Reader Larwyn tipped me off to this Washington Post article from Robert Kagan, "Those Subtle Chinese". Mr. Kagan writes about the lack of subtlety in which the Chinese are pursuing "diplomacy" against Taiwan and neighbors Japan and Australia. The Chinese recently tabled an "anti-secession bill" aimed at Taiwan (see earlier DEL post here).
"What's striking about this bellicose 'legislation' is not only the content but the timing. It comes on the heels of an election in Taiwan in which pro-independence forces are widely assumed to have suffered a bit of a setback and when Taiwan's president, Chen Shui-bian, seems intent on improving the climate of cross-strait relations. He recently announced publicly that he would 'not declare independence,' would not seek an amendment to the constitution to change Taiwan's status and would not 'promote a referendum to change the status quo in regards to the issues of independence or unification.' Perhaps Beijing thinks it is wise to follow this softening of the Taiwanese position with a renewed round of threats and intimidation, though if history is any guide, such intimidation will produce the opposite effect in Taiwan.
"The threat also comes as some of China's neighbors, notably Japan and, more quietly, Australia, are evincing some nervousness about China's growing power and muscle-flexing. Japan has recently sought to broaden the scope of its security ties with the United States and for the first time has explicitly discussed joint U.S.-Japanese cooperation in the event of a crisis in the Taiwan Strait. What better way for China to soothe Japanese nervousness than to appear even more belligerent?
"But Chinese subtlety doesn't end there. According to a report this week in The Australian, Chinese officials have recently demanded that the Australian government 'review' its 50-year-old treaty with the United States. Australia 'needs to be careful,' Beijing Foreign Ministry official He Yafei reportedly warned, lest it wind up in a confrontation with China as part of its treaty obligations to the United States. Now, anyone who knows the Australian character knows that this kind of blunt 'warning' and demand for a loosening of security ties with the United States is precisely the wrong tack to take if you really hope to influence Australian policy. So the Chinese must be operating on an entirely different plane of diplomatic sophistication."
Taiwan is acting less aggressive versus China, and China is upping the ante. This is expressed in China's addition of more missiles, up to 800 across the Taiwan Straight. There is nothing like the Chinese telling the Aussies that they need to "redo" their security agreement with the US. Yes, the Chinese would be much better partners than us Americans, especially when they start flinging missiles into the Pacific and threatening neighbors with "non-peaceful means".
Time is on the side of those supporting democracy. China is on the wrong side of history, and, as a growing Chinese middle class worries less about daily survival, they will want to have a voice in their affairs. China, through a strong central state, can and has delayed democracy, but the tides of history point that communism is dead, and if China truly wants to be a world power, it will have to do so with a free society. Otherwise it is doomed to a failure like their other large Asian neighbor to the north.