A U.S.-China war?

Today, Farah and Martinez debate whether China poses a military threat to the United States. Yesterday, they pondered Chinese imports; Monday, they discussed the broad question of U.S. engagement with the world's most populous country. Later this week, they'll debate Olympic boycotts and more.

Don't back down to China's overt military threatsBy Joseph Farah
Dear Andrés,

As I understand it, you and President Bush believe it is in America's best interest to help China expand its economy through partnerships, sharing technology, Import-Export Bank loans, investment and relaxed trade requirements and allowing them to buy U.S. companies of strategic importance -- like 3Com.

I disagree.

What China needs to do to improve the plight of its people is to abandon the failed experiment with command-and-control socialism that has created a nightmare world of totalitarianism for more than 1 billion people.

President Reagan rejected similar policies toward the Soviet Union and created the conditions that resulted in the EvilEmpire imploding of its own dead weight in a peaceful revolution. Reagan rejected the failed policies of the past, in which the United States tried to "help" the Soviet Union with bailouts and other random acts of kindness - virtually everything we're doing with China today.

China is the Evil Empire of the future. You don't have to be a prophet to see it. You only need to be a student of history. It was just two years ago that a top Chinese military official said Beijing would use nuclear weapons against the U.S. if Americans defended Taiwan against an invasion from the mainland.

"If the Americans draw their missiles and position-guided ammunition on to the target zone on China's territory, I think we will have to respond with nuclear weapons," Zhu Chenghu, a major general in the People's Liberation Army, said at an official briefing.

Chas Freeman, a former U.S. assistant secretary of Defense, said in 1999 that a PLA official had told him China would respond with a nuclear strike on the U.S. in the event of a conflict with Taiwan.

"In the end, you care more about Los Angeles than you do about Taipei," Freeman quoted this official as saying.

More recently, we learned of China's plans for a cyberwar attack on the U.S. to be launched in conjunction with a conventional assault on U.S. carriers in the Pacific.

Code-named "Pearl Harbor II" by the Pentagon, the plan was designed to leave America's key allies in the Pacific - Japan and Taiwan - virtually defenseless.

Does this sound like the work of friends?

We have a clear choice before us in dealing with the next great threat to America's future - follow the policies of Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter, or those of Ronald Reagan.

In ignoring China's military expansion, its threats against Taiwan, its threats even against the United States, we serve only to ensure a costly battle against the expansionist power in the future. We are making our worst fear a virtual inevitability.

If we want to prevent war with China, the best way is to be resolute, stand on principle, be strong and never back down.

Appeasement never works.

It's not our job to worry about the Chinese economy. It is our job to worry about U.S. national security. Joseph Farah is the Washington-based founder and editor of WorldNetDaily.com and the author of the new book, "Stop the Presses! The Inside Story of the New Media Revolution." He is the former editor in chief of the Sacramento Union and served as executive news editor of the Los Angeles Herald Examiner for six years.

Reagan knew the Chinese weren't Soviets in 1984By Andrés Martinez
Dear Joseph,

There you go again, as the great communicator you so reverently cite would say - twisting history and overlooking basic realities. It is astonishing to me that you hold up Ronald Reagan (in the context of what he had to say about Soviet Union) as a proponent for confrontation with China. Heed your counsel of studying history: Reagan famously visited Beijing in the spring of 1984 and improved ties with Deng Xiaoping, who was then launching his great opening to the world.

Reagan, the great American anti-communist, came home calling the People's Republic "so-called communist China." He was heartened by the "injection of a free-market system" in China, and how that would alter that society (he was perceptively early to this view). And though Reagan was a staunch supporter of Taiwan, he famously drew a distinction between the Chinese and the Soviets - stating that the former were not an expansionist empire.

This analysis is truer today than it was then. We will have disagreements with China, as we do with any great power, and China will be pretty heavy-handed in pursuing its own interests, but this is the sort of thing that makes the world a lot grayer than you seem to be comfortable with. The U.S. is not the only country on Earth allowed to throw its weight around.

Doing business with China is mutually beneficial; a thriving China is more likely to become a responsible stakeholder in the international order. Better that than to have a billion Chinese living under the kind of depraved conditions their North Korean neighbors live in, though I suppose you'd prefer it that way.

I am no appeaser. I think the U.S. should devote far more of its resources to national security than it presently does, and that we should keep our troops in South Korea. I like to see Japan gingerly enhance its military capability, and I believe the U.S. should make it clear to the Chinese that we cannot accept any threat to the self-determination of Taiwan.

That remains a huge sore point for the Chinese, who compare Taiwanese talk of independence with South Carolina's secession that kicked off our Civil War, but we do need to remain firm on that. Yes, China's leadership (and population) is hyper-nationalist, and the country is acquiring some swagger. And I do think the U.S. should not be overly naive about the potential dangers that lie ahead. But I can assure you that unleashing a trade war or otherwise engaging in senseless China-bashing will not only hurt our economy, it will play into the hands of the most anti-American elements within the Chinese leadership.

On the whole, I don't see many examples of China being a reckless power these days, and you don't provide any yourself, beyond pointing to rhetoric and war-planning (we should be shocked, shocked!). The one legitimate knock on China is that it has been too obstructionist in the international arena - say, in creating a united front on Iran or Darfur - because of its obsession with sovereignty, and not wanting to meddle.

But even that is changing, as the North Korean nuke negotiations showed. But even at its worst, people arguing that China is an expansionist power always have to talk about a nefarious plan that has yet to be unfolded. The truth is that the leadership in Beijing is focused on retaining its political power by delivering healthy annual growth. I hope they lose that bet, and that the day will come when the contradictions between a communist political structure and an increasingly market-based economy will no longer be sustainable.

So, I am there with you about being resolute, though I think Reagan's view of China was closer to my own.

Lastly, in talking about China's need to abandon its failed socialist experiment to alleviate the plight of its people, you again pretend that nothing in China is changing, which is about the least truthful statement one can say about the world today. I don't know what all the articles you are peddling say, but I hope some of them touch upon the amazing transformation that China is undergoing.


Andrés Martinez, a former editor of The Times' editorial page, is a senior fellow at the New America Foundation.

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