China's Balkan lesson for the Pacific

By Peter Zhang
web posted June 1999

Any military man will tell you that no matter how well-equipped an army is what ultimately matters is the Will. Without this technology becomes expensive accouterments. What has struck Beijing is not the fact that it was social democrats who ordered the attack on Serbia (the same people who never condemned a communist regime) but their lack of will revealed by their fear of suffering casualties. Many people have been deceived into thinking that because Clinton and Blair forced NATO into attacking Serbia this exhibited courage and determination on their part. Beijing sees it differently. Moreover, it was not impressed with the aerial bombardment. To be able to plaster from a short distance a small target like Serbia does nothing to intimidate Beijing. And as far as she is concerned, these are weapons she will soon command herself, including counter-measures.

Its long term strategic objective is to drive American bases and influence out of the Pacific region and to exercise hegemony over it. Now this does not mean another Pearl Harbour but it does mean that unless China's nationalists are kept in check, if not actually subdued, there will be a great deal of tension in the future between Washington and Beijing. I have written before that the Chinese leadership knows its history. It knows that powers rise and fall. It is coming to the conclusion, if it hasn't already, that America is in a state of terminal moral decline. To China's ruling elite the reelection of Clinton; his popular support; the refusal of the American people to evict him from the White House, despite his contempt for them; his treason and gutting of America's military and the refusal of America's so-called intellectual elites to abandon him are symptoms of a country that has lost its spirit and rejected its heritage and destiny. Nevertheless, keenly aware of the country's weaknesses Beijing will move with caution.

Now this interpretation of the American mood and its moral character could lead to Beijing taking a more aggressive stand in the near future against American policy and interests, even if it means uttering threats and demanding demeaning apologies. This will be done to undermine Asian countries faith in American resolve. By convincing Asian countries that America is straw man, an ally whose word cannot be counted on, it would hop to detonate a chain reaction that would result in these countries deciding to throw their lot in with Beijing.

I doubt if Americans will ever fully learn the dreadful role Clinton has played in fuelling and strengthening the PLA's ambitions. By selling it the key to America's military secrets and aiding the PLA in modernising it military it has brought closer the time when it can intimidate its neighbours. This is what most American observers have overlooked. To drive America out of most of the Pacific China does not have to threaten the nuclear destruction of American cities; she only has to apply subtle, and perhaps not so-subtle, threats against the rest of Asia. This is not so far fetched as many might think once one realises that Beijing seeks domination and not occupation.

The danger, I think, is that the Chinese nationalists tend to view America as Rome viewed Carthage. If this idea should take hold the consequences could indeed be fearful. It is the same kind of idea that took hold among pre-war Japanese nationalists. But I view America in another light. To me she is not suffering a moral decline but sliding into a moral malaise. The common values that held it together are constantly under attack: ridiculed and scorned by its own intellectuals. Its history and traditions mocked and denigrated. Its moral standing in the world battered. This continuous assault has created confusion and uncertainty among the mass of its citizens.

If America is going to ever again face down genuine threats to its existence it must first win the war at home. If the so-called values of the likes of Clinton should finally prevail America will be in mortal danger. Its sheer size and reputation for revitalising itself pose dangers that tyrants cannot afford to tolerate.

This piece was originally published in one of the many things that makes Australia cool, The New Australian. Reprinted with permission.


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