At War with China
Jude Wanniski
May 12,1999


In September 1983, on my return from two weeks in China, I became the first American to report in the public prints that China was firmly on the capitalist road. The New York Times featured a condensed version of my Polyconomics report on its editorial page on October 25, 1983, with sketch of a cigar-puffing Deng Xiaoping face on a Chinese dragon emerging from a box affixed with dollar signs. It was two years, though, before the reporting from China in our press corps caught up with me, and I was criticized roundly by conservative friends for having been taken in by my Communist hosts. Even earlier, on September 30, 1977, I'd actually predicted in my book, The Way the World Works, that when mainland China eventually merged with Taiwan, the economy would resemble that of Taiwan, not the People's Republic. In the years since, as China has traveled at an astonishing pace down that capitalist road, I've watched it steadily become more democratic, more open, more confident of its future and its place in the world. This remarkable progress, marred only by the events of June 4, 1989 that we know as "Tiananmen Square," has been matched by a growing coalition of American conservatives who fear China's growing strength and development and are committed to bringing it to heel. This anti-China coalition is now at the peak of its influence in America, to the point where it is prepared, if need be, to make of the PRC a permanent political adversary of the United States. Its assumption is: We are going to have to war with China anyway sometime in the next 30 years. Why do anything to make them stronger before we reach that inevitable contest for global hegemony?

NATO's bombing of China's embassy in Belgrade last week may have been accidental, but the Chinese doubt it, and so do I. If the United States is going to have a free hand in managing the world in the years ahead, it has to diminish the influence of the United Nations, where China does have great influence and a vote on the Security Council. The plan of our Political Establishment has been to impart the role of global cop to NATO, which otherwise has no role to play to justify its great Cold War levels of expense. Just as Russia and China seemed to be succeeding in bringing about a diplomatic solution in the Balkans -- where Kosovo has become a pawn in this global power struggle -- the Chinese embassy was bombed by NATO. Sorry, we had an old map, says NATO, which we got from the CIA. The CIA says: Sorry, we are under funded, with only $30 billion a year to spy on other countries, so we have to use old maps.

The bombing will continue until either NATO gets its way, with a permanent occupation force in the Balkans, or the European members of NATO throw their weight to the UN as the peacekeeper, with a figleaf for NATO. My analysis leads me to support the UN solution, as I am opposed to my country having a free hand in managing the world in the century ahead. That kind of triumphal "Uncle Bully" monopoly of power already is corrupting our central political institutions, inviting global terrorism and permanent global hostilities. Our democracy already has been suspended, as NATO bombs fall on Yugoslavia at the hands of U.S. pilots using CIA maps without benefit of constitutional authority. Not one U.S. Senator has had the courage thus far to insist that the NATO Treaty be amended to permit its use as an offensive agent of its members. They know it would be voted down.

Our national news media, which are supposed to play a watchdog role, also have been corrupted. We now "know," courtesy of The New York Times, that Chinese spies have been stealing nuclear secrets from our national laboratories in New Mexico and California. The stories uniformly are false, as preposterous as the story that the head of China's military intelligence met with Johnny Chung over a cup of tea in Beijing and gave him $300,000 to pass on to President Clinton to help with his re-election. When closely examined, the NYTimes accounts provide no evidence of a single secret of any kind going to China. The NYT was not a part of this genuine ham-handed conspiracy, I'm sure, although its columnist William Safire is among the most aggressive members of the anti-China coalition. My old colleagues at The Wall Street Journal had been pulled in different directions until recently, as our business community prefers peace and prosperity with China. It now has been swallowed up completely by the arguments of the anti-China intellectuals who are smelling blood. Note the WSJ lead editorial Wednesday demands that China apologize to the United States for permitting its citizens to throw rocks at our embassy in Beijing, just because we bombed their embassy in Belgrade and killed their citizens. At all costs, no matter how shameful, NATO must defeat any UN initiative.

In a letter responding to my assertions that the NYT had been suckered by the anti-China gang, its executive editor, Joseph Lelyveld, Wednesday insisted they had not. I gently urged him to assign another reporter the story, to play devil's advocate, as he would be the last guy in town to know his paper had been snookered. My old Cold War colleagues are masters of deceit. The problem, I told Lelyveld, is that there is no debate in our Political Establishment, because our President prefers to triangulate. I've urged the NYT editorial page to insist upon a renegotiation and ratification of the NATO treaty, to make it valid, but no thank you. The democracy is temporarily out of order.

In a few weeks, on June 4, we will be celebrating the 10th anniversary of Tiananmen Square. Last fall, Tim Russert on "Meet the Press" recalled that ten thousand people had been massacred on the Square at the hands of the Chinese butchers. I wrote him a note of correction. Nobody was killed on Tiananmen Square. It is a myth, which grew out of a NYT story by a reporter who wasn't there, about a machine-gun massacre of students. There were 300 killed that day, most in clashes of workers and security forces, who opened fire when some of their number were killed by angry mobs. Don't believe me, folks. Read about it in the Sept./Oct. 1998 Columbia Journalism Review article, "The Myth of Tiananmen," by Jay Matthews, who was present on that day as bureau chief for the Los Angeles Times. The NYT corrected its original massacre story several weeks later, but the original is the one remembered. This is how peace gives way to war -- just as bad communications between husband and wife lead to divorce, or paternal bull-headedness leads to the estrangement of a son. I wrote to Lelyveld in response to his letter that I'd had enough war in my 63 years. My old Cold War comrades-in-arms, I'm sorry to say, would like to have just one more.