On the NBR Forum I suggested that Japan-supported US spy and other activities along the Chinese coastline had activated China's military expansion, just as it had led to the Cold War in US-Soviet relations. In response, a fellow Forum member said this was not necessarily a bad thing since it had allowed the US to win the Cold War.

This was my reply:

If the Cold War did not turn out badly that was thanks to Gobachev - the one person who had the good sense to just walk away from the confrontational, tit-for-tat, Punch-and-Judy show nonsense that had been going on for more than 40 years between US and Soviet hawks. The nonsense began with US elint/sigint activities against the USSR soon after 1945, activities very similar to those going on against China today, with Japan playing the same role in support of the US as much of Western Europe did with the US during the Cold War.

We now discover the US hawks even had a pre-emptive war scenario in place against China similar to that urged by US hawks against the Soviets, with LBJ urged to take out China's nuclear facilities before 1964. And there were the same constantly nagging attempts to contain and confront - help for rebellions in the peripheries, imposing crippling economic sanctions, black information, continued elint/ sigint activities etc.. Are we are supposed to assume that Beijing's hawks, like Moscow's hawks, would ignore all this and pretend there was never any threat to their security, and fail to respond?

The main difference was that it has taken quite a while for the Chinese hawks to move into gear. Beijing's need to get its own house in order and the Zhou Enlai efforts to cement relations with neighbors (he saw territorial concessions to neighbors as the best way to break the US-Japan imposed containment) delayed things. And the Han Chinese have traditionally lacked the testosteronal aggressiveness of most others. But the idea Beijing's hawks would forever forget to start making a few of the territorial claims many Chinese see as historically justified was naive.

After all, that great friend of the US, Chiang Kai-shek, was making much more ambitious territorial claims than Beijing today, and not just in the South China Sea, and not just when in power in China. They continued during his stay in Taiwan. Even today's mild-mannered Taipei is making much the same claims as Beijing. Are they all part of the same inherent Beijing 'aggressiveness' fed by 'eco (nomic) might' that has to be slapped down?

Japan has occasionally produced its Gorbachevs keen to walk away from the nonsense. But they are quickly undermined by the hawks, both in Tokyo and Washington. The latest was Hatoyama Yukio.

Gregory Clark
NBR Discussions
(Extracts from Nov 6, 2012)