Let’s start with two undisputed facts. First, we owe the Chinese a crapload of money. We owe China the kind of money that changes the definition of ‘money’ if you screw with it all at once. Second, the fastest and easiest way to piss off the Chinese is to bring up Taiwan. You might conceivably dispute the third point – when you visit people to whom you owe a crapload of money, a safe way to piss them off is to lecture them about how to run their house.
You can probably guess where I’m going with this. Hoping to boost his standing after a South America trip that most acknowledge as a disaster, Bush lectured the Chinese on how they should be more like Taiwan:
Modern Taiwan is free and democratic and prosperous. By embracing freedom at all levels, Taiwan has delivered prosperity to its people and created a free and democratic Chinese society,” Bush will say according to an advance text released by the U.S. White House.
By meeting the legitimate demands of its citizens for freedom and openness, China’s leaders can help their country grow into a modern, prosperous and confident nation
et cetera. China’s initial reaction, not so positive:
China said on Wednesday it would not tolerate any interference over Taiwan, after United States President George Bush praised the island’s democracy and urged Beijing to open dialogue with Taipei.
“Taiwan is a part of China, an inseparable part of China, and China does not brook any interference in its internal affairs,” Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing told Agence France Presse on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific summit in South Korea.
Despite the fact that China badly needs democratic reforms, this was an inexplicably stupid move. Rumors about the president’s declining rheum sound more and more credible every day.
Criticisms that I’m ignoring China’s need for democratic reforms make no sense to me. Just the reverse is true – we all want to push China towards democratization. The problem is that you accomplish the reverse by insulting them.
What makes more sense to me is that I was not enough aware of how easy it is to provoke an angry response in east Asia. It’s reassuring, mostly, to hear that this sort of angry diplomatic rebuke happens every day in China, Japan and the Koreas.