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The Un-peaceful Pacific
by Vieno Vehko
2008-05-08 08:14:32
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Today China is more than a defensive, easily offended, blustering nation: the PRC is a superpower with economic clout, nuclear weapons, an independent space program and currently the chary host to the 2008 Olympic Games. But clearly in the global arena the Chinese are not planning to simply compete for accolades and sports medals: the country's appetite for resources, energy and food is growing exponentially and affecting global resources. Some Beijingers here think that China's economic success will push it toward greater aggressiveness and further defiance of international opinion, perhaps even war.

China's rulers need economic exchange, technology transfer and trade with the West - but would they start a war in the interests of staying in power? It is my personal belief that the massive surge of nationalism regarding the Beijing Olympics is being overtly encouraged by China's leaders in order to accomplish two main goals: as an attempt to retain and direct power by blaming the West for impending economic woes and as a preview of patriotism that will lead to a bid for Taiwan shortly after the Olympics.

As economic growth slows down, income gaps increase, along with social unrest and misery. Chinese corruption continues blatantly; this, combined with mass monetary misery will be enough to provoke the majority of ordinary citizens to protest unless the blame is shifted toward outsiders. Thus, a bid to establish pre-eminence in the Pacific Rim would direct burgeoning Chinese nationalism toward a historic goal – acquiring Taiwan - while effectively diverting attention from internal economic woes.

China's leadership cannot afford to lose their already questionable reputation and their grip on the economy - plus the increasing scarcity regarding imported food, energy and technology needs resolution, peaceful or otherwise. Historically, nations all over the globe have stirred up nationalism and fought wars for resources, wars to regain credibility, always blaming others for their woes. Currently, a Chinese video is circulating that blames foreign imperialists for Chinese inflation.

Clearly, Chinese political strategy uses nationalism as an incentive to fault the outside world, especially the USA, for the country's growing internal problems. Ordinary Chinese citizens do not question their domestic information sources or the cult of the state as the highest form of human organization, or the fact that the Chinese Army is single most powerful institution in the country. It is no secret that modern China, a corporatist, militarized, nationalist state, seeks superpower status and has the goal of becoming the paramount power in Asia.

In the face of Olympic torch relay protests, China's politicians and people blithely dismiss and attack the western press as biased and insulting while ignoring and denying international human rights entreaties. The country's increased confidence and arrogance, backed by current economic success and threatening statements regarding yet unleashed Chinese economic clout, sends a dangerous message: China's leadership listens to and fears no one: Communism is a viable alternative to democratic systems.

Along with nationalistic xenophobic techniques and name-calling, another annoying feature of Chinese political strategy lies in the way their leaders routinely resort to "the big lie" when threatened – complete denial, distortion and fabrication of historical facts. Tibetan independence is a case in point, along with the Chinese version of America's involvement in WWII. Moreover, the total disregard for the environment in order to promote economic growth and a blind eye to massive theft of western intellectual property rights after entering the WTO equate with the powerful elite's calculated denial to take responsibility for anything that might threaten their positions and wealth.

The Chinese appear to be unsatisfied and ambitious, with a deep psychological need to assert their superiority over others; Chinese articles convey a sense of feeling besieged and embattled by foreign powers. Resurging patriotism dates back to a few centuries of humiliations suffered from foreign invasions, perceived imperialist insults and a sense of thwarted grandeur. Throughout the ages xenophobia and the big lie have been used as useful tools used to fuel nationalism. Chinese hostility is currently directed at America and her allies because the US wants to keep any single power from dominating in Asia – thwarting China's need to be number one.

Unfortunately, the US, having gone three times into Asia to retain a balance of power and keep vital waterways open to all, is no longer wealthy and powerful due to wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and global inflation. In fact the country is in dire economic straits, with 70% of the US Treasury bonds being held by the PRC. Conversely, China's increasing economic power threatens American political, trade and cultural interests.

In parallel with Olympic preparations military competition between the US, China and Japan is also intensifying around Pacific waterways, especially regarding Taiwan. Non-Chinese seem to have either forgotten about or blithely ignore this little island, the small haven of "true China" left over after WWII. Yet Taiwan is strategic: oil must travel via tanker between this island and the mainland to reach Japan, America's greatest Asian ally.

By gaining control of Taiwan and the nearby waterways, expanding Chinese military presence around Asia and causing US troop withdrawal China could then keep Japan subordinate while dominating the entire region.

1972 saw the renewal of relations between China and the USA. Americans seemed relieved to have discarded their hostility. Efforts to cultivate common business interests took off after Deng Xiaoping's reforms began in 1978. Today, with global inflation rising, the relationship between the two superpowers is fast degenerating into dangerous rivalry with distrust, conflicting goals and insults as the norm.

In 1996 Chinese political leaders began calling the USA a sinister superpower and a superpower bully. In April 1997 Chinese leaders proclaimed: "Asian security should be decided by Asians". Chinese strategic policy lies in indirect threats but their goal is clear: to reduce and eventually eliminate the US power to constrain any military actions in the Pacific Rim area, especially regarding Taiwan.

It must be noted that the Chinese have always perceived interference in internal affairs as reminiscent of imperialist aggression. Indeed, the US has acted against Chinese wishes many times: Washington obstructed the Beijing bid for 2000 Olympics, condemned China's policy on Tibet, feted the Dalai Lama, and allowed the then president of Taiwan, Lee Tenghui, a private visit to the USA. Americans and Japanese even delayed China's entrance into the WTO. These insults have not been forgotten.

In response China re-established military cooperation with former Soviet Union and has also given much controversial help to Islamic countries, especially those that deeply resent the West. These actions call into question the possibility of a true strategic friendship between China and the US and the advent of the so-called "non-political" Olympic Games has not helped to ease any tensions.

Like all autocratic and despotic powers the Chinese leadership will stop at nothing to preserve political power. Unlike social democracies there are no checks and balances to monitor the leadership or curb excesses. The PRC has no rule by law and no due process in spite of their claims of having cut and pasted these features into the national legislative bodies. Representatives of the Chinese ministry are not real power and decision makers - they are simply props and mouthpieces who are often ordered to placate, bamboozle and deceive via empty phrases, misinformation and emotional outbursts. Fanning nationalism and encouraging xenophobia while spouting misinformation via the official press keeps Chinese citizens focused on blaming the outside world rather than their own leadership regarding policy issues.

The Olympic Games might better be dubbed "war games" – for as China continues to increase promoting a sense of wounded nationalism to the general population while importing global resources and juggling with increasing domestic inflation - starting a military conflict over Taiwan is in the cards, whether the Games go over well or not. The crucial question remains: How will the world respond?

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Emanuel Paparella2008-05-08 12:24:41
May you live in interesting times is allegedly a curse in Chinese. The above article surely makes the point that we live in very interesting times when the West's authentic beliefs and principles will be tested.

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