Thursday, March 10, 2005

The China paradox

Two interesting articles on China.

First is John Hughes, a former assistant SecState under Reagan, writing yesterday in the Christian Science Monitor. He summarizes the basic diplomatic/security concerns surrounding China today: the strengthening of its military, the resignation of Hong Kong's first post-colonial chief executive, its tightening hold on Taiwan with the probable passage of the "antisecession" law (which basically gives the Chinese the threat of military force against Taiwan if they attempt to formally separate from the mainland), and the U.S.-Japan security arrangement for the Taiwan Strait. His basic message is that, obviously, "skillful diplomacy" is needed to handle these various situations, especially "cross-Strait" relations. The flashpoint is clearly Taiwan and whether or not it will make its break for independence. It seems, however, China is doing its best to reel in Taipei, and I think the Taiwanese understand the dangerous implications of taking the drastic step of bolting from the mainland. This explains why, I believe, China is slowly trying to reintegrate Taiwan into its political system, which, at some point in the future, will leave Taiwan no other option but to accept its fate (I think for the better) and reunify (I'm sure with some degree of autonomy) with the mainland.

The other article, from Reuters, shows the "sunnier" side of U.S.-China relations, the side that China hawks should open their eyes to if they really wish to avoid some type of conflict in the future:

"SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - China's Lenovo Group Ltd. won clearance from a U.S. national security oversight committee to acquire IBM's personal computer business, the companies said on Wednesday, overcoming resistance from some U.S. lawmakers.

"An IBM executive said the high-level U.S. committee had given the deal its unanimous consent -- the final external approval needed -- putting the $1.25 billion PC sale on track to close in the second quarter as originally planned.

"'We were able to get unanimous agreement from the members of the committee," Stephen Ward, the general manager of IBM's Personal Systems Division, said in a telephone interview.

"Ward is to become chief executive of Lenovo, once the deal closes. Lenovo is headquartered in Beijing, but will move to an undisclosed site near IBM's headquarters in Armonk, New York.

"The merger of the IBM PC business with China's biggest PC maker -- the first combination ever of a major U.S. company and a top Chinese one -- will create the world's third largest PC maker with roughly $12 billion in revenue and one strongly positioned in several fast-growing markets." [my emphasis added]

This is the kind of substantial relationship we should be building with the Chinese. This is also the kind of military relationship we should be building with the Chinese, as Tom Barnett talks about, to deal with the real crisis in Asia: Kim Jong Il's nuclear-armed North Korea.

UPDATE:

Tom Barnett:

"Well, those non-too-subtle Chinese have done it alright: they've formalized the notion that they won't stand for Taiwan's independence and they would use military force to prevent it. Wow! Imagine the U.S. passes a resolution saying that if you attacked-I dunno-anywhere in the Western Hemisphere, we'd response with military force. It would be . . . like a doctrine or something. Hmm. U.S. has a Monroe Doctrine for entire Western Hemisphere and China has a Hu Doctrine for . . . all of . . . Taiwan. Man, who does those Chinese think they are? I mean, America gets to invade countries and topple regimes in the Middle East and China's talking about threatening a small island nation off its coast, to which the losing side in its civil war retreated several decades ago. Who do these people think they are? But China must not be too scary, otherwise why give them the keys to the 21st century? The ability to produce PCs on par with IBM, that leader in PC . . . uh . . . IBM makes PCs?"

Indeed.

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