Those Subtle Chinese, Robert Kagan:D
For the past few months I've been hearing from a bevy of China experts about how subtle and brilliant Beijing's diplomacy has become in recent years.
Sophisticated and confident, Chinese diplomats have been running rings around the United States, winning friends and influencing people throughout East Asia and the world. So I can only marvel at China's latest diplomatic gambits, whose brilliance and sophistication must be so subtle as not to be susceptible to normal modes of analysis.
First, China's leaders this week introduced a draft "Anti-Secession Law" in the People's Congress that threatens military action against Taiwan. An official summary of the legislation declares that "in the event that the 'Taiwan independence' forces should act under any name or by any means to cause the fact of Taiwan's secession from China, or that major incidents entailing Taiwan's secession from China should occur, or that possibilities for a peaceful reunification should be completely exhausted, that [the] state shall employ non-peaceful means and other necessary measures to protect China's sovereignty and territorial integrity."
This deliberately vague threat would seem to suggest that China might attack Taiwan in the event that (a) Taiwan declares independence, (b) seems to be about to declare independence, (c) seems to be thinking about possibly declaring independence some time in the future or (d) is not thinking about independence at all but merely refuses to be absorbed by China in a timely manner.
The threat also comes as some of China's neighbors, notably Japan and, more quietly, Australia, are evincing some nervousness about China's growing power and muscle-flexing. Japan has recently sought to broaden the scope of its security ties with the United States and for the first time has explicitly discussed joint U.S.-Japanese cooperation in the event of a crisis in the Taiwan Strait. What better way for China to soothe Japanese nervousness than to appear even more belligerent?
But Chinese subtlety doesn't end there. According to a report this week in The Australian, Chinese officials have recently demanded that the Australian government "review" its 50-year-old treaty with the United States.
Australia "needs to be careful," Beijing Foreign Ministry official He Yafei reportedly warned, lest it wind up in a confrontation with China as part of its treaty obligations to the United States.
Now, anyone who knows the Australian character knows that this kind of blunt "warning" and demand for a loosening of security ties with the United States is precisely the wrong tack to take if you really hope to influence Australian policy. So the Chinese must be operating on an entirely different plane of diplomatic sophistication.