WASHINGTON - Half a century ago when World War II was over and every other
country was tired of the war's unprecedented devastation and was busy
concentrating on peace, Mao Zedong's Red Armies swarmed into East Turkestan
(known as Xinjiang) and Tibet, and occupied these two states, killing
hundreds of thousands of indigenous people. Such killing, though not on the
same scale, continues today in China with no end in sight.
Thus I was not bemused at all by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's
recent comments that China was a country "we hope and pray enters the
civilized world in an orderly way". This is not just his personal hope and
prayer. This is the hope and prayer of all those Uighur, Tibetan, and
Chinese people who have been suffering under China's authoritarian rule
Although China should be considered as a civilized country, the Chinese
government has never ruled this country in a civilized manner acceptable to
many of its people. According to Amnesty International, the Chinese
government executes more people every year than rest of the world combined.
The Chinese people deserve democracy, human rights, and religious freedom.
But the leaders in Beijing have neither given them such things nor do they
appear to intend to do so in the future. In fact, the Chinese government is
not behaving the way this great nation should, both at home and abroad. A
regime that often acts against the wishes of its people and does not respect
its citizens' human rights and religious freedom in the 21st century, but is
bent on ruling them with the power that comes from the barrel of the gun,
does not deserve respect at home or abroad.
The US administration of President George W Bush is rightly concerned with
the rise of China and its military strength because nobody is sure now
whether the Chinese government will become a responsible power or partner.
Or, as Rumsfeld put it, whether China "enters the civilized world in an
orderly way" in regard to many urgent international issues, or becomes a
destabilizer to challenge the United States, as did the former Soviet Union.
It is highly likely that China will challenge the US since it has never
given up the option of using force to occupy Taiwan (if it moves to declare
independence), a de facto democratic state that the US is bound to protect
by law. In addition, China is buying advanced Russian Sukhoi fighter jets,
Sovromenny cruisers and nuclear submarines for what some analysts say is the
bold purpose of fighting against US aircraft battle groups in the
Asia-Pacific region. The recent menacing statements by Chinese leadership
directed toward Taiwan and indirectly to the US, and its short-range
ballistic missile buildup across the Taiwan Strait, is a sign that China
sooner or later may decide to use force against Taiwan, and the US should it
come to its rescue. Thus far, China is the only country that is planning to
militarily take on the United States since the end of the Cold War in 1991.
Apparently, the European Union is not going to help defuse the intensifying
situation across the Taiwan Strait; it intends to lift the arms embargo
imposed against the Chinese government for killing pro-democracy students in
Tiananmen Square in June 1989. With the advanced weapons and military
technology China acquires from EU, it will certainly accelerate China's
military ambitions and capability to use force to resolve the Taiwan issue,
whether or not the United States is going to be involved. The Chinese
leadership knows that if it can persuade Washington that it is too costly
for the US to protect Taiwan, the US may consider not getting involved if
China attacks Taiwan. By lifting the arms embargo, the EU will help China to
raise the cost of war for both Taiwan and the United States. It is unclear
why the EU has decided to choose China, a rising belligerent, at the cost of
its most reliable long-term ally during World War II and the Cold War.
At the moment, I am bemused why the US needs China's help to disarm North
Korea of its nuclear arms and nuclear program - these were developed with
China's help in the first place. Seeking its own long-term interests, China
pretends to be on the side of disarming this rogue state by brokering the
six-party talks on North Korea's disarmament. (These involve both Koreas,
China, Japan, Russia and the US). In fact, China is responsible for North
Korea having nuclear weapons. It was China that persuaded the administration
of former president Bill Clinton to help North Korea to develop nuclear
facilities for "peaceful use". The result is a nuclear-armed North Korea
that can threaten South Korea, Japan, and the United States. As long as
North Korean leader Kim Jong-il is not a threat to China, Beijing will
continue to use North Korea to create more headaches for US allies in the
The Bush administration was correct in its early days when it designated
China as a "strategic competitor", rather than employing the mistaken
designation of "strategic partner" used by the previous Clinton
administration. As a matter of fact, China has never been a strategic
partner of the United States but an emerging strategic competitor, and a
potential rival, in East Asia and the Pacific region. President Bush foresaw
China's long-term ambitions to dominate this region and push the US out of
it. This is progressively manifested by China's annual double-digit military
budget increase, and documented by the Central Intelligence Agency's recent
assessment of China's growing military power.
Although the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks shifted the Bush
administration focus from China's long-term ambitions to focus on global
terrorism and Iraq, it is time now to refocus on China's military power.
Some analysts argue that China offered the US its support in the global "war
on terrorism". But the reality is that China hijacked the US war on global
terrorism and began to demonize as "terrorists" the Uighur dissidents in
what many Uighur residents call East Turkestan (known as the Xinjiang region
in China and elsewhere) as "terrorists" since they are Muslims.
The annual report issued by the US State Department last week says, "The
[Chinese] government used the international war on terror as a pretext for
cracking down harshly on suspected Uighur separatists expressing peaceful
political dissent and on independent Muslim religious leaders." Amnesty
International has confirmed that China increased the pace of arbitrary
detention, arrest, and execution of Uighur dissidents who peacefully opposed
its hard-line policies in East Turkestan (Xinjiang) since September 11,
2001. Such persecution of the Uighur people by the Chinese government still
continues in the name of the global "war on terrorism".
There are three truths about China's future ambitions: 1) China will become
a more and more formidable threat to US national interests and its allies in
the Asia-Pacific region;
2) China will continue to deny democracy, human rights, and religious
freedom, against the wishes of its people;
3) China will continue to hijack the global "war on terrorism" to further
persecute the Uighur and Tibetan peoples and all those who dare to stand in
Beijing's way, like the one man who stood in front of a column of tanks in
Beijing in July 1989, during the Tiananmen crackdown. It is China's imperial
ambition to unite Taiwan with the mainland, by force if necessary, and to
dominate East Asia.
The Bush administration has foreseen and recognized these truths, so it is
treating the Chinese government with caution while treating the Chinese
people with respect and understanding, hoping to move this authoritarian
regime toward democracy. Realizing that the Chinese government will not give
up its military ambitions toward Taiwan and East Asia, the US administration
should be ready to contain and confront China if necessary in order to deter
Beijing from destabilizing the peace achieved in this region since the end
of World War II.
Alim A Seytoff is general secretary of the Uyghur American Association in
(Copyright 2005 Alim A Seytoff)
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