Commentary: THE COMING WAR OVER TAIWAN
by Howard Bloom
American Reporter Correspondent
NEW YORK, May 10, 2001 -- Governments on the verge of military action ha= ve traditionally used alleged "provocations" to stir a righteous fury among=
their peoples when they needed an excuse for armed assaults.
The Romans jerry-rigged a series of non-existent dastardly acts and al= leged that they'd been perpetrated by the Carthaginians. This built public= support for 118 years of Punic Wars (264 BC - 146 BC) and the ultimate des= truction of Carthage itself.
Hitler staged bogus night raids complete with the realdeath of German = soldiers, reported that these atrocities been carriedout by the Poles, and = roused public outrage to support an instantretaliatory act -- the grisly in= vasion of Poland.
The Chinese used shrill rhetoric on a daily basis during the Mao years= . Now they are using it again.
It's hard to determine whether they want war or not. There's a keyphrase= in a recent issue of People's Daily -- the country's mostinfluentia= l paper -- that indicates they might. The People's Daily story is he= adlined "Perfidious Act Portends Great Disaster." The perfidious actor is = the United States. Its sin is support for Taiwan.
The editorial ends with the ominous statement that, "The Chinese natio= n is a peace-loving nation, the Chinese Army is a peace-loving armed force.= However, when the territory, territorial waters and territorial airspace a= nd sovereignty of the motherland are violated, we will fight against the vi= olator through to the end at all costs."
The hidden barb is this one: "they [the U.S.] intensify arming theso-cal= led unsinkable aircraft carrier." Indeed all our overseasmilitary project= ion capabilities -- including our capacity to defendTaiwan -- are based on = the use of aircraft carriers. We've built these asfloating fortresses butt= ressed with armor plate and defended byanti-missile weaponry.
But putti= ng troops on an aircraft carrier and sending them into the South China Sea = may simply be prepackaging Spam in a can. The Chinese have purchased, upgr= aded, and may have learned to mass-produce SS-N-22 Sunburn missiles -- Sovi= et-designed cruise missiles capable of remarkable -- and disturbing feats.
In the original Russian version, the Sunburn missiles were capable of = speeds two and half times that of sound. They were built to skim over the = surface of the water in a zigzag pattern that made them almost impossible t= o detect, target, and destroy before impact. Worse yet, the Sunburns were = designed to carry a nuclear warhead with six times the punch of the Hiroshi= ma bomb.
We know that 18 Sunburns were purchased from the Russians and mounted = on two new Russian-built Sovremenny-class guided-missile destroyers. We do= not know if the Chinese have manufactured additional Sunburns, and we do n= ot know what sort of upgrades the Chinese -- among the top manufacturers of= microchip-based consumer goods in the world -- have made.
However, we do know that the Chinese started their own cruise missile = program in 1977, reverse-engineered the America's Tomahawk missile in the e= arly 1990s, produced nuclear-tipped cruise missiles by 1995, were working o= n a cruise missile with an astonishing 1,500-mile range in 2000, and at tha= t point had long since perfected mass production of the devices, cranking t= hem out in sufficient abundance to allow for exports to other nations.
The EP-3E spy plane, in fact, was reportedly attempting to gather at l= east rudimentary data on the Sunburn before it collided with the Chinese J-= 8 and was forced to land at China's Lingshui airbase.
My first book, The = Lucifer Principle: A Scientific Expedition Into the Forces of History, atte= mpted to demonstrate that pecking orders existnot just among individual org= anisms, but among social groups -- from thelevel of cliques and subcultures= all the way up to nations and empires.
The Chinese know that we are totally dependent on just 12 aircraftcarrie= rs (The Kitty Hawk, The Constellation, The Enterprise, The JohnF. Kennedy,= The Nimitz, The Dwight D. Eisenhower, The Carl Vinson, TheTheodore Rooseve= lt, The Abraham Lincoln, The George Washington, The JohnC. Stennis, and The= Harry S. Truman-a thirteenth, The Ronald Reagan isunder construction).
Beijing's military has also leaked the word to Reuters that, to quote = the unnamed "source close to China's military," "Americans can't tolerate d= eath." Says this Asian Deep Throat, China's generals "look at your yellow = ribbons for these servicemen and your casualty-free Kosovo and they think y= ou don't have the will."
Finally, the Chinese now have not only military strength, but the one= thing most essential to any creature about to attempt a jump up the hierar= chical ladder -- a surplus. Its arms supplies are ample and it is fat wit= h cash. As of September 2000, its currency reserves amounted to $163.1 bil= lion.
The Chinese press has been instructed to peddle a whole host ofprovocati= ons to make the juices of righteous indignation flow: the U.S.bombing of th= eir embassy in Belgrade, the granting of a visa to formerTaiwan president L= ee Teng-hui, the EP-3E spy plane incident, GeorgeBush's complaints about th= e arrest of several American residents (mostof them academics) of Chinese o= rigin for spying, Bush's statement thatAmerica would defend Taiwan with for= ce, the new sale of arms to Taiwan,and a seventh unspeakable insult announc= ed April 27 -- America's serious consideration of a request to let Taiwan's= President Chen Shui-bian address Congress.
This led to what Reuters described as an "almost shouted fulmination" = by Chinese spokesman Zhang Mingqing. who "said in a fury": "No force can st= op the Chinese people from completing the grand task of reunifying the moth= erland. Taiwan is Chinese territory. It is not a territory of the United St= ates. No matter who tries to interfere in China's internal affairs and viol= ate China's sovereignty, only they will pay the price."
With its aircraft-killing Sunburn missiles and its sense that America = will back down over even a single death, China just may think that a quick,= surgically-pinpointed war over Taiwan is one they could easily afford. Th= ey would ascend, in this vision, to the top of the pecking order.
That's how the marketing of righteous fury has the power to start wars, = upset the international order and change history forever.
Howard Bloom, a Visiting Scholar at New York University, is Founder of t= he International Paleopsychology Project and a member of the New York Acade= my of Sciences, American Association for the Advancement of Science, Americ= an Psychological Society, and the Academy of Political Science; he also ser= ves as executive editor of the New Paradigm book series. His work has appea= red in the Village Voice and Washington Post, among other publicatio= ns. Reach him at email@example.com.