China endangered?

China is never happy when weapons are sold to Taiwan, but this time Beijing threatened to boycott American companies, including Boeing and Raytheon, involved in the deal.

January 31, 2010 23:18
3 minute read.
China endangered?

taiwan US missiles 224.88 ap. (photo credit: )


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The People’s Republic of China reacted to Washington’s announcement on Friday that it will sell defensive weapons to Taiwan worth $6.4 billion with customary bluster. The Foreign Ministry protested to Jon Huntsman, the American ambassador, and announced that a range of military and economic programs between the two countries would be placed in abeyance.

China is never happy when weapons are sold to Taiwan, but this time Beijing threatened to boycott American companies, including Boeing and Raytheon, involved in the deal.

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Since its 1949 civil war and the Communist takeover of the mainland, China has regarded Taiwan as a breakaway island.  Beijing asserts that the arms sale “seriously endangers China’s national security.”

In fact, the Obama administration held back on selling fighter jets and submarines precisely because they could be construed as offensive weapons.

When the US broke off diplomatic relations with Taiwan – the price of establishing ties with Beijing in 1979 – it assuaged its conscience by insisting that Taiwan’s future had to be decided by peaceful means. To that end, the US sells Taipei defensive military hardware.

Still, relations between the mainland and Taiwan have never been better, according to The Economist , with annual bilateral trade exceeding $100 billion. The Taiwanese argue that the sense of security which comes from having defensive weapons actually encourages them to move forward in developing relations with Beijing. Yet the fundamental issue of sovereignty remains unresolved.

ONE AREA where the Chinese say they will scale back cooperation with the US involves nuclear anti-proliferation. That would be shocking if China were not already playing the vanguard role in protecting Teheran from UN sanctions intended to pressure the mullahs into abandoning their drive for nuclear weapons. The reason for the Chinese policy is obvious: Trade with Iran stands at $25 billion; and Iran supplies 13 percent of China’s oil imports fueling its insatiable economy.

But for a superpower-in-waiting, China is conducting itself with unbecoming irresponsibility, not just on Iran but also on human rights, climate change and Internet freedom. (Google may be forced to reduce its presence in China due to government-orchestrated cyber-attacks.)

Nor does Beijing show concern that many of the weapons making their way into Hamas-controlled Gaza are of Chinese manufacture.

China’s leaders have become accustomed to getting what they want. At the World Economic Forum in Davos, Beijing successfully kept Internet freedom off the conference agenda. And when China is challenged over, say, Tibet or human rights, it tends to respond uncompromisingly, using business and aid to reward those who kowtow, and haranguing those with the effrontery to challenge its policies.

OVER THE weekend, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton joined those who have been urging the Chinese to think less shortsightedly. A nuclear-armed imperial Iran will sooner or later insinuate itself in China’s own internal affairs by aligning with the country’s Muslim population.

Permitting nuclear weapons to fall into the hands of the mullahs will produce precisely the kind of unstable conditions in the Mideast the Chinese say they seek to avoid. A scenario in which a politically chaotic Iran has the capacity to intimidate its nervous neighbors could create a situation in which the flow of petroleum would be interrupted and commerce throughout the Gulf inhibited.

Following Washington’s lead on relations with China, Jerusalem abandoned principle for realpolitik. Today, the PRC has an embassy in Tel Aviv while Taipei has only an Economic and Cultural Office. In return, trade between Israel and China (a good deal of it reportedly in the military sphere) is a substantial $5b.-$7b. a year. Parenthetically, Jerusalem’s military ties to Beijing have been a source of tension with Washington, which now has a veto over that aspect of Israel’s China relationship.

Diplomatically, as a permanent Security Council member, China can invariably be counted on to vote the interests of the Arab and Muslim bloc. Plainly, the Israel-China relationship is strategically important, but Beijing’s insensitivity to core Israeli concerns does not fail to disappoint.

IS IT not absurd that China feels threatened because the US is selling Taiwan weapons that pose no threat to mainland security, while it shamelessly blocks international pressure aimed at keeping the atomic bomb away from Muslim fanatics?

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