Chalmers Johnson On China and Japan

Henry C.K. Liu hliu at SPAMmindspring.com
Thu Dec 21 11:25:08 MST 2000


The Three Cold Wars
                           (Part 2 of 3)
                        By Chalmers Johnson
                   Japan Policy Research Institute
               Occasional Paper No. 18, December, 2000

Cold War II: East Asia
    The greatest single disaster in recent American foreign
policy
was the failure of the US to understand and adjust to the
Chinese
revolution.  This failure started during World War II and
persists
to the present day.  Ever since it became clear, shortly after
Japan's surrender in the summer of 1945, that China would be
convulsed by civil war and that the likely victor would be the
Chinese Communist Party, the United States has been obsessed by
China's growing power and by the potential challenge a renascent

China might offer to American hegemony in East Asia and
ultimately
to its covert Cold War project to create a global capitalist
order
led by the United States. Except for the two decades after
Nixon's
1971 opening of a dialogue with China and his aligning the US
with
China against the Soviet Union, American Cold War policy in East

Asia has been hostile to China. Today, with China's own
redirection
of its efforts to catch up economically with the rest of East
Asia,
American policy still vacillates - on the one hand it seeks to
profit from and tries to influence China's economic development
while on the other it maintains massive military forces directed

against China and contends that the only thing maintaining
stability
in East Asia is the presence of these American military forces.
    All the major elements of postwar American imperialism in
East
Asia follow from this American obsession with China.  They
include:
(1) the decision to end the immediate postwar efforts to
democratize
Japan and instead to make it into the primary American base for
military operations in East Asia.  A corollary of this policy
was to
isolate Japan economically from its traditional markets in
China.
As a consequence, in order for Japan to regain any form of
economic
viability, the US had to open its own market to Japan on
uniquely
favorable terms. As the American Embassy in Tokyo reported to
the
Department of State in 1960, "Our economic policy accorded Japan
a
fair and reasonable share of our market as premise and
precondition
for US-Japan relationships in political and security fields and
has
led to substantial expansion of Japanese exports, making
possible
Japan's present economic prosperity."(15) This policy is still
in
effect today-in return for basing 100,000 American troops in
Japan
and South Korea, Japan still takes as its due privileged access
to
the American economy and protectionist barriers against American

sales and investment in the Japanese market.  The result is huge

excess capacity in Japan, the hollowing out of American
manufacturing industries, and the largest trade imbalances ever
recorded between two economies.
    (2) At the time of the proclamation of the Chinese People's
Republic in October 1949, the United States could not decide
what
to do.  Should it follow normal international practice and
recognize
the new regime or respond to the gathering forces of reaction
and
McCarthyism within the United States and pretend that Chiang
Kai-shek's regime in exile in Taiwan still represented China? As

James L. Peck has shown, the outbreak of war in Korea on June
25,
1950, provided a way out of this dilemma.(16) Even though the US

entered the Korean War with UN sanction, its simultaneous action
to
prevent the Chinese Communists from taking over  Taiwan was
purely
unilateral and created what is today the single most volatile
issue
in international relations in the Pacific. For the next two
decades,
the United States recognized the regime in Taiwan as the
legitimate
government of China, supported Taiwan as the occupant of China's

permanent seat in the UN, maintained a total economic embargo
against the mainland, and, despite massive evidence to the
contrary,
tried to characterize the Chinese revolution as a manifestation
of
Soviet imperialism. Chiang Kai-shek became the model for a long
list of military dictators whom the United States installed,
sponsored, or protected in Taiwan, South Korea, South Vietnam,
the
Philippines, Thailand, and Indonesia because they were
anti-communist.  Like Chiang and like many leaders of the Soviet

satellites in Eastern Europe, most of these dictators were
corrupt,
brutal, and incompetent.  Nowhere in East Asia did the United
States
promote democracy; its belated appearance in South Korea and
Taiwan
came about as a result of domestic protest movements against
what
had become increasingly unpopular American-supported regimes.
    (3) The United States fought savage wars with
China-literally in
Korea and figuratively in Vietnam where it sought to discredit
Mao's
theory of "people's war." The latter provoked serious divisions
within the American electorate and contributed to the United
States's
growing reputation as an imperialist bully. More than anything
else,
however, these wars gave the conduct of American foreign
relations
outside of Europe its special characteristics - a reliance on
abstract formulae (such as a "global communist conspiracy,"
"counterinsurgency," "foreign internal defense," the "free
world,"
and "captive nations") rather than relying on serious efforts to

understand local conditions; excessive use of the American
military
and employment of undue violence; and clandestine operations to
unseat inconvenient governments or to prop up unpopular but
pro-American ones (in Iran, Guatemala, Japan, the Bay of Pigs,
the
Congo, South Korea, South Vietnam, the Dominican Republic, the
Philippines, Indonesia, Chile, Angola, Nicaragua, Somalia, and
Haiti
to name only the best-known cases).  By the time the Soviet
Union
had disappeared, reliance on these methods had almost totally
replaced America's traditional use of diplomacy, foreign aid,
and
efforts to project the United States as a model for other
nations.

    (4) The fundamental basis of the Cold War in Europe was a
struggle between totalitarianism and democracy; the USSR was on
the
wrong side of this confrontation. The fundamental basis of the
Cold
War in East Asia was a struggle for liberation from prewar
European,
American, and Japanese colonialism; the United States was on the

wrong side of this struggle.  Despite knowing that most of the
revolts in East Asia were driven by popular domestic
nationalism,
the US persisted in characterizing these movements as led by
communists taking orders from Moscow. This myopia also propelled
the
United States into the fatal blunder of supporting the attempts
by
the European powers to reclaim their East Asian colonies after
they
had been driven from them by Japanese armies during World War
II.
Even in South Korea, in setting up its puppet regime, the United

States propped up numerous Koreans who had collaborated with the

Japanese colonialists. In no place did these American policies
succeed; in Vietnam, American ideological rigidity came close to

producing a revolution within its own society - the ultimate
form
of "blowback" from ill-conceived foreign operations. Today, when

anticolonial nationalism has proven victorious everywhere in
East
Asia (except for the still-divided Korea), there is a legacy of
distrust of American motives because the US for so long failed
to
appreciate the force of these nationalisms.
    When the Soviet Union collapsed, the United States initially

seemed to accept that some relaxation of its imperial controls
over
East Asia was appropriate. In 1992, it allowed the Philippines
to
expel the US Navy from its largest overseas base, at Subic Bay,
and
it undertook some minor cuts in its deployed military forces. It

also shifted its foreign policy toward Japan to emphasize the
inequitable economic relations between the two countries rather
than the strengthening of American military bases. In 1993, the
American-created single-party-regime in Japan collapsed due to
the irrelevance of its sole qualification for holding power,
anti-communism, and the US did nothing to save it.  Nonetheless,

almost instantly after the disappearance of the Soviet Union,
American strategists, aided by China's repression of protesters
at
Tiananmen in 1989, began to vilify China and to make a domestic
case that China was the successor to the USSR and the
justification
for America's global hegemony.
    By 1995, the United States had fully recovered its
imperialist
acumen. The Pentagon's Nye Report of 1995 authorized the
permanent
basing of 100,000 US troops in Japan and South Korea, and a new
"Visiting Forces Agreement" was signed with the Philippines by
which US troops were reintroduced there.(17) Meanwhile, the
Liberal
Democratic Party returned to power in Japan and resumed its
unprecedented trade surpluses with the US despite (or because
of)
its own faltering economy. The 1997 Asian economic meltdown that

began in Thailand, South Korea, and Indonesia revealed the
dangers
of their having followed American economic advice and pressure.
It
also had the effect of discrediting the Association of Southeast

Asian Nations and its Asian Regional Forum as nascent
multilateral
organizations capable of dealing with East Asian problems
without
outside interference.  The United States was back, fully
committed
to maintaining its empire in the Asia-Pacific region even though

it was still engaged in an internal argument over whether it
should
"engage" China or try to "contain" it.
    One key element of post-Cold War American imperialism in the

area has been a persistent exaggeration of alleged threats posed
by
two of the remaining, formally communist countries of the
area-China
and North Korea.  In May 1999, for example, the US Congress
issued
its so-called Cox Report, named after Christopher Cox, a
Republican
representative from Newport Beach, California.  Cox claimed that

China had pilfered secret data on seven of the US's most
advanced
"thermonuclear" weapons. He also said that the stolen
information
included computer codes, allegedly essential to the design of
nuclear warheads, which most likely came from secret computers
at
America's nuclear weapons laboratories. Led by the New York
Times,
the mass media sensationalized this report and set off a hunt
for
a spy at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico.  A
New
York Times editorial contended, "The Cox Committee has performed

an invaluable service with its unsparing investigation."(18)
    Needless to say, the "spy" was soon found in the person of
an
American scientist of Chinese ancestry (from Taiwan, not China),

Wen-ho Lee. Federal authorities threatened Lee with death (like
the Rosenbergs), tried to extract a confession from him, and
then
confined him in a jail in New Mexico under conditions similar to

those the French imposed on Dreyfus when they sentenced him to
Devil's Island. The whole case ultimately fell apart for lack of

evidence, and it also seemed likely that the Department of
Energy
and the Federal Bureau of Investigation had singled out Lee (as
the
French did Dreyfus) because of his race. When an FBI agent
admitted
to a Federal judge that he had lied in his testimony against
Lee,
the government sought a plea-bargain arrangement that freed Lee.

    Early in the case, journalist Robert Scheer of the Los
Angeles
Times - the Emile Zola of this affair - wrote, "The China threat

exists only in the minds of politicians who are playing fast
with
national security concerns and the New York Times, which was
awarded
a Pulitzer Prize for publicizing their most stark warnings."(19)

Over a year later, even the New York Times sought to excuse its
behavior. It said it had been misled by "government officials
who
previously insisted that the downloaded data contained the
'crown
jewels' of America's nuclear arsenal that could change the
global
balance of power if transferred to a hostile power."(20)  China,

it seems, still inspires McCarthyism in the United States.(21)
    The other great focus of America's exaggeration of supposed
military "threats" from East Asia has been North Korea. The
Pentagon
has based virtually its entire case for a national missile
defense
on North Korea's alleged development of nuclear weapons and
long-range missiles.  But the evidence for these capabilities
has
repeatedly failed to stand up. For example, during 1998 and
1999,
Lt. Gen. Patrick Hughes, then head of the Defense Intelligence
Agency, circulated to members of Congress "intelligence" that he

said showed North Korea was secretly building an underground
nuclear
reactor.  When the Americans exerted pressure on North Korea to
inspect the place Hughes had identified as the site of the
hidden
plant, it was found not only to contain no machinery of any kind

but to be too small to have contained a reactor. When the
Americans
returned in May 2000 for a further inspection, it was still
empty.(22)
    Even more embarrassing, in November 1999, the Space Imaging
company of Thornton, Colorado, used its own private spy
satellite,
the Ikonos, to photograph the alleged North Korean
missile-launch
site.  The Ikonos has a resolving power down to one meter, which

is comparable to military surveillance satellites. Looking at
the
Ikonos pictures, the Federation of American Scientists declared,

"It is quite evident that this facility was not intended to
support,
and in many respects is incapable of supporting, the extensive
test
program that would be needed to fully develop a reliable missile

system." It called the North Korean base, completed in 1988,
"barely worthy of note, consisting of the most minimal
imaginable
test infrastructure." The Ikonos pictures also called into doubt

the steady stream of intelligence on North Korea then coming
from
South Korean sources: one of Seoul's alleged North Korean
defectors
had said that all agricultural villages had been removed from
the
vicinity of the test site but there they  still were in the new
pictures.(23)
    Despite many such cases, members of the US Congress refuse
to
accept that the Cold War in East Asia may be ending.  On July
27,
2000, well after the Koreans had already launched their own
peace
initiatives, the House of Representatives Policy Committee,
whose
chairman is the hyperbolic Christopher Cox, released a report on
the
situation there. Its opening lines are: "North Korea is not
merely
a dictatorship: it is a uniquely monstrous tyranny that has
tormented the Korean people for half a century, creating the
most
completely totalitarian and militarized state in human history.
Today, even while North Korea is faltering on the edge of
economic
collapse, it poses one of the greatest threats to American and
allied interests anywhere around the globe."(24)
    More ominous in its long-term implications than  such
propaganda,
the Pentagon has on numerous occasions asserted that even if the
two
halves of Korea were reunited, it intends to keep a military
force
based there.(25) Since South Korea vastly exceeds North Korea in

expenditures on weapons,(26) and since South Korea is twice as
populous and at least twenty-five times richer than its northern

counterpart, the American military is clearly not needed for its

defense. The American military presence there is, in fact, a
warning
to China that the United States intends to preserve its imperial

enclaves in the East Asian area.
    Much more dangerously, the United States has also started to

up-grade its extensive military relationship with Taiwan. Since
the
mainland-Taiwan military confrontation of 1996 (which occurred
on
the eve of Taiwanese elections and was intended to prevent a
unilateral Taiwanese declaration of independence), the Clinton
administration has authorized the Pentagon, in the words of the
veteran China correspondent, Jim Mann, "to conduct the kind of
strategic dialogue with Taiwan's armed forces that had not been
permitted by any administration since 1979."(27)
    Taiwan is one of the United States's wealthiest customers
for
weapons, and it already possesses a retaliatory capacity against

mainland China that effectively neutralizes the threat of
genuine
combat in the Taiwan Strait. The real danger is that war could
result because of political miscalculations. China has
repeatedly
indicated that it does not want to incorporate Taiwan through
the
use of military force. At the same time, it cannot tolerate a
unilateral secession of what by every principle and precedent of

international law is its territory. Given the blunders of the
United States fifty years ago, there is no "solution" to the
Taiwan problem.  Only the maintenance of the status quo and a
further passage of time can offer any resolution. Unfortunately,

United States imperialist pretensions stand in the way of such
prudence.
*   *   *
(End of Part 2; For Parts 1 and 3, See Our World Nos. 433 and
435)

*   *   *
CHALMERS JOHNSON  is president of the Japan Policy Research
Institute and author of Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of
American Empire (New York: Metropolitan Books, 2000).
*   *   *

NOTES: (Part 2)

15. Telegraph from Embassy in Japan to the Department of State,
June 24, 1960, Foreign Relations of the United States,
1958-1960,
vol.18, p.378.

16. James L. Peck, Ideal Illusions: China, Globalism, and the
National Security World, 1947-1968, Ph.D. dissertation, New York

University, 1996 (Ann Arbor, Michigan: UMI Dissertations, 1997),

p. 210 et passim.

17. See Chalmers Johnson and E. B. Keehn, "East Asian Security:
The
Pentagon's Ossified Strategy," Foreign Affairs, 74:4
(July-August
1995), pp. 103-14; and Walden Bello and Ehito Kimura, "Why the
Protectorate Survives," Northeast Asia Peace and Security
Network,
Special Report, June 23, 1999, online at
<http://www.nautilus.org/>.

18. New York Times, ed., May 26, 1999.
19. Los Angeles Times, May 11, 1999.
20. New York Times, ed., September 12, 2000.

21. See Chalmers Johnson, "In Search of a New Cold War," The
Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, September/October 1999,
pp.44-51.

22. James Risen, "Ferreting Out North Korea's Nuclear Secrets:
U.S.
Intelligence Experts at Odds," New York Times, August 5, 2000.

23. Federation of American Scientists, "Space Imaging Ikonos,"
November 1, 1999, on line at <www.fas.org>, January 11, 2000;
and
William J. Broad, "Spy Photos of Korea Missile Site Bring
Dispute,"
New York Times, January 11, 2000.

24. House Policy Committee, Christopher Cox, Chairman,
"Clinton-Gore
Aid to North Korea Supports Kim Jong-il's Million-Man Army,"
July 27, 2000, on line at <http://policy.house.gov/documents/
perspectives/2000/nk.htm>. Also see Steven Lee Myers, "Pentagon
Says
North Korea Is Still a Dangerous Military Threat," New York
Times,
September 22, 2000. An example of military reporting on these
issues
is Jim Lea, "NK Missile at Launch Site," Pacific Stars &
Stripes,
July 21, 1999.

25. See Doug Bandow, "Korean Detente: A Threat to Washington's
Anachronistic Military Presence?" Foreign Policy Briefing (Cato
Institute), No. 59, August 17, 2000; Jane Perlez, "South Korean
Says
North Agrees U.S. Troops Should Stay," New York Times, September

11, 2000; and "U.S. Secretary of Defense: Need to Maintain
100,000
U.S. Troops in Asia," Yomiuri Shimbun (Tokyo), September 23,
2000.

26. Kim Ji-ho, "N.K. Lags Far Behind S. Korea in Military
Power,"
Korea Herald, January 12, 2000.

27. Los Angeles Times, July 24, 1999.






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