China's Cold War mentality
Chinese officials and the state-run media constantly accuse the United States of exhibiting an outdated "Cold War Mentality" in regard to Asian security issues. Two editorials this week in the ruling Communist Party's publication Global Times clearly show, however, that it is in Beijing where the belief is held that the Cold War never ended and must be carried on.
Tuesday's editorial warned against a Japan-South Korea alliance based on a recent speech by Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan. "The words immediately sent chills to the Chinese people, reminding them of the Cold War era when Northeast Asia was divided by two triangles, the China- Soviet Union-North Korea triangle versus the US-Japan-South Korea triangle." Beijing wants the democratic triangle to be thrown asunder while preserving their triangular alignment. There has been no change in the single party rule in China or North Korea, and while the Soviet Union is no more, Russia is still run by men who earned their stripes under the old Red regime.
"The notion that Japan and South Korea will join hands to confront China and North Korea is an extremely dangerous setback in Northeast Asian relations," says the editorial, "the two countries should be clear that they are not able to really contain China."
Thursday's editorial was more explicit in extolling the China-Russia-North Korea triangle in yet another protest of U.S.-South Korean naval exercises which it calls "a deliberate attempt to provoke China in the Yellow Sea."
China has to be careful of the two allies' strategic goal, which is to create turmoil in North Korea in the face of a pending political power transition. China must also be wary of the US putting the entire Korean Peninsula under its influence.
The Korean Peninsula is too important to ignore in the realm of global geopolitics. US control of the peninsula will pose a realistic threat to China and Russia.
A smooth transition of power in the North is vital for the stability of Northeast Asia.
For Beijing (and it believes also for Moscow), nothing has changed since the 1950s in the region, nor can any change be allowed. When China initiated the Six Party Talks in 2003, it was not to orchestrate a concert to contain North Korea's nuclear program. It was a diplomatic gambit to institutionalize the Three versus Three alignment of powers in a way that would protect the Pyongyang regime. The Cold War partition of the Korean peninsula is to be perpetuated. A small North Korean nuclear capability will deter outside intervention while China's close ties with the North Korean military will give it the power to direct the post-Kim Jong-il succession. Dictator Kim and his heir apparent youngest son Kim Jong-Un are currently visiting China.
Most people believe the Cold War ended when the Berlin Wall fell in 1989. But no similar event took place in Asia. As its capabilities have grown, Beijing has become more confrontational within what it sees as the old Cold War alignments. America and its allies must respond in the same context.