October 18, 2005
The Red Scare, Yellow Peril Style
China's meteoric economic growth figures, combined with it's similarly metereoic ascent into space and sky-high defense budget, has provoked considerable anxiety in the United States. Donald Rumsfeld has called China a threat to Asain peace and stability, citing it's increased military expenditures and claims over Taiwan and assorted island chains. The sabre-rattling has begun to infiltrate the elite media as well - in what must count as one of the most provocative instances of alarmisms since the end of the Cold War, the Atlantic ran the following cover to an article on China's rise by Robert Kaplan:
The article itself, "The Next Cold War - How We Would Fight China," was no less inflamatory. Taking conflict almost as a given, Kaplan discusses Chinese tactics in loaded terms:
China has committed itself to significant military spending, but its navy and air force will not be able to match ours for some decades. The Chinese are therefore not going to do us the favor of engaging in conventional air and naval battles, like those fought in the Pacific during World War II. The Battle of the Philippine Sea, in late June of 1944, and the Battle of Leyte Gulf and the Surigao Strait, in October of 1944, were the last great sea battles in American history, and are very likely to remain so. Instead the Chinese will approach us asymmetrically, as terrorists do. In Iraq the insurgents have shown us the low end of asymmetry, with car bombs. But the Chinese are poised to show us the high end of the art. That is the threat.
His suggestions? Rebuild the NATO alliance to counter China, and build a similar coalition in Asia to encirlce and contain the rising power. And it has found some willing partners - both Japan and India have recently deepened security cooperation with the US.
The response from Chinese sources has been predictable - official media outlets argue the harmlessness of China's growth and try to counter American claims. What is more suprising is that this has been picked up by other media, including in Canada, traditionally one of America's closest allies. In an extensive piece in the Walrus (Canada's most seriously intellecual newsmagazine), Gwynne Dyer argues that is the American strategy of containment, and not China's rise, that threatens regional peace and stability. In his piece, there is no ambiguity about what is at stake, and who is to blame:
If there's anyone left to write the history of how the Third World War happened, they might well focus on June 28, 2005, as the date when the slide into global disaster became irreversible. That was the day when India's defense minister, Pranab Mukherjee, and US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld signed a ten-year agreement in Washington on military co-operation, joint weapons production, and missile defense - not quite a formal US-Indian alliance, but close enough to one that China finally realized it was the target of a deliberate American strategy to encircle and 'contain' it.'
It's not clear yet what China plans to do about it, but since June the rhetoric out of Beijing has been unprecedentedly harsh. In mid-July, for example, Major General Zhu Chenghu warned in an official briefing that China is under pressure to drop its policy of 'no first strike' of nuclear weapons in the event of a military conflict with the US over Taiwan. 'We have no capability to fight a conventional war against the United States,' he said. 'We can't win this kind of war.' And so China would deliberately escalate to nuclear weapons: 'We Chinese will prepare ourselves for the destruction of all the cities east of Xian. Of course the Americans will have to be prepared that hundreds of [their] cities will be destroyed by the Chinese.
Posted October 18, 2005 12:08 AM
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