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Home > Opinions Last Updated: 15:03 03/09/2007
September 2001

US-China: A New Cold War? (Part 2)

Tomohiko TANIGUCHI (GLOCOM Fellow, Nikkei Business)

(Posted with permission by Tomohiko Taniguchi)


Chapters 2 & 3

Diverse American views of Beijing
China must immediately halt deployment of missiles (by James R. Lilley)
Fair, extreme and wild arguments presented in three books from Washington, D.C.

What follows is the summary of Chapters 2 and 3.

Chapter 2
The US Views Beijing through Much Wider Angle-- Motorola, K Mart and the "Blue Team"

This chapter argues that the US has had a much wider spectrum in looking at and debating China than Japan. The lens with which the US views Beijing is very much pantoscopic, whereas Japan is equipped only with a telescopic lens to focus on the brighter end of the spectrum.

Firstly the author introduced the fact that on the 4th of July this year Motorola opened a new semiconductor factory in Tianjin, China, resulting in the company's investments in China totalling US$ 3.4B. He gave a second example of Boeing, which has provided China with more than three fifths of the 500 passenger aircraft now flying across China. Such cases suggest that China has become too important to lose for some of the major US industries.

A quote from Richard Brecher, Director, International Trade Relations at Motorola's Washington Office reads, "China is going to have more than 300 million mobile phone subscribers within the next four years. It is now a strategically important market for Motorola overall".

It thus follows that it has been Motorola and Boeing among others who, in Brecher's words "pushed hard" China's WTO accession case in Washington DC, where some on Capitol Hill were opposed to it.

Detailing the above as an example of the camp that advocates engaging China, the author then introduces the depiction given by Robert Manning, Senior Fellow at Council on Foreign Relations. According to Manning, there are two schools of thought concerning US China policy. The Clintonian School advocates engagement, hence can be put at the right end of the number line shown in the box of page 32. Citing cases such as that of Motorola, they have argued that the more the US is engaged with China in trade and investment, the greater the likelihood and the sooner China would become a country with which they can deal at ease. The Washington centric, ideology-oriented "Blue Team" of which more will be explained below, appears at the left end of the line, for it advocates containment. Bush sits closer to the mid point, perhaps leaning slightly toward the left end.

"They say they have to hedge against a worst-case scenario", Manning says, and that the conflict between China and Taiwan will escalate militarily, "while continuing to attempt to engage". "It is called con-gagement", followed LEE Ying-Yuan, Deputy Representative at Washington's Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office.

The author then articulates the central point of the chapter, as stated at the beginning of this summary: the US has had a much wider spectrum in looking at and debating China than Japan. The lens with which they view Beijing is very much pantoscopic, whereas Japan is equipped only with a telescopic one to focus on the brighter end of the spectrum. Put on the number line, Japan appears closer to the right end.

The author now turns to the fact that the long-term readiness that the US attempts to implement towards the growing China is not limited to the area of defence such as was discussed in the previous chapter. One of the illustrative examples details what Johns Hopkins University has done over the past 15 years, in order to introduce Hopkins-Nanjing Centre (the subsequent description of which is skipped).

The US has both a "north wind" hedging approach as well as a "sunshine" one to deal with China, and Japan has neither, the author says.

The chapter now turns to address an anti-China sentiment that has been taking shape in the country, and in Washington DC in particular. The first anecdote introduced to illustrate the point is the experience of K Mart during the US-China stand off period over the US spy plane that landed on the island of Hainan. For a month during this period, the retail chain was bombarded with telephone calls and e-mails. "So long as you fill your shelves with Chinese goods, I am not going to buy anything from you," many customers said, according to Dale Apley, K Mart's external relations manager. Highly concerned, they contacted the Chinese Embassy in Washington DC to warn them that "unless China does something to ameliorate the situation, K Mart will have to reconsider its procurement policy", Apley told the author in a phone interview.

The US now has its largest trade deficit not vis--vis Japan but with China. One of the prevalent views recently holds that the surplus money that China gains from US consumers is being put to use in order for the country to build up a large number of missiles, many of which can target the US and its forward deployment bases in Korea and Japan. Still, it followed, the Clinton administration was blind even to the nuclear proliferation in which China was engaged in its relationship with Pakistan, instead focusing only on China's brighter developments.

True or not, and fuelled by some of the China-related scandals, similar views have over the past several years influenced the manner in which Americans look at China (See Pew/CFR opinion poll results on page 26). The number of people who regard China as a "serious problem" is constantly rising. Small wonder K Mart was bombarded with customer complaints.

Until recently, the power game in Washington DC had played out to take advantage of this growing concern over China, to the effect that it created new institutions, organizations, and legislative councils.

One of the newest such councils is that created earlier this year by both chambers of Congress, based on legislation passed last fall: the US-China Security Review Commission.

The author briefly describes the backgrounds of its Chairman, C. Richard D'Amato (no relation to the Senator D'Amato), and a member of the commission, William Reinsch to illustrate that some of the members are old Japan hands, as are the members of the Blue Team, as will be seen below. He also explains that the commission's purpose is to scrutinise US-China economic relationships to explore their national security implications in order to advise the Congress each spring. Roger Robinson, a commissioner, is concerned that in the future the investment portfolios of US institutional investors will be heavily dependent on Chinese bonds and securities. He demands that Chinese issuers disclose their activities to the fullest degree. In fact, Robinson came to Japan in July to talk to Japan's financial community.

"China is a tyranny, and the US cannot get along with tyrannies," Michael Ledeen, commission vice chairman, stated. This essentially sums up the thought that binds the commissioners, the author argues.

Changing the subject, he now turns to introduce the other institution created in the midst of Clinton's retreat, back in the mid 1990s, from his initial harsh human rights policies against China: Radio Free Asia (RFA), situated in a low-key office building at 2025 M Street.

Clinton's Chinese ambassador was aware that the radio station was created in part as a conciliatory means to calm the leftist Democrats and was reportedly always furious about this. However, on the contrary the new ambassador to China was very understanding of the station, according to Richard Richter (photograph attached), president of RFA. Mr. Richter briefed the ambassador before he was dispatched to Beijing on what the radio station does and for what purposes. The author argues that the new Republican administration has rediscovered the use of RFA. (The subsequent part that described the radio station's technologies and the like is omitted.)

"Today, we had a call from a listener in Xinjiang Uygur", Mr. Richter reveals, "He says that a Uygur worker gets a salary less than half of that a Han worker is getting".

Surprisingly, the studio in Washington gets as many as 500 calls a day from China. They dial up AT&T access points in China and are put through collect to RFA in Washington. "Most people call us from payphones for obvious reasons", Mr. Richter added.

RFA is hence a receiver as well as a transmitter, a venue provided by the US for the Chinese to express their own views. Even if it is true that RFA is not in the business of propaganda, no other means is more powerful than inviting the receiving end to proactively react. RFA is killing two birds with one stone, as it were, for whilst sitting in Washington DC, they are aware exactly what people in various parts of China are angry about, the author argues.

The author has so far introduced the width and depth of the US perspective when addressing the China problem. To conclude, he turned to what is called the Blue Team. Following is the full translation of the concluding part of Chapter 2.

Takeshi Kondo is currently a Liberal Democratic member of Japan's House of Councillors, elected in the July elections. This former board member of Japan's trading company Itochu may well say to himself, "long time no see", at the mention of William Triplett.

It was in March 1987 when what was later called the Toshiba Scandal emerged. Its machine tool subsidiary was alleged to have sold a machine to the then Soviet Russia in violation of the COCOM restrictions, which the Russians then used to greatly silence the propellers of their submarines. It took less than a month until legislation was proposed to the House of Representatives calling for the US to boycott all things Toshiba. This scandal is very symbolic of the deterioration of the bilateral relationship between the US and Japan in the late 1980s.

It was Mr. Kondo, then head of Itochu's Washington office, who worked hard to stop the fire from flaring up. He was quick to discover that Mr. Triplett, then working as an aid to Senator Jesse Helms, was one of the behind-the-scenes movers. The two men were arch-rivals.

And now Mr. Triplett is at the core of the Blue Team, shifting his enemy-focus to China.

Within the military, blue forces are the friendly forces, whilst red is the enemy. Nowadays in Washington DC to call someone a member of the Red Team equates with saying that he/she has been co-opted by China, and is hence an enemy of the US. It is also Mr. Triplett himself who coined the idea of Blue and Red Teams. A Washington Post article revealed the above in February last year. The article introduced which members from various organisations constituted the Blue Team - the members of which, according to the article, would prefer anonymity. One week later, the paper carried a letter to the editor, objecting to the tone of the article. The sender was in fact Kevin Kearns, who is once again assumed to be the same man whose name was often heard behind the scenes in the heyday of US-Japan frictions.

Winston S. Churchill, the late British Prime Minister once remarked, "Americans can always be counted upon to do the right thing", but added, "after they have exhausted all other possibilities". Back during the Toshiba fiasco, concerned people expressed the view that the economies of both countries were so intertwined and that as America did not just comprise Washington DC, grass-roots support could come to play a role in order for them to "count upon Americans to do the right thing".

The lesson they painfully learned thereafter was, however, that it was always Washington DC, and not the grass-roots Americans, that would count when it comes to the way in which US-Japan policies take shape. A vocal few, not a silent majority, would greatly influence the policies.

The Blue Team now accounts for the vocal few, this time influencing the US-China relationship. Besides, a widely shared concern is held that it is the Chinese security issues that make them nervous.

Mr. Ledeen of the US-China Security Review Commission makes it clear that Japan had neither the power nor the will to threaten the US militarily back then in the 80s and the early 90s, whilst China does now have both. The danger is that the US-China relationship could deteriorate more seriously than the US-Japan relations of old. In fact one academic who was dubbed red was unable to join the Bush administration. The air is also bitterer, one can sense, making one wonder if the latter part of Churchill's quote might indeed apply.

Japan with the US as its ally and China as an important neighbour can by no means be ignorant of all this.

The above is followed by an excerpt from an interview with Jim Lilley, in which the former CIA station chief in China and ambassador both to Seoul and Beijing first expressed his reservation on the US-China Security Review Commission, whilst acknowledging the legitimacy of its purpose. He secondly stressed that so long as China continues to deploy missiles targeting Taiwan, the Bush team would not back off and would seek to implement the missile defence system. His point also is that what matters are the security issues. In conclusion, he encourages the Chinese not to expand militarily but to focus single-heartedly on the peaceful hosting of the Olympics games, economic management in accordance to the WTO rules, and the introduction of a Taiwanese capital. It is vitally important to see what kind of leadership will emerge from the next year onward, he concludes.

In Chapter 3 three books are reviewed to illustrate the contrasting views now prevalent in Washington DC. The books are as shown in the article (David M. Lampton, Same Bed Different Dreams, Bill Gertz, The China Threat, Gordon G. Chang, The Coming Collapse of China). The article commented that Lampton's was a balanced view, although it fell short of dealing with Chinese long-term strategy in the region. It also argued that Chang's view was logically erroneous, as was agreed by the Wall Street Journal's reviewer. In between comes that of Gertz, filled with staggeringly eye-opening "truths" based on leaked materials, yet frighteningly naming those who he thinks are members of the Red Team.

(The original Japanese version appeared in the August 20th issue of Nikkei Business)

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