Bush soft on China, so pundits say
April 14, 2001 4:24 PM   Subscribe

Bush soft on China, so pundits say Spouting a tough guy stance, the talk shows guests, all conservative commentators, suggested Bush whimped out and made America look weak. They preferred a much tougher stand even while the military were "on loan."
posted by Postroad (6 comments total)
As an American, I try to avoid being mindlessly nationalistic. As an aspiring journalist, I try to see every facet of something. But look at this incident as I might, I cannot help but see China as being at fault in the specific incident (our right or lack thereof to fly surveillance craft aside). On the other hand, there was this Letter to the Editor (the one at the bottom of the page) in the Washington Post today that made me go "Hmmm." Mainly the bit about future revelations from declassified docs.
The one in the middle of the page is pretty neat, too. Just as an item of interest.
posted by Ravagin at 5:01 PM on April 14, 2001

I think we can dismiss this criticism of the administration as the raving of a few marginalized, desperate liberals ... oh, wait ...

Ravagin, the issue of "blame" or "fault" is pretty irrelevant and almost quaint now that the crew's home. This is power politics at its best. The Cold Warrior view (in the WSJ article) is that this is a wake-up call for America, who must beef up her defenses lest the inscrutable Oriental hordes pull a D-Day at Santa Monica. The Realpolitik view (mine) is that China has shot itself in the foot rather badly: they've not only damaged the critical trade relationship with the US, they've ensured that Taiwan will probably get more arms delivered than they even asked for, and they've boldly shown a number of neighbors and otherwise neutral-dispassioned observers that they can't be trusted. Worse, they've revealed the cracks in their present internal political structure, with a fight for the successor to Jiang Zemin looking like it could get ugly and nasty.

The US didn't really budge since Saturday; basically, China held out for more until they realized they'd clumsily boxed themselves into a corner. The US couldn't possibly deliver on an outright apology OR the cessation of flights, two key Chinese demands. In realizing this, China saw only two options for itself: turn the troops over, or settle in for a long, embarrassing, and even more damaging Chinese Hostage Crisis, with Ted Koppel counting the days.
posted by dhartung at 5:38 PM on April 14, 2001

Yes, I suppose it is rather irrelevant now. Thanks.
posted by Ravagin at 6:27 PM on April 14, 2001

Ravagin, regarding the second letter in the Post about the linguistic ambiguity of the apology, I read that the letter from the U.S. used the term feichang wanxi (deeply regret), not feichang baoqian (very sorry). The Chinese press, perhaps to quell public anger by making it appear that the Americans had indeed "caved in," reported that the very strong term baoqian was expressed in the U.S. apology.
posted by Chairman_MaoXian at 7:06 PM on April 14, 2001

I found the style of the Solomon piece to be obnoxious. OK, so he disagrees with the people who are saying the US caved. He should say so and give his reasons. Instead we get a steady stream of sarcasm.

But the worst thing was this:

The New York Times had reported, back on April 3, that the American military "does not tolerate such close surveillance of United States territory." But in-studio warriors rarely bother with trifling information; other nations are to do as we say, not as we do.

Sorry, but who is spying on whom is not irrelevant. Solomon would have us believe that the US and China are morally equivalent? Perhaps a stint practicing journalism in China would disabuse him of this notion.
posted by mw at 7:58 PM on April 14, 2001

another right critique widely cited is from the weekly standard. the problem i think is it treats china as a monolithic entity looking to displace the US as the sole regional power in asia. it goes to the whole containment vs. engagement issue in policy dealing with an emerging power.

bill kristol et al as a moralist believes any regime that doesn't conform to certain codes of conduct (the one child policy is particularly abhorrent, as well as crackdowns on speech and religion) should not be engaged on principal. they don't recognize that as a culture, principals have given way to practicality with the passing of maoist ideology. although it manifests in passive aggressive behavior, china almost always seeks to avoid direct conflict.

the country is undergoing profound changes, not least of which is its evolution onto the international stage commensurate with its size and growing economic clout. there are deep internal divisions and a succession struggle is going on behind the scenes. i think the state dept. was right not to take a hardline in this case. engagement with a big stick is still the best way to go. economic determinism rules, both in the US and china. ideological cold wars are over no matter how much the right on either side of the pacific would like it to return.
posted by kliuless at 9:38 PM on April 14, 2001

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