中国法律博客
ChinaLegalBlog.com
U.S. Arms to Taiwan is Business as Usual. And Maybe That's the Problem
媒体来源: 中国法律博客

Dan at CLB wants to know how the U.S. can sell arms to Taiwan while realistically hoping for China's cooperation on Iranian sanctions:

The contrast is bizarre. It is as though we are stabbing someone right in the gut, and as that person lays bleeding on the ground, we ask if he might be so kind as to loan us a few bucks

I mean, if we want China to side with us on Iran, should we not be giving it something in return. Now maybe the Taiwan sales had to have been timed the way that they were, but I for one cannot help but thinking that something is wrong here. Are we just not all that concerned about a murderous bunch of Islamic extremists having a nuclear bomb or do we just have problems prioritizing?

I've written a couple of times on this subject and explained my pet theory about why these arms deals keep happening. But as for the diplomatic side of things, I'm starting to wonder whether both sides just don't take this stuff as seriously as they used to back in the Cold War days.

This incident seems to be following the usual pattern. The deal is announced on a preliminary basis. Sources in China (not the front page of People's Daily, but maybe a comment made by someone in the military) says that the deal would be a terrible idea and that there would be repercussions that would harm the bilateral relationship.

Next, the deal goes through anyway after frantic speculation on both sides about how it might be restructured to placate either the PRC or Taiwan. Then the formal deal is announced, and the "fireworks" begin. After that, we see the usual condemnation in the Chinese press (this time a real news blitz) and by academics and government officials.

Stage two of the condemnation is the threat phase. Beijing lists all the things that it will do to punish the U.S. because of the deal, including discontinuing military exchanges, cancellation of certain events, sanctioning the companies that are involved in the sale (I'm sympathetic to this last one). China always says that it regrets being forced into that position of course. On the U.S. side, more "regret" and feigned surprise that the Chinese government would really be upset over all this.

Finally, you can always dig out some choice quotes in secondary media accounts (or if you're lucky, you talk to friends "in the know") by officials who say, with a wink and a nod, that this is how the game is played and that after six months or so, things will again get back to normal, whatever that means.

This is referred to by the D.C. set as "political kabuki theater," a weird reference that essentially means it is a lot of show and of little substance.

If the folks in charge see this as kabuki theater, they are less likely to worry over fallout, such as the effects on Iran policy. They are also less likely to even check out what those secondary effects might be, since the whole thing isn't really important anyway.

Blake Hounshell isn't entirely convinced of the "kabuki theater" theory, but he does come close on the FP blog:

Obama administration officials had been expecting some blowback from the arms sales, and are downplaying China's reaction, but I wonder if even they see Beijing as upping the ante. Is this going to be the usual loud, public show of anger, followed by a return to business as usual? Or is China feeling its strength and looking to demonstrate that it can force the mighty United States to change course?

It's early Sunday morning, and I'm engaging in a bit of blogging flight of fancy here (i.e. I might be full of shit). But once you see this process work itself out time after time, you do start to wonder if the folks in charge stop taking the rhetoric seriously after a while.

That would be a serious mistake, and it certainly sounds like a recipe for miscommunication and a surprising escalation of bilateral tensions at a time when relations are a bit strained already.

But what the hell do I know? My solution is to not sell the damned weapons in the first place, an option that would get me laughed at by folks in D.C.

Tags:


© Stan for China Hearsay, 2010. |
Permalink |
2 comments |
Add to
del.icio.us

Post tags: