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美國.洛杉磯

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美國航母包圍中國幸運的,這個壞消息不是真的

BULLETIN! U.S. CARRIERS TO SURROUND CHINA (A STORY, FORTUNATELY, TOO BAD TO BE TRUE)

By Tom Plate

July 21, 2004

LOS ANGELES -- Anyone who knows anything about China knows that it's not just its current government but its people, too, who are ultra-protective and ultra-sensitive on the Taiwan issue. They'd fight – bet on it -- to keep alive the hope of eventual union with that feisty offshore island that maintains its wary distance from the mainland. And so, when a sensational story broke recently that the United States had plans for a massive show of naval power in the Chinese seas, it was a true blockbuster, perhaps a portent of world war.

After all, wars can start over serious mutual misperceptions. In 1996, the mainland executed an ill-advised measure of gunboat and missile diplomacy in an effort to intimidate the island's voters from electing as its president Chen Shui-bian, whose party’s most prominent platform plank was formal independence from the mainland. In response, a pair of U.S. aircraft carrier groups was sent close to China to help calm the roiling political waters.

But they did not actually stick their noses into the strait --- the 100-mile wide sea that separates the mainland from Taiwan. This didn’t happen after then-U.S Ambassador to China James Sasser in Beijing, greatly alarmed, urgently telephoned President Bill Clinton to warn that the Pentagon's running a carrier group through the Taiwan Strait might well trigger a Chinese military response. In the end, the carrier groups wisely steered away from strait waters, China quieted down, Chen was elected. And over the next several years China-U.S. relations improved enormously.

Last week, though, it was starting to look like 1996 all over again. Rumors began to circulate about a mammoth U.S. military exercise off Taiwan, Operation Summer Pulse '04, that would involve seven carrier groups, more than half of the U.S. carrier fleet. In effect, U.S. naval forces would be shaking an enormous stick in Beijing's face, signaling the folly of military action over Taiwan.

The sensational story was apparently first listed as fact on a Chinese-language Web site, then published in at least two newspapers in Asia and two in the United States, including in the ordinarily cautious Los Angeles Times. These accounts spawned a predictable firestorm in Asia about new U.S. "gunboat diplomacy" in various Internet blogs and Web pages.

As well such an allegation should: China insists on ultimate sovereignty over Taiwan and argues that any Western encouragement of Taiwan separatism would undermine regional stability and delay a peaceful solution of the issue. Indeed, this "one China" policy has been accepted by the United Nations (as well as the United States and most of the world).

Beijing thus has a point. And so given this reality, the proper task of modern global diplomacy is to discourage China from ever attempting to establish sovereignty by force and to deter Taiwan from acting publicly in such a way that Beijing becomes convinced that the military option is the mainland's only hope of ever realizing unification. China's military overlord Jiang Zemin recently said this needs to be accomplished by 2020, which means (on my reading) that Beijing is not exactly saying, well, by tomorrow.

As it turns out, the seven-carriers-to-China story was not only inflammatory, it was also false. In fact, after the U.S.S. Ronald Reagan returns to port in San Diego early next month, only two carriers, not seven, will float in Pacific waters: the U.S.S. Kitty Hawk and the U.S.S. John C. Stennis, according to Capt. John Singley, top spokesman for the U.S. Pacific Command in Hawaii, in an exclusive on-the-record interview.

The false story, whipped into a frenzy, upset many in the U.S. military perhaps as much as the Chinese.  For one thing, the Pacific Command has been working industriously since the scary 1996 cross-straits stare-down to get to know its Chinese counterparts and develop a measure of mutual trust. Then-Pacific Commander Joseph Prueher, now retired, personally visited China for useful sessions with Chinese counterparts. His successors continued that policy, though the frequency of contact has been foolishly cut back by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

Second, rumors of a massive U.S. military buildup (for which America does have the capability) only play into the hands of China’s hawks in the People’s Liberation Army, who beg Beijing for more money for more arms, which plays into the hands of Taiwan’s hawks (same reason), which plays into the hands of anti-China circles in the United States who want more funding for more weapons – all of which delights U.S. arms merchants. It is through this kind of whirl-wind of rumor, fear and innuendo that the vile atmosphere of a vicious, costly and unneeded arms race in Asia is spawned.

In international relations and public diplomacy, the news media play a critical role. They can prudently raise intelligent questions, or rashly raise international temperatures. They can carefully report the news or puff up a tidbit of sensationalism. The press owes it to world peace to behave more responsibly and not take its cues from sensational cyberspace sources. War – or potential war – is serious business, as Iraq today reminds us daily.

 
 

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