China's Free (and Easy) Speech

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An interesting piece in The Times newspaper yesterday about the apparent deterioration in US-China relations.

‘Now almost 55% of those questioned for Global Times, a state-run newspaper, agree that “a cold war will break out between the US and China”.

‘An independent survey of Chinese-language media for The Sunday Times has found army and navy officers predicting a military showdown and political leaders calling for China to sell more arms to America’s foes. The trigger for their fury was Obama’s decision to sell $6.4 billion (£4 billion) worth of weapons to Taiwan, the thriving democratic island that has ruled itself since 1949.’

But what is perhaps most troubling is the list of Chinese officials who go on record demanding a forceful response:

‘This time China must punish the US,” said Major-General Yang Yi, a naval officer. “We must make them hurt.” A major-general in the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), Luo Yuan, told a television audience that more missiles would be deployed against Taiwan. And a PLA strategist, Colonel Meng Xianging, said China would “qualitatively upgrade” its military over the next 10 years to force a showdown “when we’re strong enough for a hand-to-hand fight with the US.’

Such talk can get out of hand. Officials have taken an ‘active interest’ in stymieing public debate on issues it deems sensitive. But loose words by officials are no less dangerous, especially if they end up binding Beijing’s hands.

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