China: August 30, 1999

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China has reduced the number of warplane sorties over the Taiwan straits, thus reducing the chance of accidental combat with Taiwanese fighters. China did not announce the number of sorties involved.

China as Seen From China: China has gotten a lot of attention in the media in the past few years, and most of the news has not been good. Looking at China from the outside, through the lens of Western media, you get the impression that 1.3 million Chinese are spoiling for a fight it they don't get things their way. And that what China wants are often thing America cannot afford to provide. Like Taiwanese independence, a lop sided trading arrangement and some serious changes in the way the United States deals with the rest of the world.
Things look different from inside China. For the first half of this century China knew only revolution, civil war and foreign invasion, often all at once. The last fifty years there has been plenty of political repression, economic disaster and more threats of foreign invasion. At one point in the early 1970, Russia seriously considered virtually obliterating China with nuclear weapons before China achieved the ability to do the same to Russia.
In the last twenty years, China has become more politically mellow and economically liberal. The people have prospered, and felt less oppressed by a police state (which China still is, although a kinder and gentler one.) But the Chinese have long memories, and know well that history, especially Chinese history, has a lot of repetition in it. It was with that in mind that China got upset when NATO went after Serbia over what was happening in Kosovo. China has several Kosovos. Tibet is the one we hear about, but there are several Muslim regions in China with similar separatist notions. While Americans might consider it unlikely that NATO, or the United States, would bomb China because of what's happening to the Tibetans, the Chinese aren't so sure. We have been pressing the Chinese for over twenty years on their "human rights" policy. The Chinese take this as a bunch of self-righteous nonsense from countries that were in the stone age while China was inventing the worlds oldest continuous culture. But it's more than cultural superiority, during the 19th century, Europeans forced their ways, and trading treaties, on China at gunpoint. The Chinese have never forgotten that, which was the main reason why they made such a big, big thing about getting Hong Kong back. The original Hong Kong treaties were all forced on China. 
But those land grabs didn't end with the 19th century. When the communists won their civil war with the nationalists in 1949, it was the U.S. navy that prevented the communists from rooting the last nationalist remnants out of Taiwan. No matter that the nationalists had the right idea about economics, the communists finally caught on to that in the 1970s. The main point from the Chinese point of view was that those arrogant Westerners were still playing games with Chinese territory. 
And then there's Japan. In Chinese eyes, America turned Japan into an economic superpower so that the Japanese could continue to threaten China. And now America is uring Japan to increase its armed forces, while also offering to share American anti-missile technology. Nuclear missiles are the only sure means China has to keep the Japanese in line, and here are the Americans doing what they can to see that Japan remains a threat to China. Korea, while historically an obedient neighbor of China, has been torn in half by the Americans, and now the Americans propose to make South Korea immune to Chinese missiles as well. 
Inside China, there are a lot of problems that don't get much attention in the west. For example, despite all the talk of Chinese economic growth, China still has a very small economy for a country containing a fifth of the world's population. Despite all the attention a few prosperous cities and coastal areas get, most Chinese are quite poor. Overall, China is about on a par with the poorest country in Europe; Albania. Put another way, China has only about four percent of world GNP. Worse, China only accounts for about two percent of world trade. As a military power, China is also a lot weaker than the media would have you believe. China accounts for about 4.5 percent of world defense spending, versus 34 percent for the United States. America also accounts for 45 percent of world arms exports, versus 2.4 percent for China. But Chinese arms often go to nations America is on bad terms with, like Iraq, Iran, Cuba and North Korea. China's biggest internal problems are not economic, but cultural. China is culturally diverse, more so than Europe. China doesn't even have a common language, as is commonly believed in the West. The Chinese "dialects" are actually separate languages belonging to the same family. Much like Italian, French and Spanish are all "Latin" languages. Sure, a French speaker can travel to Italy and have an easier time making out the local language than a German, but no one talks about French and Italian as being dialects of the same language. 
China is quite content to hide it's lack of social integration from outsiders. For Chinese leaders know China is weak. They also know that it is easer to deal from a position of strength. So if the foreigners can be made to think that China is stronger than it really is, so much the better for China. 
Or is it?

 

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