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The storm clouds that cancelled the Sino-U.S. Summit were not from Katrina
He Qinglian, Special to The Epoch Times
The Chinese government rapidly made full preparations for chief executive Hu Jintao’s visit to the US, spending vast amounts of effort on easing the increasing tension between the two countries. In order to “fix” relations with Congress, the Chinese government invited Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert to lead a delegation of nineteen congressmen to China, and confirmed that it would place an order for fifty Boeing airplanes from the U.S. The Chinese government issued the white paper, “China's Endeavors for Arms Control, Disarmament and Non-Proliferation,” on September 1st in order to ameliorate the effects of General Zhu Chenghu’s nuclear threats against the US and to dissipate the militant image created by the China-Russia Joint Military Exercise.
In his speech at the Press Conference of the State Council Information Office, Zhang Yan, Director-General of the Arms Control Department of the Foreign Ministry, stated: “China stands ready to work with other countries in the world to promote the international cause of arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation.” On September 3rd, the Chinese government also announced its donation of five million U.S. dollars to a U.S. disaster relief funds. While the Chinese government has made all possible gestures toward improving relations with the U.S., Hu Jintao’s visit to the U.S. is doomed to accomplish nothing.
China Pushes U.S. to the Limit
Contrary to Chinese media coverage of the political maneuvering, Hurricane Katrina did not destroy Hu Jintao’s opportune moment to visit the U.S. Rather, it was the storm clouds of increasing tension between China and the U.S. that gathered and broke, raining upon China’s opportunity for diplomacy.
Recently, the Chinese government engaged in a series of maneuvers that pushed the United States to its limit, interfering in global military deployment, awakening fears of China’s military intentions, and threatening America’s energy security strategy. For instance, the Chinese and Russian governments regarded the US as an “evil manipulator” when the U.S. supported Central Asia’s revolutions, such as Kyrgyzstan's “Tulip Revolution” and Ukraine’s “Orange Revolution.” China and Russia forced the Kyrghiz to request the withdrawal of U.S. troops from their Kyrgyzstan base.
Before the tension dissipated from the Pentagon’s report “The Military Power of the People’s Republic of China 2005,” which warns of the threat posed by a rapidly modernizing People’s Liberation Army, China conducted the China-Russia Joint Military Exercise, obviously targeting Taiwan and the U.S. In particular, after General Zhu Chenghu’s wild nuclear threats against the U.S., the “Chinese threat theory” has already become a looming omnipresence in Washington.
To get involved in the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) Pipeline project, China offered an incredible price to purchase U.S. registered Unocal, one of the stockholders in the project. The state of the present relations between the two countries is reflected in the White House’s decision to classify Hu Jintao’s trip as a “working visit” instead of a “state visit.”
Why China Has Changed Direction
The Chinese government also knows that it is difficult to win others’ trust with its sudden attempt to improve relations. Therefore, it employs its diplomats to speak to Western reporters. China seeks to improve its relationship with Congress to make the US relax restrictions on high-tech exports to China and to urge Washington not to politicize economic issues.
The reasons for China’s change are in fact deeper. The real causes are related to several recent incidents. During the China-Russia Joint Military Exercise solely sponsored by China, China clearly felt Russia’s deep loathing. Moreover, Russia openly stated that it would definitely not involve itself with any war in the Taiwan Straight. Meanwhile, changes in the political situation in Europe have made some European countries consider not following French President Jacques Chirac’s proposal to oppose U.S. policy. The hostility between China and her close neighbor Japan is also escalating and has affected the people of both countries. In addition, Singapore, which has invested heavily in China, will provide the U.S. with a military base. Considering the above facts and out of concern for its own interest, the Chinese government does not want to damage its relations with the U.S. too much. Regardless, it is not wise for China to challenge the U.S. at this time.
The U.S. as Enemy
Why does China view the U.S. as an enemy? There are two reasons. First, challenging the U.S. is necessary in order to maintain the dictatorship and the ideology of the Chinese government. Chinese scholars of foreign affairs have pointed out long ago that China’s challenge to the so-called U.S. imperialism is not an objective, but a strategy. Because the U.S. has sought to promote democracy, only the U.S. among many western countries or Japan is truly concerned about China’s political system and its human rights situation. While countries around the world have given up their criticism of China’s human rights record in exchange for economic benefits, the U.S. has steadfastly insisted that the Chinese government improve China’s human rights situation. Such insistence has upset the Chinese government, which wants wholeheartedly to maintain its dictatorship. Therefore to oppose the U.S. is a current political necessity. Opposing U.S. “imperialism” means negating its democratic system and concept of freedom based on individualism. The Chinese government fosters negative attitudes among the Chinese people towards the American democratic system. The effectiveness of this ideological education is apparent, as demonstrated by the attitudes of Chinese youth towards the U.S.
The second reason lies in the relationship between China’s civil and military systems. China’s ever-growing military power requires that China have an “enemy” so that the military can greatly enhance its political status and increase its budget. Several years ago, scholars of China-U.S. relations pointed out that if China views the U.S. as an enemy, then China will in fact turn the U.S. into an enemy. A short while ago, General Zhu Chenghu announced the intention of using nuclear weapons against the U.S. The explanation offered by the Chinese government, that Zhu’s speech only expressed his own personal opinions and does not represent the Chinese military, is not convincing. Looking at the changes in the relationship between the two countries, whether a state of military neutrality will last depends on whether or not the Chinese civil system is strong enough to manage the military.
Once one is aware of the above considerations, one will be able to understand why the Chinese government has attempted to repair China-U.S. relations.
He Qinglian, the author of “Modernization’s Pitfalls,” is perhaps the most famous Chinese economic commentator.
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