Jiang, Taiwan, and the World

All this brouhaha about Taiwan – is it real, or is it a crimson anchovy?
Joseph Kahn at the New York Times makes a good case to suggest that Jiang Zemin remains firmly in control of security policy in China. Not terribly surprising given Jiang’s role as chairman of the Central Military Commission (junwei).

Some observers question how Jiang, virtually the creator and chief guardian of “the middle road” between conservatives and reformists in Zhongnanhai, could possibly have become a leading voice in government for “the slow road” to reform. There are a range of possible explanations, but the most likely is that he has used his new position to solidify his credentials as a hawk and conservative so that Hu Jintao could afford to play the reformist card. Not exactly “good cop/bad cop,” more like “black cat/white cat.”

What continues to cook my noodle is exactly how concerned junwei remains about Taiwan. The more one looks into the issue of Taiwan and its place in the military doctrine of China, the more one begins to realize that this is likely the reddest of red herrings. This is not to suggest that the possibility of Taiwan going it’s own way doesn’t concern China’s leaders greatly. Rather, that Taiwan is a convenient target on which China could appear to focus its attentions, thus making the world assume that China is focusing its attentions on Taiwan. Clearly, the PLA has to be worried about a broad range of security issues, of which Taiwan is just one. In the land of Sun Tzu, the birthplace the art of strategic distraction, how far could this be from the truth? Regardless, if I were Chen Shui-bian, I would studiously avoid believing my own rhetoric and cool it a bit. The last thing this region needs right now is a tinpot politician with delusions of greatness ready to sacrifice peace in some grand, futile, and horribly costly gesture.

Potential Chinese Geopolitical Security Concerns:

1. A rogue North Korea (not just because of what Kim could do, but because of an expanded U.S. presence in the region.)
2. A re-armed Japan driven by neo-Keynsian thinking (“tired of building bridges nobody uses and roads to nowhere? Hey! I’ve got it! Let’s rebuild our military! Banzai!”)
3. An unstable Russia
4. The growing influence of would-be muslim theocrats in Central Asia
5. Growing American “adventurism” in Southwest Asia
6. A fluid leadership situation in Pakistan leading to instability in the Subcontinent.


About David Wolf

An adviser to corporations and organizations on strategy, communications, and public affairs, David Wolf has been working and living in Beijing since 1995, and now divides his time between China and California. He also serves as a policy and industry analyst focused on innovative and creative industries, a futurist, and an amateur historian.
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