US China relationship risked by brinkmanship
April 2, 2001 8:10 AM   Subscribe

US China relationship risked by brinkmanship, says a new analysis. White House advisers on China policy grow hawkish, but may not have a well-worked out strategy for dealing with China in this new light. Beijing loses patience, and coincidental events may force a crisis. Allies are expressing concern; everyone expects choppy waters through the fall economic summit. And that was written two weeks ago. If they're bad now, how much worse are they today? Is there an even hand on the keel?
posted by dhartung (13 comments total)
"Our military stands ready to help,'' Bush said
Um, should he be saying things like that? Chill, dude.
posted by Outlawyr at 10:02 AM on April 2, 2001

Way to go, Dubya-D-40! In less than 100 days, you've been able to hand the Chinese some serious military secrets! It took Clinton most of his 8-year-term to pull that off!

Way to go, Dubya-D-40!
GWB's rattling sabers and sending a carrier task force in, according to one NBC radio report! Way the heighten tensions!

Way to go, Dubya-D-40!
A hostage crisis! We haven't had one of those in about 20 years!

Way to go, Dubya-D-40! Two jets down in Scotland, a fatal submarine crash, some Kuwaiti training fatalities. Way to "re-think our military from the ground up!"

Man, the conservatives would be jumping all over former President Sleazy right about now. Let's see how the press and congressmen line up on this one.
posted by darren at 10:39 AM on April 2, 2001

I suppose my post committed the sin of ellipticality (leading to a DoublePostGuy dogpile).

It's really troubling that China has pulled a North Korea on this one. (Keeping in mind that we're the ones who bombed *their* embassy not so long ago.) Thirty-six hours and counting is a long time to keep non-belligerent and unintentional guests incommunicado. The plane is one thing; the crew is entirely another. We should expect games to be played with the former. The latter is unexpected and (they're saying as I'm typing) unprecedented.

But this was going to be a bad weekend for US-China relations anyway, with buzz timed for Saturday release on the Aegis-frigates-to-Taiwan question, following weeks of hawkish statements from the White House, and no ambassador yet appointed (the rumored appointee is a Bush pal, rather than an experienced diplomat: a curious choice for what is arguably the single highest-profile job in the diplomatic corps).

What's happening here is very worrisome on both sides. A US policy of escalating rhetoric, without full management, is echoed by a day-and-a-half's silence from Beijing, indicating that they, too, are uncertain how to proceed.

Bush administration statements today have been professional and so far the Powell (conciliatory) signature is evident. It's more what led up to this that has my teeth on edge. I just hope we don't blunder into a worse crisis.
posted by dhartung at 10:43 AM on April 2, 2001

If I didn't know better (and let's face it, I don't) this could easily be something cooked up by the Chinese military to heighten tensions around the Aegis decision.

I mean really, how likely is a slow, stable prop plan crashing into a fighter jet? Seems somehow unlikely (but of course, I know next to nothing about the whole thing, see). It comes at a moment when heightening tensions will probably result in a delay (at least) of the aegis decision...

Ok. You're right. Paranoid. Time to switch back to Tea.
posted by daver at 11:02 AM on April 2, 2001

I can't see that they foresaw a crash. That's incredibly dangerous and could have resulted in the loss of the US plane as well. (As it was we're quite lucky -- had the fighter gotten chopped up by the propellers, shrapnel could have killed half the crew.) And they certainly could not have anticipated getting an intact plane on an airfield controlled by their own military.

(Unless this incident is being deliberately downplayed, and the unarmed jet was in fact forced down by an aggressive PRC Air Force. Speculation on this point has already been raised at yon Fr**R*p*bl*c. But motive for that tack isn't easily demonstrated. And heck, over at FR they just want an excuse to bomb the place.)

More on sub-stellar foreign policy in the first 100 days, suggests that "bush league" may not be far ahead. We'll see how they weather this incident.

One thing's for sure: the outcome will determine whether the Rumsfeld or Powell crew will be ascendant in foreign policy.
posted by dhartung at 11:21 AM on April 2, 2001

Awww, come on, Darren. You can't really blame Dubya for the plane crash and the hostages, can you? I don't like him any more than you do, but I can't think of any policy that he's enacted that would have caused this.

It sounds to me that it was more likely the result of military inefficiency and excess, brought on by inflated and irresponsible budgets. And you know what that means: blame Reagan.
posted by anapestic at 11:29 AM on April 2, 2001

It isn't Bush's fault the planes collided, but if he'd been making friendlier gestures toward the Chinese from the start, he'd be in a better position to negotiate for the release of the crew. (Forget the plane. They've probably dissected it already.)
posted by Loudmax at 11:41 AM on April 2, 2001

I say we should hold of from doing anything till we get the few million black berets for our military delivered. Then, if we land troops, we will have them wearing Made in China berets when we take over the country and our folks are on leave .
posted by Postroad at 12:08 PM on April 2, 2001

You can't really blame Dubya for the plane crash and the hostages, can you?

Agreed. What's going to be telling, as dhartung points out, is how the Bush men handle this event.

You know, you just pray that they're not in a conference giggling "maybe we can escalate it! Like the Gulf of Tonkin..."

We all know how well that turned out.
posted by dcehr at 12:35 PM on April 2, 2001

The man has been in office for less than 3 months, how many friendly gestures could Bush have possibly made to the PRC (which already has the very friendly gesture of MFN trade status with us despite their myriad internal problems) at this point to avoid a potential crisis with regard to our downed spy plane?

Instead of wasting time casting meaningless aspersions, maybe we ought to spend a minute to send a good thought (or prayer, if you're so inclined) toward the safe and incident-free return of our servicepeople and aircraft.
posted by Dreama at 12:51 PM on April 2, 2001

Espesically our aircraft.
posted by sonofsamiam at 12:53 PM on April 2, 2001

It's easy, from outside the US, to see the disconnect between the top of the administration and the status quo. It's especially worrying, given that the changeover means a lot of long-serving ambassadors and consular staff have retired, to be replaced by Bush pols rather than career diplomats. (Of course, the "big" diplomatic jobs are always politicised, but Clinton was generally good at picking people with consular experience.)

So, when you have Donald and Condi (the one a veteran of the Brezhnyev era, the other a "Sovietologist" rather than a "Russophile"), you're going to get Cold War diplomacy. I'm sure there are people on the ground trying to call the State Department right now, and it's time for the people in DC to pick up the fucking phone.
posted by holgate at 2:50 PM on April 2, 2001

After 8 years of listen to Republicans jump on Clinton for every misstep in Yugoslavia and the Persian Gulf, the chickens have come home to roost.
posted by darren at 5:34 AM on April 3, 2001

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