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  Op-Ed by Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ)


Peaceful rising?

By Rep. Trent Franks

Saturday, April 22, 2006

When Chairman Hu Jintao visited Washington this week, I hope President Bush used his East Texas charm for some straight talk on what Congress and the American people think about China's quest for global power, its poor human-rights record and ill-conceived ambition to end democracy on Taiwan.

Trying to intimidate the island democracy of Taiwan with its hundreds of missiles undermines China's credibility as an emerging power claiming as its slogan "peaceful rising." Certainly, China wants and deserves respect, but the late Chairman Mao Tse-tung's maxim that "power comes from the barrel of a gun" is obsolete in the contemporary world of membership in the World Trade Organization, the Asian Pacific Economic Cooperation forum and the United Nations.

China cannot host the 2008 Olympics and threaten war across the Taiwan Strait at the same time. Using the threat of war to reclaim Taiwan as a part of China may stir the sparks of nationalism among China's younger generation, but President Hu should weigh the risks to China's own stability. We in the Congress are very much aware of China's pressing economic and social problems; bullying Taiwan will only temporarily camouflage these internal problems from the Chinese people, but it will not resolve them.

China can no longer be allowed to play by its own rules. Beijing's continuing persecution of Christians, Tibetans and other groups, such as the Falun Gong, belies the true nature of the regime. Continued foot-dragging on currency reforms and intellectual-piracy enforcement bode ill for China with Congress. If Hu is to benefit from his visit to America, he will recognize that Americans believe in fair play and detest subterfuge.

 China's treatment of Taiwan falls into the category of deception when it fails to even acknowledge the democratically elected president of Taiwan, Chen Shui-bian, and treats the defeated opposition presidential candidate, former Kuomintang (KMT) Party Chairman Lien Chan, as the legitimate leader of the island. This interference by China in Taiwan's domestic political process is dangerous because it polarizes Taiwan's politics and is pretext to the emergence of the Democratic People's Party's own extreme elements. China's aggressive Taiwan policy prevents a national consensus from forming, in either country, and from developing harmoniously. Subverting Taiwan's internal politics can hardly be deemed a policy of "peaceful rising."

The current Chinese leadership's strategy apparently is to negotiate secretly with Lien Chan and the KMT in preparation for the 2008 presidential election. China timed Lien Chan's recent visit to China just before Chairman Hu's visit to the United States in order to further undermine President Chen.

It is in the United States' national interest for Hu to follow a more constructive policy toward Taiwan. The Chinese Communist regime should talk directly with Chen and make real progress on cross-strait coexistence and the so-called three links to improve trade, personal travel and transportation. Such a positive initiative would invite American goodwill and improve China's image in Congress. But, instead, Beijing's military build-up and political double-dealings with the KMT give little hope that United States and Chinese interests share much overlap on Taiwan.

Taiwan is a key issue that could turn from a roadblock into an ambush, or even open confrontation between the United States and China. The stakes are high. However, the Chinese leadership must understand that Americans are affronted by the Chinese government's military bullying, unfair trade practices and abuses of human rights. The Chinese people should be America's ally, but the Chinese Communist Party and its Ministry of State Security are corrupt and do not merit America's trust. Much more than the politburo's hollow lip service to the rule of law and the occasional token freeing of dissidents and journalists is required. Americans have a deep reservoir of good will and respect for the Chinese people and their economic and cultural accomplishments, but Beijing cannot be the Asian bully and have a full bilateral relationship of mutual respect with the United States at the same time. I hope that Chairman Hu will come to see this after his visit.

Pressing Americans to abandon the democratically elected government of Taiwan through subterfuge tactics will only backfire on Beijing. The right to self-determination and respect for the dignity of individual freedoms are the cornerstones of fair play. I hope President Bush looked into Chairman Hu's eyes and made that clear to him.

Trent Franks is the congressman from the 2nd District of Arizona. He is a member of the House Judiciary Committee, the House Armed Services Committee and vice chairman of the Constitution Subcommittee.

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