by Vince Dhimos
According to his own web site, Chas W. Freeman was Director for Chinese Affairs at the U.S. Department of State from 1979-1981. He was the principal American interpreter during the late President Nixon’s path-breaking visit to China in 1972.
I need to say I have the highest regard for anyone who can competently serve as a simultaneous interpreter. This has got to be the most difficult mental feat of all, with the possible exception of solving Rubik’s cube.
In an article published at Consortium News, Freeman confirms the postulate I put forward in my recent article that the push to grant Most Favoured Nation status to the PRC, first promoted by Richard Nixon, is solid evidence that the US pretext for war in N Korea and Vietnam, namely, “stopping the spread of communism,” was phony. It was always about containing Russia. And I would add that the target was not the Soviet Union, it was the Russian people and the leadership of Russia, whichever leaders were in charge. In other words, it was raw Russophobia at the top levels of government. It led to countless deaths and destruction and accomplished nothing beyond pitting the world against itself.
“President Richard Nixon, who had already come to the conclusion that no world order excluding China could be stable, feared the geopolitical consequences of a Soviet military conquest or humiliation of China. He switched U.S. policy from using Taiwan to contain the PRC to enlisting the PRC to contain the U.S.S.R.” [Remember that Kissinger was Nixon’s national security advisor at this time and visited Beijing to lay the groundwork for the subsequent visit there by Nixon. It is impossible to conceive of the trade agreement with China not having been instigated by Kissinger]
“The politically expedient abandonment of solemnly negotiated commitments to China concerning the Taiwan question devalued our word as Americans. It has left a legacy of Chinese distrust that continues to hobble Sino-American relations today. A reputation for reliability, once lost, is almost impossible to restore.”
Aside from Freeman’s lack of any explanation for how this “hobbles Sino-American relations,” his column papers over a key issue: that of Taiwanese trust! The Taiwanese, not the Chinese communists, were the ones completely betrayed by the US in those early negotiations. The PRC got fabulously rich, while Taiwan struggles to survive.
“The PLA prepared to bring the Chinese civil war to an end by conquering Taiwan. As 1950 began, the United States, which continued to maintain diplomatic relations with Chiang’s government, declared that it did not consider Taiwan strategically significant enough to intervene to save it.
“But in mid-1950, north Korea stormed over the 38th parallel to unify all of Korea under its rule. Two days later, the United States placed the 7th Fleet between Chiang’s forces and the PLA. The stated purpose of this U.S. intervention was to preclude the expansion of the war in Korea to other parts of Asia.
“Washington demanded that each side in the Chinese civil war cease attacks on the other. U.S. intervention effectively suspended but did not end their war, which is in abeyance but unconcluded to this day.”
Actually, saving the Taiwanese people from harm made sense! I lived in that country for 3 years in the 80s and came to admire and love these people that the US government unceremoniously threw to the dogs. I will add that I also admire and love the mainland Chinese and believe that their government is run by competent people. From my unique perspective, having spent time in both countries, I can see how both are worthy of recognition as sovereign nation states. In fact, the PRC has a special relationship with the Taiwanese such that a qualified Taiwanese professional can easily gain residence and work in the PRC. Thus they are not enemies and do not perceive each other as such, and if the US were capable of practicing skilled diplomacy, a lasting official relationship could be established between the two nations and also between them and the US. But that is not the aim of today’s US, which specializes in dividing people rather than uniting them, demonizing one country while coddling another, in ways designed to lead to perpetual war and strife. The failure of US Middle East policy is emblematic of this pernicious habit.
“For the next 20 years, American diplomats worked hard to sustain the legal fictions that there was only one China; that its government was in Taipei, not Beijing; that this government could and should represent China internationally; and that it was not a government in exile because Taiwan was part of China. I took part in our defense of these propositions. It worked until 1971, when the international community rebelled and rejected Taipei’s preposterous continuing representation of China in the UN.”
Yes, true, but this misses the main point, namely, that the US had committed itself to a relationship with Taiwan that the US violated disgracefully in 1979! It was a relationship that had benefitted the people of Taiwan and the US. The issue of who represented the Chinese people and nation was beside the point. Further, it was the PRC that maintained there was only one China and it still does so today.
I took a class in newspaper Chinese in Taipei and our text book contained a reprint of a local newspaper article about the pull-out of the US embassy personnel from Taipei in 1979. It was done late at night so as to attract the least notice. However, the Taiwanese, feeling grievously betrayed by Carter, protested in such numbers that the US limos could only travel at a snail’s pace. Hard objects were thrown and damage was done. Who could blame them?
The Americans see only one possibility, and that is, the zero-sum game of either PRC or Taiwan as legitimate governments. However, it never seems to have occurred to them that this was an either-or foisted on them by the PRC and they were not obliged to accept it. They simply took the easy way out.
After all, when Congress under Carter agreed to grant the PRC Most Favoured Nation status, it held all the cards and the grindingly poor PRC held essentially none. The US was powerful and rich and could have offered the PRC free trade without caving in to the bullies demanding that it cut ties with Taiwan. It could have recognized both nations as sovereign while recognizing the PRC as representing mainland China. That is, it was not obliged morally to accept the premise that only one of these nations was legitimate. But it stupidly allowed itself to be trapped into the straw man premise that it could only recognize one of the two governments. It was false to postulate that by recognizing them both, it was schizophrenically accepting the logical impossibility of two Chinese governments. It could have accepted them both but not as sole representatives of the Chinese people. After all, the Chinese people in Taiwan had their own viewpoint that the US should have and could have respected. And BTW the Taiwanese are thoroughly Chinese. In fact, they have the reputation of speaking a perfect Mandarin, whereas many people in Chinese provinces speak with non-standard accents and pronunciations of words when trying to speak the national language. Sadly, though, the Taiwanese dialect is threatened with extinction.
If Taiwan wished to consider itself representative of all of China (which was absurd, of course), it had the right to do so, with or without US backing. Likewise, Beijing could also claim to represent all of China including Taiwan, though this was equally unfair. The fact is, the US, as the stronger of the partners, had the perfect right to recognize the PRC and Taiwan both as entities separate from each other, regardless of whether they individually saw themselves as representing China. Indeed, de facto, the US still does trade with the Taiwanese insular Republic of China and the mainland PRC and there is nothing either side can do to stop this. There are also diplomatic relations for issuing visas and other services, in facilities that serve as embassies and consulates but go by other names. It’s a word game. If the US had continued to recognize the government of the ROC in the 80s, the same free trade agreement it maintains now would not be affected in the least, and the US would have more leverage in its relations with the PRC. As things stand now, however, other countries began to imitate the US in turning their backs on Taiwan. Most countries have followed suit. Panama is the latest to fall.
But Jimmy Carter, who thought of himself as a sort of peacemaker, was emotionally and ideologically incapable of standing up to the PRC, and by by caving in to its demand to de-recognize the ROC, he embroiled the world in a tug-of-war that will be extremely difficult to escape from. He has given wings to the dragon and these are now permanent. In this sense, he pursued a dangerous diplomacy like that of Obama, who to uphold his image as a peace maker, created conditions for the terrorist take-over of much of Syria. Thus, when the now-famous miles-long caravans of white Toyota pickups with heavy artillery mounted on their beds, were streaming across the desert during Obama’s so-called war on terror, US warplanes, which had enough ordnance to wipe out all of these terrorists, simply stood down as they streamed into, took over and terrorized populated areas where it later became necessary for aviation to bomb them, with heavy civilian casualties, such as in Aleppo and Raqqa. Clearly the war on terror was a fraud and it in fact provided cover for the terrorists. Even today, the US is insisting that Russia and Syria stop killing jihadists in Idlib, where the locals are held hostage to these miscreants.
And to what end did the US allow China to create a staggering trade deficit in the US? To drive a wedge between Russia and China, ie, an utterly failed mission! Typical US overreach. Thanks to a constant barrage of sanctions, and now a trade war, as well as anti-Russia and anti-China rhetoric on the highest levels in Washington, the two countries have never been closer together than they are today. How could any sentient person have expected otherwise?
Thus, nothing, absolutely nothing, has been gained through US cowardice and an irrational desire to control a part of the world whose peoples and cultures it will never understand and never value except as potential pawns in an absurd game to punish Russia for being Russian.