Saturday, November 24, 2007

Fault Lines in China

Many bloggers including Boots and Sabers notice a weird Thanksgiving Day event in Hong Kong. The Chinese suddenly deny permission for the American aircraft carrier Kitty Hawk to make a planned port stop, then reverse themselves a day later after it is too late to proceed with the plan.

Los Angles Times: China's decision to block the U.S. Navy aircraft carrier Kitty Hawk from a long-planned Thanksgiving visit to Hong Kong, before relenting 24 hours later "on humanitarian grounds," had all the markings of a diplomatic slap in the face, analysts say. It just wasn't terribly clear whose face it was aimed at. … Pundits near and far sought to explain what appeared to be behind the Chinese government's blunt yet hazy message.

Like a good chess move, the decision to deny docking rights may have been a positioning advance, threatening both the United States and the Chinese Communist Party. This theory, of course, depends on there being a third player in addition to the US military and the Chinese politicians.

China Confidential: China's decision to block a US Navy aircraft carrier from a long-planned Thanksgiving visit to Hong Kong, before relenting 24 hours later "on humanitarian grounds," was a message from China's real rulers--the military--that they intend to vigorously oppose an announced US buildup of Taiwan's antimissile shield.

The flip-flop was also directed at the Communist Party, whose power the PLA has supplanted, according to China Confidential analysts. The military engineered an embarrassing diplomatic incident to remind the party that the PLA has its priorities and red lines.

A growing neo-Maoist faction in the military is worried that the inequality caused by the party's continuing commitment to Western-style consumerism, coastal city development at the expense of the restive, left-behind countryside, and massive urbanization is ultimately unsustainable and likely to lead to regime-threatening popular uprisings--perhaps, even, a civil war--which the PLA will have to put down at great cost.

China is too populous a nation to expect rivalries for power don’t exist. Under reported in the western press is the story of the Chinese politicians passing private property rights earlier this year. [*] This legislative move effectively guts the Marxist ideology from the law of land and it passes despite very strong traditional opposition. The disruptive effects of modernization and adoption of western style methods of producing prosperity are playing out in China as much as in the Islamic world.