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Jewish World Review April 4, 2001/ 11 Nissan 5761

Wesley Pruden

Wes Pruden
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No caving, please, to the cave men -- THE Chinese are wily and usually woolly, brash to the point of recklessness, but they're as transparent as a plate of rice noodles.

The old guys running the store in Beijing are peasants, after all, still as uncomfortable in the traps of diplomatic manners as roosters dressed up in socks and suspenders, with little of the sophistication and polish and none of the elegance and elan of the Chinese in Taiwan and Singapore. They often behave like redneck thugs.

This is not necessarily the explanation of why they're acting like warlords over the bumping and seizure of the U.S. reconnaissance plane near Hainan Island over the weekend, but it's a clue to understanding why they're going about making whatever point they're trying to make with bluster and bloviation.

The Beijing government is unhappy with the United States about several things at the moment, some clearly important and some that appear trivial in American eyes but not to the Chinese, for whom face is important and who sometimes behave like backwoods bumpkins as if they don't know any better. Often they don't.

They appear to be angry over, in an order best known to themselves, (1) the possibility if not probability that the United States will sell an advanced radar system to the Republic of China on Taiwan, which would make successful aggression against the island far more difficult than it might otherwise be; (2) the defection of a senior general to the United States who brought with him a lot of secrets and insights into the current thinking of the Chinese military; and (3) maybe even over the continuing demonstrations at the embassy on Connecticut Avenue by members of the Falun Gong, whose devotion to push-ups, knee-bends and deep breathing appears to pose great peril to the Beijing government.

The embassy's long-suffering neighbors in Kalorama have noticed, sometimes with bemusement and sometimes with irritation, the escalation of one-upsmanship on the avenue.

The Falun Gong, which Beijing purely despises, set up its posters and banners on a little tuft of parkland at the front door of the embassy, and lately the embassy has begun to answer with its own posters and "news bulletins" on the sidewalk opposite the Falun Gong. The result is a war of the purple passage: "Falun Gong Respectfully Requests Chinese Government Stop Murdering Innocent People" vs. "Falun Gong is Bad Cult Who Show No Respect for Chinese People." It's reminiscent of the Great War Between Imperialist Running Dogs and Glorious Socialist Peoples in the years of the Cultural Revolution. The mainland Chinese love to speak in Capital Letters, though something clearly gets lost in the translation.

It's tempting to put 2, 2 and 2 together the continuing aggravation with Russia, North Korea and China and come up with a solid 6, but the sum may be considerably less than the accumulation of the parts. The incident over Hainan Island may not be the harbinger of the resumption of the Cold War at all, but merely the routine hazing of a new president. Hicks or not, the mainland Chinese can read the newspapers and they've heard all the jokes, the liberal ranting and the Democratic raving about Dubya and maybe they've swallowed it whole and concluded that they could take him without popping a sweat. If so, they're likely to see what his Democratic detractors have seen, a backbone closer to steel than to spaghetti.

If there's no hysteria in Taiwan, there's no justification for it anywhere else. Chinese war gaming and troop movements often provoke sell-offs on Taiwan's jittery stock market, just like war scares frighten investors on Wall Street. That hasn't happened. And by noon yesterday, the news of a firebombing of a school in a suburb of Taipei had replaced the China plane collision as the top news of the day on Taiwan television.

The people who measure Beijing best read it as a mild early draft of the story. Kao Yang, an official of the Defense Ministry in Taipei, told legislators that an intensified U.S.-China feud would be a boon to Taiwan, which makes it unlikely that Beijing would pursue a feud because bumpkin or not, the mainland Chinese are practical above all else. "If both sides take a hard-line position, it might have a positive influence on our arms talks. If they resolve it quickly, we're not sure yet whether that will be in our interests or not."

The test of George W.'s steel would come later, after the two sides patch up their quarrel and the wet noodles in his administration make their usual argument that weakness is more persuasive than strength and the United States should make the concessions, like a wronged but over-eager lover sending flowers after a spat. But rednecks and thugs nearly always make lousy lovers. George W. gets it.

JWR contributor Wesley Pruden is editor in chief of The Washington Times. Comment by clicking here.


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03/28/01: In fear of the peril of the Weak Sisterhood
03/23/01: Dubya disowns the dirt dishers
03/21/01: Why can't senators be nice to Mom?
03/19/01: Knocking hard heads at the Pentagon
03/14/01: Second thoughts on the faith initiative
03/12/01: Getting punch drunk on disappointment
03/07/01: The dazzling triumph of Saddam Hussein
03/05/01: How can a real gent tell the lady no?
02/28/01: Who won that war? Best not to look
02/26/01: Bonnie & Clod, gifts who keep on giving
02/21/01: It's Hot Springs week in downtown Harlem
02/13/01: Some of our riots seem to be missing
02/07/01: When a hate crime is something to love
02/07/01: Lifting a few spoons, cutting a few taxes
02/02/01: A few small surprises and a large lesson
01/31/01: Serving fried crow in the press mess
01/26/01: The gathering storm over Jesse Jackson
01/23/01: A graceless getaway, a graceful beginning
01/19/01: Once more to wave the bloody shirt
01/16/01: Bring on the lions, the clowns are ready
01/12/01: The dastardly plot to restore slavery
01/10/01: Mr. Lott's generosity to the Dems
01/05/01: Looking to the past for a bad example
01/03/01: A modest proposal for Arkansas folk
12/19/00: The reflexive sneer at George W. Bush
12/15/00: Taking inspiration from John Birch
12/12/00: It's time to raise high Florida's standards
12/08/00: A President Bush, and about time, too
12/05/00: Here come the judge --- and he's got a hook
11/28/00: Cry no tears for Al, lawyers are the losers
11/21/00: The useful loathing of America's sons
11/17/00: When this is all over, we spray for lawyers
11/14/00: Something murky in the twilight zone

11/10/00: Something sinister in Palm Beach

11/07/00: Low days in the life of the ruptured duck

11/06/00: A little race baiting in the final hours

11/01/00: Creator gets a hard time on the hustings

10/27/00: The sorcerer rides to rescue his apprentice

10/25/00: The founding father with a story to tell

10/23/00: A lonely passion for religious rights

10/16/00: Spending blood on the folly of fools

10/11/00: A big night for the embellisher-in-chief

10/06/00: AlGore's black problem

10/04/00: In headlong pursuit of the bigot vote

10/02/00: A modest proposal for Rick Lazio

09/27/00: When folks at home give up on a scamp

09/25/00: Gore plot exposed! The secret minutes

09/18/00: Playing politics with the blood supply

09/14/00: Al sets out to find his 'tolerance level'

09/12/00: When it's time for a thumb in the eye

09/07/00: Making a daughter a campaign asset

09/04/00: A footnote to the lie: How he beats the rap

08/30/00: Unbearable lightness of a cyberjournal

08/21/00: Clinton chickens on AlGore's roost

08/16/00: The long goodbye to California's cash

08/09/00: Innocence by proxy is a risky scheme

08/07/00: After insulin shock, an authentic rouser

08/02/00: When it gets hard not to get a little giddy

07/31/00: George W.'s legions of summer soldiers

07/26/00: He's set a surprise --- or a trap for himself

07/24/00: How do you serve a turkey in August?

07/19/00: Would Hillary sling a lie about a slur?

07/17/00: Process, not peace, at a Velveeta summit

07/12/00: The Texas two-step, a nudge and a wink

07/10/00: The Great Mentioner and his busy season

07/05/00: No Mexican standoff in these results

07/03/00: Denting a few egos in the U.S. Senate

06/28/00: Bureaucracy amok! Punctuation in peril!

06/26/00: The water torture of American resolve

06/21/00: The happy hangman is a busy hangman

06/19/00: Dick Gephardt finds a Dixie dreamboat

06/14/00: Taking a byte out of innovation

06/12/00: 'Go away, little boy, you're bothering us'

06/07/00: When a little envy is painful to watch

06/05/00: Fire and thunder, bubble and squeak

05/31/00: South of the border, politics is pepper

05/26/00: Running out of luck with home folks

05/24/00: The heart says no, but the head says yes

05/22/00: A fine opportunity to set an example

05/17/00: The Sunday school for Republicans

05/15/00: Hillary's surrogate for telling tall tales

05/10/00: Listening to the voice of an authentic man

05/08/00: First a lot of bluster, then the retreat

05/02/00: Good news for Rudy, bad news for Hillary

04/28/00: The long goodbye to Elian's boyhood

04/25/00: Spooked by Castro, Bubba blinks

04/14/00: One flag down and two memorials to go

04/11/00: Consistency finds a jewel in Janet Reno

04/07/00: Here's the good word (and it's in English)

04/04/00: When bureaucrats mock the courts

03/28/00: How Hollywood sets the virtual table

03/24/00: Dissing a president can ruin a whole day

03/20/00: When shame begets the painful insult

03/14/00: The risky business of making an apology

03/10/00: The pouters bugging a weary John McCain

03/07/00: When all good things (sob) come to an end

© 2000 Wes Pruden