In March 1997, an excellent new book was published on U.S.-China relations. It is titled "The coming conflict with China" and written by Richard Bernstein and Ross H. Munro, two former correspondents who served as bureau chiefs in Beijing and Asia for Time Magazine, the New York Times, and the Toronto Globe and Mail.
The writers examines how, in spite of U.S. and West European attempts to open an "engagement policy" with China, during the past years China has increasingly portrayed the West, and particularly the United States, as "the enemy."
The book describes in detail the Chinese military buildup of naval, air and amphibious forces, which are not only targeted against Taiwan, but will enable China "...to seize and hold almost the entire South China Sea, now divided among Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, and the Philippines. Few Americans realize that China's stated goal is to occupy islands and outcroppings so far to the South that Chinese forces would be almost in sight of Singapore and Indonesia."
The book documents what the writers see as a fundamental change in attitude by Chinese leaders towards the United States during the past couple of years. They show that China has determined that the United States "...in
spite of the diplomatic contacts, trade, technology transfers, and the numerous McDonald's and Kentucky Fried Chickens open in the PRC..." is its chief global rival.
The book also describes in detail how a "New China Lobby" has evolved in Washington, powered by former Secretaries of State Henry Kissinger and Alexander Haig, and funded by major business interests such as Boeing, Motorola, Allied Signal, Caterpillar, GM and Ford. The book even gives dollar amounts of what Messrs. Eagleburger and Scowcroft receive from Kissinger Associates for their work.
The lobby includes Kissinger Associates, the US-China Business Council, the Emergency Committee for American Trade, the US Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Retailers, and the National Association of Manufacturers.
One example of how the lobby works: when U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher went to Beijing in 1994 to urge the Communist authorities to improve China's human rights record, he was rebuffed. According to Senator Ernest Hollings, this was because "Before you (Christopher) even landed in Beijing, the K-Street crowd of lawyers, consultants and special reps told the Chinese" "Don't worry about him."
Another example: just before the annual MFN vote in the Spring of 1996, Alexander Haig called California Congressman Christopher Cox and berated him, accusing him of "trying to destroy U.S.-China relations." What had Cox done ? In March 1996, during the Chinese missile crisis, when China was threatening Taiwan, he had introduced a resolution in Congress which was instrumental in the US-decision to send two aircraft carrier task forces to the Taiwan Straits to prevent an attack on Taiwan.
A major part of the book is the discussion of the problems in the Taiwan - China relationship. The authors argue for stronger US support for Taiwan, and state that an American commitment for the defense of the island is necessary for the balance of power and peace and stability in East Asia: "..without American commitment to intervene in a Taiwan-China conflict, there would be very little standing in the way of Chinese domination of all of East Asia, and this fact is well understood from Australia to Tokyo."
In an interesting hypothetical chapter, the authors describe how a conflict could evolve in which in 2004, China is itself in some domestic turmoil. It has secretly developed three times as many submarines, landing craft, and warships as the world believes, giving it the arsenal necessary for an operation taking Taiwan in three days.
A provoked incident in Taipei is taken as an excuse by the Chinese authorities to launch a blockade and later the attack itself. The book then describes the hypothetical discussions in the White House about the American options, which by that time are rather limited. The main point of the authors is that at present the United States government continues to be naïve about China's long-range interests and goals.
The book concludes with a chapter "Coping with China" in which the authors give suggestions for a clearer, more forthright US policy towards China. Highly recommended reading.
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