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08-03-05, 03:19
Treat China with caution

By Alim A Seytoff


WASHINGTON - Half a century ago when World War II was over and every other country was tired of the war's unprecedented devastation and was busy concentrating on peace, Mao Zedong's Red Armies swarmed into East Turkestan (known as Xinjiang) and Tibet, and occupied these two states, killing hundreds of thousands of indigenous people. Such killing, though not on the same scale, continues today in China with no end in sight.

Thus I was not bemused at all by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's recent comments that China was a country "we hope and pray enters the civilized world in an orderly way". This is not just his personal hope and prayer. This is the hope and prayer of all those Uighur, Tibetan, and Chinese people who have been suffering under China's authoritarian rule since 1949.

Although China should be considered as a civilized country, the Chinese government has never ruled this country in a civilized manner acceptable to many of its people. According to Amnesty International, the Chinese government executes more people every year than rest of the world combined. The Chinese people deserve democracy, human rights, and religious freedom. But the leaders in Beijing have neither given them such things nor do they appear to intend to do so in the future. In fact, the Chinese government is not behaving the way this great nation should, both at home and abroad. A regime that often acts against the wishes of its people and does not respect its citizens' human rights and religious freedom in the 21st century, but is bent on ruling them with the power that comes from the barrel of the gun, does not deserve respect at home or abroad.

The US administration of President George W Bush is rightly concerned with the rise of China and its military strength because nobody is sure now whether the Chinese government will become a responsible power or partner. Or, as Rumsfeld put it, whether China "enters the civilized world in an orderly way" in regard to many urgent international issues, or becomes a destabilizer to challenge the United States, as did the former Soviet Union.

It is highly likely that China will challenge the US since it has never given up the option of using force to occupy Taiwan (if it moves to declare independence), a de facto democratic state that the US is bound to protect by law. In addition, China is buying advanced Russian Sukhoi fighter jets, Sovromenny cruisers and nuclear submarines for what some analysts say is the bold purpose of fighting against US aircraft battle groups in the Asia-Pacific region. The recent menacing statements by Chinese leadership directed toward Taiwan and indirectly to the US, and its short-range ballistic missile buildup across the Taiwan Strait, is a sign that China sooner or later may decide to use force against Taiwan, and the US should it come to its rescue. Thus far, China is the only country that is planning to militarily take on the United States since the end of the Cold War in 1991.

Apparently, the European Union is not going to help defuse the intensifying situation across the Taiwan Strait; it intends to lift the arms embargo imposed against the Chinese government for killing pro-democracy students in Tiananmen Square in June 1989. With the advanced weapons and military technology China acquires from EU, it will certainly accelerate China's military ambitions and capability to use force to resolve the Taiwan issue, whether or not the United States is going to be involved. The Chinese leadership knows that if it can persuade Washington that it is too costly for the US to protect Taiwan, the US may consider not getting involved if China attacks Taiwan. By lifting the arms embargo, the EU will help China to raise the cost of war for both Taiwan and the United States. It is unclear why the EU has decided to choose China, a rising belligerent, at the cost of its most reliable long-term ally during World War II and the Cold War.

At the moment, I am bemused why the US needs China's help to disarm North Korea of its nuclear arms and nuclear program - these were developed with China's help in the first place. Seeking its own long-term interests, China pretends to be on the side of disarming this rogue state by brokering the six-party talks on North Korea's disarmament. (These involve both Koreas, China, Japan, Russia and the US). In fact, China is responsible for North Korea having nuclear weapons. It was China that persuaded the administration of former president Bill Clinton to help North Korea to develop nuclear facilities for "peaceful use". The result is a nuclear-armed North Korea that can threaten South Korea, Japan, and the United States. As long as North Korean leader Kim Jong-il is not a threat to China, Beijing will continue to use North Korea to create more headaches for US allies in the Asia-Pacific.

The Bush administration was correct in its early days when it designated China as a "strategic competitor", rather than employing the mistaken designation of "strategic partner" used by the previous Clinton administration. As a matter of fact, China has never been a strategic partner of the United States but an emerging strategic competitor, and a potential rival, in East Asia and the Pacific region. President Bush foresaw China's long-term ambitions to dominate this region and push the US out of it. This is progressively manifested by China's annual double-digit military budget increase, and documented by the Central Intelligence Agency's recent assessment of China's growing military power.

Although the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks shifted the Bush administration focus from China's long-term ambitions to focus on global terrorism and Iraq, it is time now to refocus on China's military power. Some analysts argue that China offered the US its support in the global "war on terrorism". But the reality is that China hijacked the US war on global terrorism and began to demonize as "terrorists" the Uighur dissidents in what many Uighur residents call East Turkestan (known as the Xinjiang region in China and elsewhere) as "terrorists" since they are Muslims.

The annual report issued by the US State Department last week says, "The [Chinese] government used the international war on terror as a pretext for cracking down harshly on suspected Uighur separatists expressing peaceful political dissent and on independent Muslim religious leaders." Amnesty International has confirmed that China increased the pace of arbitrary detention, arrest, and execution of Uighur dissidents who peacefully opposed its hard-line policies in East Turkestan (Xinjiang) since September 11, 2001. Such persecution of the Uighur people by the Chinese government still continues in the name of the global "war on terrorism".

There are three truths about China's future ambitions: 1) China will become a more and more formidable threat to US national interests and its allies in the Asia-Pacific region;
2) China will continue to deny democracy, human rights, and religious freedom, against the wishes of its people;
3) China will continue to hijack the global "war on terrorism" to further persecute the Uighur and Tibetan peoples and all those who dare to stand in Beijing's way, like the one man who stood in front of a column of tanks in Beijing in July 1989, during the Tiananmen crackdown. It is China's imperial ambition to unite Taiwan with the mainland, by force if necessary, and to dominate East Asia.

The Bush administration has foreseen and recognized these truths, so it is treating the Chinese government with caution while treating the Chinese people with respect and understanding, hoping to move this authoritarian regime toward democracy. Realizing that the Chinese government will not give up its military ambitions toward Taiwan and East Asia, the US administration should be ready to contain and confront China if necessary in order to deter Beijing from destabilizing the peace achieved in this region since the end of World War II.

Alim A Seytoff is general secretary of the Uyghur American Association in Washington, DC.

(Copyright 2005 Alim A Seytoff)

09-03-05, 21:25
Alim, great work and congratulations!