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Inside China: ‘Fierce of mien but faint of heart’

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'FIERCE OF MIEN BUT FAINT OF HEART'

The recently announced shift in the U.S. strategic emphasis toward the Asia-Pacific region represents a strategic bluff by a declining America against a rising China that will fail because China can defeat the U.S. militarily.

That's the assessment of a leading spokesman for the People's Liberation Army, as reported Tuesday in the state-run Chinese press.

Maj. Gen. Luo Yuan was quoted in a long interview first published in Guangzhou Daily and reprinted throughout China's main media outlets, including Xinhua News Agency.

Gen. Luo is a prominent princeling whose father, Luo Qingchang, was Mao Zedong's foreign intelligence and sabotage chief. He is one of the few high-ranking People's Liberation Army officials allowed to make public statements on defense matters.

Known for his hawkish views and bombastic style, Gen. Luo has been a frequent source of comments on the United States in official publications such as the People's Daily, the PLA Daily, Xinhua and the Global Times.

"America's return to Asia-Pacific may well be a grave strategic mistake ... the U.S., by so doing, has chosen a wrong time, a wrong place and a wrong adversary," Gen. Luo was quoted as saying.

It's a wrong time, Gen. Luo elaborated, because the current ethos calls for peace and development, not war. It's a wrong place because America's homeland is still under grave danger, and Washington is still bogged down in the crisis-ridden Middle East. It's a wrong adversary because, by choosing China as a presumed nemesis, the United States has chosen an enemy it cannot defeat.

As to why U.S. defense officials developed a habit of saying the U.S. pivot to Asia-Pacific is not meant for China, Gen. Luo used a Chinese proverb to caricature this American way of public speaking.

It is like a person in the folk tale who put up a sign saying "No 300 Taels of Silver Buried Here!" at the exact spot where he had hidden 300 taels of silver, Gen. Luo said, meaning a guilty person gives himself away by conspicuously protesting his innocence.

Gen. Luo went to great lengths in the long interview to analyze U.S. strategic vulnerabilities that he claimed render the Pentagon's pivot to Asia-Pacific meaningless.

Topping his list are America's continuing strategic focus on Europe despite recent Washington statements indicating otherwise; the gravely weakened U.S. economy, which will adversely affect the Pentagon's military budget for beefing up forces in Asia-Pacific; and the lingering trauma inflicted on American society by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan

"Today's America," Gen. Luo said, "is no longer able to extend all of its 10 fingers. It must retreat and clench the 10 fingers into a fist. This is what the Chinese call 'fierce of mien but faint of heart.' "

After dissing the United States, Gen. Luo predicted that a major military action in the South China Sea is "most likely" to occur this year as China's "restraint" and "tolerance" over the South China Sea territorial disputes with several "little countries" will run out soon.

CHINA UPSET OVER TAIWAN

China's official communist newspaper, the People's Daily, on Tuesday joined a heated debate in Taiwan over the fact that fewer and fewer people in democratic Taiwan want to be regarded as "Chinese."

In a story headlined "Last year's poll indicates only 4 percent of people in Taiwan think of themselves as Chinese," the newspaper warned readers that a growing sentiment of separatism in Taiwan is poisoning people and the chief culprit is Taiwan's new textbooks, which were revised under previous pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party administrations.

Last week, Taiwan's former premier and retired Gen. Hau Pei-tsun, who belongs to the mainland-friendly incumbent Kuomintang party, ignited a fierce debate in Taiwan after publishing an op-ed in the Chinese-language United Daily News in which he criticized Taiwan's current history textbooks as "too Taiwan-centric."

Mr. Hau said a history textbook that his granddaughter is using "endangers the founding spirit of the Republic of China and carries a strong ideological tilt toward 'one country on each side of the Taiwan Strait,' " which is a Democratic Progressive Party platform that denies Taiwan is part of China and says Taiwanese are not Chinese.

China considers Taiwan a "sacrosanct island of the motherland" subject to be taken over by force if necessary.

Miles Yu's column appears Thursdays. He can be reached at mmilesyu@gmail.com.

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