China Reality Check

By Blankley, Tony | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), May 2, 2001 | Go to article overview

China Reality Check


Blankley, Tony, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


Last week President Bush, when asked in an interview whether America would defend Taiwan if attacked by mainland China, responded: "Yes. Whatever it takes." He and his foreign policy staff wisely spent the next 24 hours backing away from those words, and for a very good reason.

For the last two decades America has supported Taiwan, but has refused to be an automatic military guarantor of her liberty. Maintaining ambiguity has given us useful influence on both Taiwan's and China's policies. We have carefully avoided the mistake made by Germany before WWI, in which powerful Germany gave weak, insecure but aggressive Austria a military "blank check" and thereby let Austria precipitate the general European war - WW I - that destroyed three great dynasties and ended Europe's world leadership.

Our interest in East Asia is neither a triumphant Taiwan nor a defeated China, but equilibrium (and if possible increased freedom and prosperity). Throughout that rapid and dangerously developing continent, China's fast growing economic, diplomatic and, military strength is engendering an arms race with its neighbors. Japan is considering going nuclear - despite its experience at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Feeling itself rebuffed by the United States, Russia is finding temporary comfort in the close company of her historic enemy China. The lesser countries bordering China want our help, but fear our confrontation with China: China will always be their too-powerful neighbor, while America may come and go.

To establish and maintain peaceful equilibrium in Asia, the United States must be prepared to be friendly or threatening with each of those countries, as the situation warrants. To keep our credibility, we must always maintain potent military and economic assets in the region - as a bona fide of our seriousness. In short we must practice realpolitik - a foreign policy based on calculations of power and American national interest. For America, which tends to like the nations of the world labeled neatly - friend or foe - this will not be easy. But it is necessary.

Peace can be sustained, historically, either by a power willing and able to militarily dominate its world (Pax Romana,) or by a power that uses its relative advantage to subtly manage its world (Pax Britannica). America finds itself caught in the middle: We have neither the dominating will of Rome, nor the subtlety of mind of the British. But as we are ethically and historically unsuited to Roman-style domination, we had best cultivate the feline practices of British-style diplomacy. …

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