Saturday, July 16, 2005

I'll Call Myself Captain Studpants

Big-city dwellers, has your new A/C window unit led to better sleep and better mood? If so, you're in luck, because Chinese PLA General Zhu Chengu can fix that for you.

Zhu, says Friday's Financial Times, just told reporters that the Chinese are willing to go nuclear in the event of a war over Taiwan: "We... will prepare ourselves for the destruction of all the cities east of Xian. Of course the Americans will have to be prepared that hundreds... of cities will be destroyed by the Chinese."

China stretches, roughly, from 75-to 130-degrees longitude. Xian is at about 110-degrees, meaning that in order to hang onto Taiwan Zhu seems ready to let almost half of China get nuked. And most of China's real cities--including Beijing and Shanghai--are east of Xian, so the death toll would be greater than half its urban population (which composes 36% of China's 1.3 bn people).

How's that for screaming insomnia? Cranking up your A/C won't help you sleep through that, mes amis, though it might help you disguise your sleepless shivers as a response to the cold.

Zhu, who may or may not have followed up his remarks by throwing metal hands and biting the head off a bat, is a real PLA general, although military experts seem to think that nobody with high-level access to real Chinese war-gaming scenarios would actually talk like that in public. Zhu sounds more like a saber-rattling tough guy eager to start up some more Cold War antics, Mutually-Assured-Destruction style. Or he's a nut job who knows where China keeps its nukes. Neither one sounds good.

On the plus side, talk like this is more likely to lead to massive radioactive fallout, and we all know what that means: Jon finally gets those superpowers. I'm hoping for super-strength and -staying power.


At 7:46 PM , Blogger Mike M. said...

Though it's unbloggerdly of me, I have to admit... I've never understood the China/Taiwan situation, or why we so vehemently swear to defend them (without being vehement, but expressing vehemence) while we turn a blind eye to, say, China's invasion and occupation of Tibet.

I'll predict that we won't actually, ever, go to war with China over Taiwain. I doubt the public would support it, under any circumstances and, freaky Chinese generals aside, I doubt China wants it.

China is one example of positive globalization. In fact, there's a weird lesson about it -- becase they have a planned economy (as opposed to us, where the economy plans everything else) they can regulate demand and supply of certain commodities. They own the steel market, for example. In Internet speak, they "pwnz it!" They went from net importer to net exporter of steel in 10 years. Truly amazing. That's the kind of thing they want, not war. Your window AC is made in China? So are tons of new billionaires, every year. And they want to par-tay not par-ray nuclear strikes, and, as here, they control things.

At 2:34 PM , Blogger Jon E. said...

I'm not saying China actually wants war of any kind. And I'm pretty sure we don't want another one now either. I was just so excited that for a couple decades there we went without much superpower nuclear saber-rattling that Zhu's outburst is depressing.

Hopefully, the PLA will just send Zhu to a remote farm somewhere, where he can play with his new Leggo Mushroom Cloud action set and chat with his friend, Imaginary Eight-Foot Sun Tzu.

At 11:07 PM , Blogger Jon E. said...

PS--The China/Tibet situation. My sketchy understanding of it is as follows: in 1896, China lost Taiwan to Japan and didn't get it back until the end of WWII. Then, four years later (1949), two million Nationalist supporters fled the Communist consolidation on the mainland and set up shop in Taiwan, where they eventually stopped shafting the local (Hakka) population all the time and helped set up a modern capitalist country with pretty good overall quality of living. The Communists have never officially acknowledged Taiwan's independence, and for reasons of pride and money (Taiwan's per capita GDP is 5 times China's, its poverty rate one-tenth) they'd love to have it fully integrated into mainland China. It's a lot like Hong Kong was before the handover.

As for why the US government seems to care more about Taiwan than Tibet, my hunch is that it's because the US government cares more about Taiwan than Tibet. In part, the case for Taiwan's independence is an easier case to make--Taiwan hasn't really been part of mainland China for 110 years, and I'm pretty sure that its Nationalist founders were friendly to the US govt. from the start. Tibet, meanwhile, has been under Chinese control since the Chinese invastion in 1950.

And it also makes practical (cynical?) sense to care about Taiwan and not about Tibet. Taiwan has a population of 23 million; Tibet's is maybe 2.8 million. Taiwain's per capita GDP is $25,000 (about the same as many Western European countries); Tibet's is somewhere between $500 and $1,000. Taiwan is on an island near important Chinese ports and in important shipping lanes (e.g., Japan to Hong Kong), giving it military and economic importance; Tibet is a landlocked region in Western China bordered by India, Nepal, and Bhutan.

So, the US govt. makes so much noise about Taiwan because it's important in any number of ways, but it doesn't make too much noise about it because a lot of Chinese officials (most of them nowhere nearly as, uh, colorful as Gen. Zhu) are pretty hardcore about Taiwan being part of China. Those same people seem as hardcore about Tibet, and we don't get anything practical out of pushing them on that one--the Dalai Lama visits us either way.


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