing has repaid them. US companies have performed the invaluable, honorable role of showing the Chinese the moral imperative of serving the Corporation. The Chinese Communists could never reform themselves on their own politically. That takes American corporate executives – big men of unassailable character who know all the right people to pay off to get things done in a place like Communist China, and who care passionately about the rule of law.
So the American people know that when their leaders talk about the Chinese Communist threat, and those leaders are men with business experience in China, they mean it. Our leaders have already shown their resolve through an understanding that the interests of American corporations abroad can’t be separated from the interests of American citizens at home, and the American people love them for it. If American companies can find super cheap labor in China, Americans know it’s in their interest to lose their jobs to Chinese people, because Americans are fulfilling their historical destiny when they get laid off. They also know there’s no contradiction between their leaders drooling over profits in China on the one hand and condemning Beijing as a red menace on the other.
Apart from Scowcroft and Eagleburger, there are many distinguished Americans who have consistently taken a tough line on standing up to Chinese Communism while skillfully protecting their financial interests in China on behalf of the American people. During the 11-day crisis over the downed US spy plane, Vice President Dick Cheney was on hand to lend his weight to the administration’s tough, principled stand against Beijing, and even insisted on behalf of the American people that the spy missions off China’s coast would continue uninterrupted. Cheney displayed his deep understanding the true nature of the Chinese. As a director of the Morgan Stanley investment bank, he presided over the rapid growth of his company’s joint venture with the Communist Chinese government, the People’s Construction Bank of China. In 1997, Cheney even secured a business meeting with the overtly anti-American Chinese Minister of National Defense, Chi Haotian.
Then there was former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. It was reported that President Bush called Kissinger during the crisis, because if anyone knew about those ChiChoms, it was Kissinger from his days in Nixon’s cabinet in the 1970s. Henry knew how to deal with the Communists because he understood them, he grasped their way of thinking, and he hadn’t gotten rusty in his years out of government. As founder of Kissinger Associates, he had plenty of experience finding business in Communist China for his corporate clients. This was someone who could really serve the American people in dealing with the ChiComs.
The administration has a whole host of American patriots it can call on to lend support to its tough, principled stand against the ChiComs. Distinguished public servants such as former Secretary of State Alexander Haig and former US Trade Representative Carla Hills have worked as top-dollar consultants for American businesses investing in Communist China. Former Secretary of State George Shultz has helped US construction giant Bechtel (of which he is a director) cultivate a lucrative relationship with the Communist Chinese government, and former White House Chief of Staff Howard Baker, as partner of a high-powered law firm, has represented clients seeking business in the PRC. And let’s not forget about help from Congress, because House Speaker Dennis Hastert is surely an expert on the Chinese by now too. Last year he hired a registered agent of a Chinese company linked to the PRC’s military intelligence to be his senior adviser on foreign policy and defense matters. Last but not least, President Bush’s uncle Prescott (brother of George Bush, Sr.) is head of the US-China Chamber of Commerce.
Since President Bush is so committed to "bringing people together in Worshington, DC," there’s no reason not to call on Democrats for support in standing up to China. Former Secretary of State Cyrus Vance’s law firm has represented companies looking to do business with the Communist Chinese, and Clinton’s Secretary of State Warren Christopher has got in on the ChiCom business action too.
In this time of crisis, the American people need to call on each and every one of their fine public servants to be tough in confronting the Red Menace of the PRC. The American people can be proud that they have so many leaders that can tap their reserves of experience in dealing closely with China in order to defeat the Communist peril. Having selflessly developed lucrative financial ties with Beijing in the service of the American people, they will be highly credible as the vanguard of the new struggle to overcome the Red Horde (just as long as it doesn’t involve a trade war). Whether it’s human rights, Taiwan, the US military, or battling Communism, we have a team of exemplary public figures to shape a newer, tougher China policy for the 21st century.
Please Support Antiwar.com
A contribution of $50 or more will get you a copy of Ronald Radosh's out-of-print classic study of the Old Right conservatives, Prophets on the Right: Profiles of Conservative Critics of American Globalism. Send contributions to
520 S. Murphy Avenue, #202
Sunnyvale, CA 94086
Contribute Via our Secure Server
Credit Card Donation Form
Have an e-gold account?
Contribute to Antiwar.com via e-gold.
ur account number is 130325