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Don’t Forget Taipei!

5 May

I was just reading for the last week, and I noticed he had some great posts on the PRC-ROC-US triangle. I will quote just .

The US position is gibberish. On one hand, it accuses Taipei of not wanting to buy US weapons and thus, not being serious about defense. On the other, it says Taipei is too serious about defense, for it is building “offensive” weapons. From yet another angle, it complains that Taiwan is building offensive weapons and that is bad, but then it is criticizing Taiwan for not buying US submarines, weapons that the US refused to sell Taiwan for twenty years because…..they were offensive weapons. And let’s not forget: citing the legislature’s intransigence on the arms purchase, the US has refused to sell requested (and needed) F-16s to Taiwan — and then it accuses Taipei of not being serious about its own defense!

If any human held the US positions, it would immediately be put in a straitjacket.

In the process of reading these posts, and responding to a fellow grad student about a class paper on Thomas P.M. Barnett’s Blueprint for Action, I came across from which I would also like to quote.

The debate over how to approach the China-Taiwan conundrum pits former Republican officials and business lobbyists on one side against very conservative politicians on the other–and in this case the very conservative politicians are on the side of the angels. The pro-China lobby, which opposes doing anything on Taiwan that could disrupt U.S.-China relations, includes the U.S.-China Business Council as well as the academics and former officials of the Scowcroft Group, Kissinger Associates, and the U.S.-China Policy Foundation. This lobby enjoys the quiet support (most politicians don’t like to speak publicly on behalf of China) of about half the Republicans and Democrats in Congress.

China’s defenders argue that the U.S. has a greater interest in maintaining friendly relations with Beijing than it does in ensuring a minimum level of democratic independence for Taiwan. “Reunification on terms like those proposed by Beijing would threaten no American or allied interest,” says former Reagan administration official Chas W. Freeman, a co-chairman of the U.S.-China Policy Foundation. There are two kinds of geopolitical arguments for this position. The first is Kissingerian realism: China, according to this argument, will inevitably dominate Asian politics and its government is likely to remain authoritarian and fully committed to annexing Taiwan. The U.S. therefore should attempt to foster stability in Asia by enmeshing China in a world trading system that will deter it from trying to impose its will on its neighbors by force. One key to the success of this strategy is the reunification of China and Taiwan–even on terms that Beijing proposes.

The second argument for allowing China to annex Taiwan on Beijing’s terms is based on free market determinism. The determinists believe that as capitalism grows in China, the Chinese will be unable to sustain a hypercentralized political system and will move toward greater political freedom. “The most effective way available to us of promoting respect for human rights and democracy in China is by pursuing policies that will increase the wealth and raise the living standards of the country,” Owen Harries wrote in The National Interest. “The correlation between rising incomes and democratization is a very strong one.” The determinists think that if Taiwan is absorbed into China, even on terms unfavorable to Taiwan, the smaller country’s free market system (along with Hong Kong’s) will undermine the Chinese political system. Taiwan may not get what it wants in the initial negotiations, but if it sticks around, it will eventually be part of a democratic China.

The pro-Taiwan lobby includes some small conservative think tanks like Frank Gaffney’s Center for Security Policy and some prominent academics like Arthur Waldron of the University of Pennsylvania. It is vocally represented on Capitol Hill by conservative Republicans such as Senator Jesse Helms of North Carolina and Congressman Dana Rohrbacher of California, who retain their decades-old loyalty to Taiwan as a bastion of anticommunism, and by conservative publications, including The Weekly Standard and Human Events. Some of these conservatives want to continue fighting the Cold War and seek to defend Taiwan by isolating China economically and diplomatically. But there is also a–to stretch the term–moderate version of this pro-Taiwan position that provides an effective response to the PRC’s defenders.

Taiwan’s supporters reject the realists’ vision of a stable Asia anchored by a communist PRC. Instead, they argue that a communist-dominated China will continue to be a source of tension and potential war. Greater trade and investment won’t necessarily make China more democratic. In the short run, they believe, it could make China more dangerous as its rulers seek to overcome the centrifugal tendencies of free market capitalism. If a transition to democracy does occur, it will likely involve the kind of protracted turmoil that affected South Korea and is presently crippling Indonesia. And whether that instability will finally result in a more democratic system will depend largely on what is occurring in the rest of Asia. If the United States were to acquiesce now in the destruction of Taiwan’s democracy, say the country’s supporters, a democratic outcome in China would be less likely.

Instead of orienting American efforts in the Far East around China, Taiwan’s supporters want the United States to focus its Asian policy on strengthening Japan, South Korea, and the other democratic nations in Asia, including Taiwan. While some unreconstructed Cold Warriors want to isolate China, many Taiwan supporters share the realist’s goal of enmeshing China in the world economy. They backed China’s entry into the World Trade Organization and U.S. attempts to engage China in negotiations over nuclear proliferation and regional stability. They believe that these steps can eventually move China toward democracy and responsible international behavior–but only if such steps are coupled with a commitment to the preservation of Taiwan’s democratic government. That can’t happen unless the United States provides Taiwan with sufficient arms to deter the Chinese from negotiating through threat of force.

As I mentioned to my grad school interlocutor, Barnett’s emphasis on globalization (particularly as it relates to security issues) is welcome, but his pro-PRC argument is not.


The Evolving Saga of Jamestown

5 May


The foreigners built their Jamestown right in the heart of a 6,350-square-mile country called Tsencomoco, where a powerful elder chief governed at least 14,000 individuals distributed among about 25 subordinate tribes. This phenomenal leader, known as Powhatan, was not unaware of Europeans, since Spaniards had been making forays into the area and kidnapping his tribesmen since the early 1500s.

What was not entirely transparent to Powhatan, however, was that this little band of struggling English colonists, seemingly so unprepared to survive for even a season, would eventually take over his world.

How could this happen? For starters, Old World epidemics weakened the indigenous people so that in some sectors up to 90 percent of the native population was lost.

But as Cherokee demographer Russell Thornton points out, diseases alone are not sufficient to obliterate a population. Europe, after all, bounced back from the Black Death.

The technological ability and the cultural will of the early English to use their military might to conquer the land for their sole benefit was unprecedented from an Indian point of view, however. Until their encounters with the English, the Chesapeake native societies had never known that indiscriminately killing all of another town’s women and children was an acceptable method of conquest. Of course, the Powhatans committed atrocities in their violent conflicts with the settlers, as well, but they gave up their arms by the signing of the Treaty of Middle Plantation in 1677.

As amid heightened security (lest she got beat up by anti-Cheney protesters, no doubt), Virginia organizers of the popular tourist site’s 400th anniversary are trying to downplay its more sordid aspects, like African slavery and tobacco. As The Economist notes, .

And it had better be multicultural, for this is delicate ground. Academic research may have answered lingering questions about the first African slaves in 1619—“20 and odd Negroes�, as they were described by John Rolfe, a tobacco merchant. He went on to marry Pocahontas, an Indian princess who is more famous for her supposed romance with Captain Smith, one of the early Jamestown leaders. In the 1990s, a professor at the University of California at Berkeley found records in a Spanish archive that suggest some slaves, who were originally bound for Mexico aboard a Portuguese ship, were snatched by British pirates and may have been delivered by them to Jamestown. The Africans were probably from what is now Angola, and probably Christians, since their homeland had converted to Christianity under the Portuguese in the 1500s.

The history of Virginia slavery, neglected for years, is now a political preoccupation. Virginia has just become the first American state officially to express remorse for slavery. Although this was not quite a full-blown apology—the word is never used in the resolution that was passed this winter by the General Assembly—the pronouncement inspired a mea culpa by another former slave state, Maryland. North Carolina and Alabama have done the same, though a similar move in Georgia failed. But the gesture by Virginia, which elected the nation’s first black governor in 1989, did not come easily. One Republican legislator, whose forebears owned slaves, complained that an apology was unnecessary, because blacks “should get overâ€? slavery.

Native Americans, too, are trying to use the Jamestown observance to their advantage. Virginia tribes are pressing for federal recognition of the kind Congress has already extended to about 560 others, many of them in the West. However, some Virginia officials fear the tribes will use federal recognition to open casinos on their small, rural reservations. Though the tribes say they won’t, their lobbying efforts in Washington, DC, are worrying a state with a limited tolerance for gambling.

The tribes’ push in Congress is part of a larger effort to establish their presence in Virginia. In the 1920s the state, renowned for racist policies even in an age of segregation, attempted to remove all references to Native Americans from official records because some health authorities, wedded to eugenics, deemed Indians genetically inferior. Last summer the tribes spotlighted their direct tie to England, sending a 54-member delegation to meet local and national officials and to visit Pocahontas’s grave in Gravesend, in Kent.

This year’s is not the first observance of the Jamestown settlement, but it is trying to be the most balanced. The 250th anniversary in 1857 was a statewide affair in which the General Assembly boldly declared Jamestown the birthplace of the nation—overlooking the fact that St Augustine, Florida, a Spanish settlement, was established 42 years earlier. In 1907 Virginia, with federal backing, staged a huge but poorly-attended exposition that presented Jamestown as a white Christian beachhead in a land of godless red savages. It also featured the Great White Fleet, the armada President Theodore Roosevelt would dispatch on a global tour: a new, Americanised symbol of imperial ambition. Much the same notion launched Jamestown; but ambitious nation-building is a little out of fashion now.

The original Jamestown is sunk under the James River now, but like an Americanized version of Godzilla, America’s controversial history has returned to the mainland.

Tell Me More

5 May

I’m glad there’s at least

Six hundred pages of documents relating to intelligence that New York City gathered before the 2004 Republican National Convention should be made public, a federal judge ruled on Friday.

Judge James Francis of U.S. District Court in Manhattan struck down the city’s attempt to keep the documents confidential, but agreed to keep them sealed pending a possible city appeal.

The New York Civil Liberties Union and The New York Times had petitioned the judge to make the documents public.

The city had argued their publication could influence potential jurors in a larger case, yet to go trial, in which about 90 protesters who were arrested at the convention are suing the city alleging their rights were violated through mass arrests, prolonged detentions and blanket fingerprinting.

Something tells me jurors don’t need that information to rule against the State of New York, but it’s the right thing to do. That earlier point about regulation and smarter procedures, not repression, looks even more on target here.

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