by its own petard
By Paul Lin 林保華
After the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, some commentators argued
that since the US needed China's help, the US would foster improved
relations with China at Taiwan's expense. In Taiwan, some argued
that the US was unreliable for that reason, and some lashed
out, saying that misguided US policies had brought about the
terrorist attacks. Some well-known figures even extolled Bin
Laden as an idol. The overtone of these opinions was that Taiwan
should not continue -- much less strengthen -- its relationship
with the US. Amid both the difficulties facing the US and the
constant military threat that China poses toward Taiwan, however,
the only possible motive for sowing discord between Taiwan and
the US must be a desire for Taiwan to surrender to China on
But the war on terror has advanced to a stage at which, although
total victory has not been accomplished, the terrorists have
at least suffered a heavy blow. In this process, the US was
not isolated and US-Taiwan relations suffered no setback. Instead,
China, with its ambiguous relations with terrorists, was marginalized
diplomatically and its scheme to reap benefit from the war on
terror failed. This has become clear in the following ways.
First, not only did Russia's relationship
with the US become closer, but even the former Soviet republics
of central Asia allowed the US to use their military bases.
In addition, Russia has come a step closer to entering NATO.
China's many years of strenuous effort to draw Russia and the
Central Asian countries to its side as a counterbalance to the
US have come to nothing, and the six-nation Shanghai Cooperation
Organization formed in June of this year now exists in name
Second, on the South Asian subcontinent,
Pakistan has always been China's most dependable ally. For this
reason, China hadn't hesitated to offend the US by exporting
technology for nuclear weapons and missiles to Pakistan. But
under heavy pressure and a financial offensive from the US,
Pakistan sided with the US and abandoned the Taliban regime.
Meanwhile India, which has a much less friendly relationship
with China but is still careful not to offend her, searched
the branch offices of Huawei Technologies (華為技術有限公司), a Chinese
company that supported the Taliban, and expelled it from the
Third, Japan sent out a total of six
warships, one of which went to East Timor to assist the UN security
forces there while the other five assisted the US military in
the western Indian Ocean. This was the first time since World
War II that Japan had deployed troops overseas. China, which
has always used anti-Japanese rhetoric to whip up nationalist
sentiment, maintained a low-key attitude toward this "revival
of militarism" and even reached an agreement with Japan
during this period for each nation's warships to visit the other's
ports next year. This is another post-war first. Japan's "imperialist
military" is to land on China's shores once again.
Fourth, the US has not abandoned its
plans to build a missile defense system because of the war on
terror. Without regard for opposition from Russia and China,
the US decided to withdraw unilaterally from the 1972 Treaty
on the Limitation of Anti-Ballistic Missiles. Russia's President
Vladimir Putin, ever the pragmatist, reacted with amazing calm,
and China, which usually cries out blindly behind others, found
itself without a script to follow. She found herself unable
to make much of a fuss for fear of finding herself isolated.
Fifth, in the aftermath of the Sept.
11 attacks, while the US was preparing for and eventually waging
the war on terror, leaders of a number of Western countries,
Islamic countries, and even Russia visited the US, demonstrating
the closeness of their relations. But Jiang Zemin (江澤民), normally
a fervent player of the game of "big-country diplomacy,"
did not take this opportunity to visit the US or any othet major
country. All he did was put on a brief show of support at the
APEC summit in Shanghai. While the anti-terrorist war has progressed,
China has been unusually quiet except for singing some old tune
about "opposing all terrorist activities."
If the diplomatic marginalization that all this effectively
represents amounts to a change in China's foreign policy, it
could also be a manifestation of Deng Xiaoping's (鄧小平) pragmatic
spirit of not trying too hard to gain positions. Or it could
be that the top CCP leaders are simply too busy jockeying for
position in the run-up to the 16th National Congress.
There have been developments of late, however. In a People's
Daily interview in mid-December, Chinese foreign minister Tang
Jiaxuan (唐家璇) said China's foreign policy would shift from defensive
to offensive. It was not clear what he meant by "offensive."
Did he mean "opposing America" once again?
China's diplomatic initiatives have included Jiang's visit
to Myanmar in mid-December and Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf's
visit to Beijing in late December. These initiatives are aimed
at tackling India, preventing Myanmar from drifting closer to
India and supporting Pakistan's anti-India position. Connections
between Musharraf's visit and the subsequent rise of Indo-Pakistani
tensions cannot be lightly dismissed.
Beijing's other diplomatic offensive was to demand compensation
from Israel for halting the sales of early-warning radar planes.
Obviously, this was hardly calculated to help cement the anti-terrorist
alliance. The indirect target of the move was the US. On the
other hand, Jiang's visit to Myanmar, a country viewed by the
US as a "rogue nation," attests to China's diplomatic
marginalization and self-debasement. China has alarmed the US
by keeping such bad company. The move does nothing to advance