13 March 1996
US Warships out of East Asia!
1. The Chinese navy manoeuvres in the Taiwan Strait are a defensive response
to American intervention in the region, not an example of Chinese warmongering.
All independent nations conduct military manoeuvres and the Chinese navy's
actions in the Taiwan strait are by no means exceptional - except to those
Western leaders who think that China ought not to have an independent military
capability. Far from seeking conflict with Taiwan the Chinese government
had been seeking an accommodation with the Taiwanese leadership, culminating
in the January 1995 talks with the Taiwan Straits Foundation.
Only the United States' willingness to support Taiwan's application for
United Nations membership as 'the Republic of China on Taiwan' - a challenge
to mainland China's legitimacy - and to resume the sale of F16 fighters
to Taiwan makes the current situation exceptional.
2. Taiwan is not an independent country, but a part of China that survives
only because of US patronage.
Historically Taiwan was never an independent nation but a part of China.
The current political division is an outcome of the victory of the Maoist
revolution in 1949 and the defeat of the more moderate nationalists under
Chiang Kai-shek, whose supporters created the Taiwanese statelet in a former
Taiwan has survived only through the sponsorship of the United States. Until
the rapprochement between Mao and Nixon in the seventies, the US recognised
the Taiwanese as the legitimate government of China, giving them China's
seat on the UN security council. Until recently, though, Taiwan was isolated
as America mended fences with the Chinese as a way of isolating the Soviet
Now the Americans have once again turned to Taiwan in an attempt to undermine
Chinese sovereignty, and to undermine China's attempts to negotiate a settlement
with Taiwan's leader Li Teng-Hui.
3. The main tension is not in China's relationship with Taiwan, but with
America's relationship with the rapidly developing economies of the region.
American naval power in East Asia outweighs that of any of the indigenous
countries, China included (see Walden Bello People and Power in the Pacific,
Pluto Press). The justification for the preponderance of American fire power
has been that it is necessary to contain communism. In fact the Cold War
policies pursued by America in East Asia were largely designed to contain
the regions' emerging capitalist nations, Japan, South Korea, Singapore
and Malaysia. Since the Chinese government has opened up to the market,
it too has become a serious challenger to the economic dominance of the
The more that the East Asian countries try to plough their own furrow, free
from American guidance, the more the US plays up the conflict with China.
Provoking a conflict with China is one way of maintaining an American presence
in the region.
4. The United State's aggressive stance is given added impetus by the
looming American election.
American presidents have shown a marked propensity to provoke military conflicts
when elections are on the way. George Bush invaded Iraq and Somalia in the
run up to the 1992 elections. Bill Clinton escalated the conflict in the
former Yugoslavia by lifting the arms embargo and then bombing Serb positions
during the congressional elections in November 1995. Now he is sabre- rattling
in the South China Sea as part of his campaign for the 1996 election in
Western leaders can do precious little to shore up their legitimacy on the
domestic stage, and so prefer to act tough in the international arena when
they want to be seen to be doing something. Clinton's latest tough stance
is an example of the tendency to try to resolve problems of domestic legitimacy
through militarism abroad.
5. Western governments have made a succession of attempts to criminalise
the Chinese government from the United Nations Women's Conference in Beijing
last year to the furore over 'the Dying Rooms'.
Western leaders have taken every opportunity to criminalise the Chinese
regime since the end of the Cold War in Europe. Allegations of human rights
abuses and nuclear brinkmanship have been used to attack China. As the West's
last superpowered opponent, China has been the focus of Western insecurities
ever since the Eastern Bloc collapsed - though, pointedly, China's vast
market has tempted the US to set aside ideological considerations and grant
China the trading status of a 'most favoured nation'.
Last year's United Nations conference on Women in Beijing turned into an
anti-Chinese hate festival. Western feminists, led by the president's wife
Hillary Clinton, sought to portray China as a chauvinistic society that
encouraged the slaughter of chinese girl-children in the name of the one-child
policy. Since then the Channel Four documentaries 'The Dying Rooms' and
'Return to the Dying Rooms' have alleged official complicity in the killing
of girl-children in state orphanages. (See China
in the March issue of Living Marxism).
The various attempts to vilify the Chinese regime are designed to make Western
values look civilised in comparison to the alleged depravity of the Chinese.
These campaigns also have the effect of preparing public opinion in the
West and international opinion for military intervention. Once the Chinese
are dehumanised, military action seems acceptable.
6. US warships out of East Asia!
The United States has no legitimate interest in East Asia and its actions
are bound to aggravate tensions in the area. It is Western imperialism that
has militarised East Asia and that continues to provoke conflict there.
The best way to ensure peace in the region is to get the US navy out of
the China Seas.
A reply by John Reynolds
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