I’ve occasionally featured bad journalism on here, articles which serve as examples of what happens when dumb people write about China. Today I have the dumbest yet, an op-ed from the NYT by a Paul V. Kane, apparently “a former international security fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School.” One wonders if the ‘former’ bit comes from him being expelled from the school?
He writes about how America should ‘dump’ Taiwan. Take a look:
WITH a single bold act, President Obama could correct the country’s course, help assure his re-election, and preserve our children’s future.
He should enter into closed-door negotiations with Chinese leaders to write off the $1.14 trillion of American debt currently held by China in exchange for a deal to end American military assistance and arms sales to Taiwan and terminate the current United States-Taiwan defense arrangement by 2015.
This would be a most precious prize to the cautious men in Beijing, one they would give dearly to achieve. After all, our relationship with Taiwan, as revised in 1979, is a vestige of the cold war.
Today, America has little strategic interest in Taiwan, which is gradually integrating with China economically by investing in and forming joint ventures with mainland Chinese firms. The island’s absorption into mainland China is inevitable.
China would want a deal on Taiwan for several reasons. First, Taiwan is Beijing’s unspoken but hard-to-hide top priority for symbolic and strategic reasons; only access to water and energy mean more to Chinese leaders.
Second, a deal would open a clearer path for the gradual, orderly integration of Taiwan into China.
Third, it would undermine hard-line militarists who use the Taiwan issue to stoke nationalist flames, sideline pro-Western technocrats and extract larger military budgets. And finally, it would save China the considerable sums it has been spending on a vast military buildup.
Where to begin?! It’s always a little painful to read something written by someone who clearly has no idea what he’s talking about, but this article just throws nonsense at you from every angle. Giving up Taiwan would correct the country’s course? Really? An issue most Americans know little/nothing about would ensure his re-election? Really?!?! It would preserve our children’s future?!?!?!? Really?!??!?!?!
Then there’s the ‘absorption into mainland China is inevitable’ bit. I take it Kane has only learned about Taiwan from Beijing propaganda releases or something? This is a country which has been de-facto independent for decades, where the people have grown more and more invested in a Taiwanese identity defines them as not-PRC, where the realistic chances of integration grow smaller every year. As Peking Duck said in response to the article:
The only thing missing from this op-ed: the Taiwanese. I lived there for nearly two years. This “solution” would be met by abject horror, and not just by the Green fanatics. (And not all Greens are fanatics; I know some splendid ones. But I also know a few fanatics. And when I say fanatics….) I know plenty of politically apathetic Chinese who emphatically say Taiwan will never accept being ruled by the CCP. And they really mean it.
Has Kane ever… oh, I don’t know, spoken to a Taiwanese person? Glanced at an opinion poll? The Taiwanese can see what happens to people on the other side of the Taiwan Straight, they know what being ruled by Beijing means. Kane also seems to have no idea that Beijing actually frequently and loudly talks about how reintegrating Taiwan is one of their top priorities- indeed, it’s frequently called a ‘core interest’ by Chinese leaders, which makes it odd for Kane to describe it as ‘unspoken.’ Joe Weisenthal at Business Insider points out another huge flaw:
Two, and this is more important, China doesn’t hold a sword over our heads. There are all kinds of reasons why we have to take China seriously, but their debt holdings aren’t one of them. They can’t dump our debt even if they wanted to, and as long as they wanted to trade with us (which will be forever) they won’t be dumping our debt. People think the Chinese own our debt because they’re our lenders. This isn’t the case. The Chinese own our debt because they run a trade surplus with the U.S., and that surplus cash gets recycled into Treasuries. That’s it.
People more interested in the economic flaws of Kane’s argument should read this post by Chovanec, who explains in great detail exactly why the plan makes no sense.
It’s rare to see the entire Chinese blogosphere united in derision like this. Here’s to hoping no one important ever reads his op-ed.