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When Did Hitchens Become a China Hawk?


…or, “Is there anything that Bill Kristol says that won’t eventually find its way into Christopher Hitchens Mouth?

China also maintains territorial claims against India and Vietnam (and, of course, Taiwan) and is building a vast army, as well as a huge oceangoing navy, to back up these ambitions. It seems an eon ago, because it was before Sept. 11, 2001, but we should not forget what happened when an American aircraft was involved in a midair collision over Hainan island in the early days of this administration. The Chinese acted as if the accident was deliberate, impounded the plane and the crew for several days, and mounted mass demonstrations of hysterical chauvinism. Events in the Middle East have since obscured this menacing picture, but actually it is in that region that China’s cynical statecraft is most obviously on display. If Beijing had had its way, Saddam Hussein would still be in power. Iran is being supplied with Chinese Silkworm missiles. Most horribly of all, China buys most of the oil of Sudan and in return provides the weaponry—and the diplomatic cover at the United Nations—for the cleansing of Darfur.

To take these one at a time….

  • China does not have meaningful territorial claims against India. China won the Sino-Indian War, then drew back to the territory it claimed as its own. India has (perhaps justifiably, perhaps not) been calling for revision of the current territorial arrangement.
  • Hitchens claim seems to be that the Hainan Island incident reveals China to be an aggressive revisionist state. Given that the incident happened over six years ago, it would seem that some, well, any other evidence would have emerged regarding China’s aggressive intent since that time. As Hitch is referring to that incident rather than one more recent, I can only that either no relevant recent incident exists, or that the Hainan Incident happened the last time Hitch was sober. Given that the last is implausible on its face (does anyone believe that Hitch has had a moment of sobriety in the last 20 years?), I’m going to have to go with the former.
  • Hitchens claim that China has a huge army and a huge navy are best interpreted as “dude read it on the back of a cereal box, or maybe in the Weekly Standard”. China’s navy is, almost all analysts agree, smaller and weaker than that of Japan. It is trivial compared to the USN. China’s army is very large, but only capable of action in select circumstances.
  • It’s very hard for me to understand how one person can both a) be a supporter of the Bush administration, and b)have a problem with displays of hysterical chauvinism.
  • If Canada had its way, Saddam Hussein would still be in power. The same could be said of France, Germany, Russia, Al Gore, and myself. Hitch probably can’t tell the difference, but Western democracies resisted the invasion of Iraq much more mightily than China did. I don’t recall anybody in the Weekly Standard complaining that the Chinese were going to veto the force authorization resolution back in 2003.
  • “The United States buys much of the oil of Saudi Arabia and in return provides the weaponry- and international diplomatic legitimacy- for the maintenance of the brutally repressive Saud dynasty.”

Like I said last week, he’s barely even trying anymore. Having gone down the dark path, it’s too much work to turn back, and the Weekly Standard will always have a new position for him to ape. Next week he’ll probably write a column advocating school vouchers and states’ rights.

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