਀㰀䴀䔀吀䄀 渀愀洀攀㴀䜀䔀一䔀刀䄀吀伀刀 挀漀渀琀攀渀琀㴀∀䴀匀䠀吀䴀䰀 㠀⸀  ⸀㘀  ㄀⸀㄀㤀 ㄀㤀∀㸀㰀⼀䠀䔀䄀䐀㸀 Vietnam's Dr Strangelove
at war with the Mandarins

By Francesco Sisci

BEIJING - After the recent publication of a Chinese document [1], many people sent new ones. Most were not interesting; one, however, caught my attention. The person who gave it to me is a Westerner who had just come back from Hanoi.

There, after a business meeting, a junior official fumbled around his desk, took some papers, made them into a ball, and threw them in the wastebasket whispering "nonsense". He missed, and the ball rolled onto my friend's feet. He picked it up and pocketed it while the official turned to look out the window. He then kindly translated it from Vietnamese for me.

They are apparently the outbursts of an old Vietnamese war veteran, possibly just released from some mental institution. It is
a raving mind, a Doctor Strangelove, like many around the world at all times. It is impossible to take the arguments seriously, but they make a nice joke, and in this spirit I wanted to present it - for a laugh after a long day's work.

Here they are, reproduced in full:

You, youngsters, must not waver, not release your grip, and most of all not be scared by China. The contrast between our relative sizes makes it the perfect occasion and time for our vendetta. The Chinese have forgotten the basics of strategy despite their pride in their strategic tradition. They are trapped in the South China Sea, and they are going to lose anyway while we are going to win. It is only ours to lose, so you do not have to give up. You have to insist, and press ahead - then we can get our revenge for their 1979 invasion.

China's decision to organize military drills in the South China Sea and step up the level of confrontation in the region guarantees their failure, provided we do not give in and respond in kind. We have, in fact, to aim for a military clash with them, the larger the better, and then we will win in any scenario. The general situation has dramatically changed in the past couple of months since the Philippines decided to challenge China's role at sea. The Philippines is a former American colony, still close to the US heart. And, unlike us, its people are not considered quarrelsome. If they react, this may be proof enough to the Western world that the Chinese have gone too far. Then this is our moment to step in and stop being pushed around by the Chinese navy, which captures our fishing vessels and holds our sailors for ransom.

If our navy loses a clash with them, we will have a political victory anyway. China's aggressive and bellicose behavior will scare everybody in the world. It will prove that their theory of "Peaceful Development" is a ruse for gullible foreigners; both domestic and foreign capital will start to flee China; suspicion will grow surrounding China; and the economic and trade atmosphere with China will worsen. It is clear that China, being the bigger country, has greater responsibility to maintain peace around its borders. If it doesn't manage to do so with us, small Vietnam, what can it do with Japan, India, or Russia? Everybody will see they are the warmongers, they will be scared, and we will be the victims to be comforted and helped by everybody.

If we win the clash, we will prove that they are just a paper tiger. We will still have a political victory - plus a military success. We will be the David who has triumphed over the ferocious Goliath, and the consequences for China will be pretty much the same as if we lose.

This is the strategy we adopted against America during our war of resistance against them. We knew they would inevitably politically lose the war, despite any military victory, as long as we managed to show the people of the world - and the American people as well - that we were fighting for the liberation of our country and nothing else. Similarly, now we can show that we are fighting for a part of the sea very close to our coasts and far from Chinese shores. This geographical proximity, reinforced by our small size, may prove to the world our right to that sea.

In sum, we will win in any case and get the benefits China enjoyed with their invasion against us in 1979. After that Chinese attack, conducted at the behest of the Americans, China proved it was squarely in the Western camp. China showed to be ready to take concrete actions to stem the Soviet penetration in Asia by trying to stymie us while we were involved in our effort to liberate Cambodia from the hands of the nefarious and pro-China Khmer Rouge. China was rewarded for that attack with a political green light from the US for investment and the sale of technology. The following flow of investments enabled China's early phase of development. The support for investment basically never stopped, not even after the 1989 Tiananmen crackdown. China's growth and development would have been impossible without that early go-ahead.

In other words, the 1979 war opened the gates for China's development. Without that war, development would have been impossible or very difficult.

The lesson was: fight with the US and you will be rewarded; go against the US and you will be politically punished. Yet, the Chinese seem to have forgotten that lesson or simply do not understand the new general political atmosphere around China. Everybody in Asia is scared about China's growth. China's economy is now bigger than Japan's, and this is a warning sign for the whole world - including America. There are growing voices calling for a coordinated effort to contain China. Yet there is no decision on what to do, as there is still doubt about China's real intentions and strategy. A clash with tiny Vietnam would show the world that China is truly aggressive and can't be trusted.

All of this would be to our advantage: Before the world, we would be the ones who stopped mighty China - just like 40 years ago we stopped the Asian expansion of imperialistic America.

The time is ripe for this.

In recent days, even the Philippines came out arguing against China's encroachment in the area. It started calling that sea the West Philippine Sea and called for US involvement the area. After a clash, the US will have to decide to take sides, and it certainly can't side against its former colony, the Philippines; nor can it side with the gigantic rising local bully, China, which is intimidating its small neighbors with military drills, as if its massive size or its fast economic growth were not scary enough.

If the US will then side with us, the momentum of China's fast economic growth will have to halt as very few people in the world will want to do business with a country bullying its neighbors - especially before it has the largest economy in the world. The message will be: What will China do to its neighbors, business partners, and really anybody when becomes even more powerful? It will be a worse bully than America without even the veneer or pretense of human rights. Who would want this kind of future for the world? Then global investment will move somewhere else, and we shall be rewarded for our pivotal role in stopping the growth of the ugly giant.

This future is within our grasp.

To prevent this future, China should organize a large regional initiative to solve the South China Sea problems and do it modestly, without a sense of wounded pride. It should also move its claim from historical to legal grounds, which are more understandable to the world. China's leaders should beg the Americans to stop us, or anybody stirring trouble with provocative actions. But by doing this, they would have everybody, including the US, officially involved in an area they claim as theirs. This is something they are unwilling to do because it would increase foreign involvement in what they believe to be internal affairs.

In fact, by renouncing this strategy and remaining basically hostage to different domestic constituencies vying for political turf, they fail to grasp the essence of modern politics. Here the old divide between internal and international affairs grows smaller by the day for everybody - especially for larger players like America or China. By trying to keep domestic something that is objectively international, they fall into a trap from which there is no way out.

Moreover, China misses another important point. All countries are looking for American protection against the rise of a new and still mysterious China. Despite all qualms and doubts one might have about America, the US is still the old, known power - everybody is acquainted with it. Therefore, everybody will seek the US protection against secretive newcomer China. Then the US, despite all the possible goodwill it might feel toward China, cannot just cast away all other countries' interests and fears in order to defend Beijing. If some small, peaceful country - one formerly part of America itself, as a colony - shouts out against China, how can the US ignore it and stay aloof, just because, say, in this controversy old friend Taiwan sides with Beijing?

For this reason, we have a unique chance to change the world and even become the driving player in the region. We only have to be determined and brave, and we will be rewarded just as we managed to defeat the French and the Americans.

(Please do not believe for one minute there is a gram of truth in all of this - it is just a hoax.)

1. Sharp relief for a flat world, Asia Times Online, June 9, 2011.

Francesco Sisci is a columnist for the Italian daily Il Sole 24 Ore and can be reached at fsisci@gmail.com