Friday, April 07, 2000

Jesse Helms, Senator from Taiwan

Jesse Helms, Senator from Taiwan
Bevin Chu
April 06, 2000

"Senator Jesse Helms (R-NC) reportedly embarrassed his staffers by referring to North Korean President Kim Jong Il as "Kim Jong Two" when reading from a prepared speech. To correct this mistake, in Helms's next speech the staffers helpfully spelled the name phonetically as Kim Jong Ill. Helms referred to him that time as Kim Jong the Third."
-- "Brickbats"
Reason Magazine, May 1995

Two Chinese States?

In an op-ed piece entitled "Two Chinese States," published Friday, March 31, 2000, in the Washington Post, Jesse Helms, Republican senator from North Carolina, chairman of the Committee on Foreign Relations wrote:

"President-elect Chen's election marks the first peaceful transfer of power from a ruling Chinese party to its democratic opposition. Taiwan's democratic transformation, begun by President Lee, is complete. The Republic of China's experiment in democracy is no longer an experiment--it is a proven reality."

Helms' observation is half right. Chen Shui-bian's election does indeed mark the 'peaceful transfer of power from a ruling Chinese party to its... opposition.' Unfortunately Mr. Democracy Lee Teng-hui's transfer of power, however "peaceful" was anything but democratic. The transparent charade foisted on the ROC electorate on March 18 under the guise of a "free and fair election" was one more in an unbroken line of imperial successions in Chinese history. So far at least, Taiwan's experiment in democracy is a failed one. For details see "Farewell, Mr. Democracy."

Helms wrote:

'The nation that was known for the better part of 40 years as "Nationalist China" now is "Democratic China." No wonder Beijing feels so threatened. That is why, in the days leading up to Taiwan's election, mainland officials sought desperately to scare Taiwanese voters into rejecting Chen.'


The "Peaceful" Transfer of Political Power

When Lee Teng-hui visited South Africa several years ago, he proclaimed that his most cherished dream before he went to his reward, was "to peacefully transfer political power." This seemingly innocuous phrase went over the heads of most China watchers. But not the New Party's presidential and vice-presidential candidates Li Ao and Fung Hu-hsiang. Li and Fung were alert to Lee's sematic games.

What Lee said was he hoped to "transfer" political power. Not "yeild" political power, not "relinquish" political power to whomever the voters chose at the polls, but "transfer political power" to whomever Lee anointed as his successor.

The Emperor of Taiwan

To understand Lee's language, one has to first understand Lee's mindset. Lee doesn't think like the average elected chief executive of an "advanced" western democracy. Instead, Lee thinks like a Ferdinand Marcos or a Suharto. To Lee's thinking, he considered himself Emperor of Taiwan, just as Marcos considered himself Emperor of the Philippines, and Suharto considered himself Emperor of Indonesia. To Lee's thinking it was his royal prerogative as Taiwan's self-designated Moses to "transfer political power" to Chen Shui-bian, alias Joshua, his designated heir.

What role did the ROC electorate play in Lee's "peaceful transfer of political power?" None whatsoever. The ROC voting public's democratic preferences were not part of Lee's equation. They were beside the point. Lee wanted Chen as his successor. Lee had the power. Lee would get his way.

Oh sure, Lee knew he had to go through the motions of holding an election to make the process look "democratic." But that was merely for show. Lee would see to it that A-Bian "caught the bridal bouquet" come hell or high water. How a majority of Taiwan's voters felt and voted was neither here nor there as far as Lee was concerned.

The Government They (and We) Deserve

Leave aside the fact that authoritarian bigot Jesse Helms hasn't the foggiest notion what genuine democracy is. Taiwan's pseudo-democracy has nothing whatsoever to do with why Beijing "feels so threatened."

Beijing feels threatened because covert separatist Lee Teng-hui successfully conferred the power of his imperial presidency on overt separatist Chen Shui-bian, and because Senator Helms' perennial chairmanship of the Committee on Foreign Relations is a persistent reminder that the inmates are in charge of America's foreign policy asylum.

People, it has been said, get the government they deserve. We Americans must have done something pretty damned awful to deserve both Madeline Albright and Jesse Helms.

China Threat Theory

Helms wrote:

'Premier Zhu Rongji went so far as to warn the people of Taiwan that if they elected Chen, they "won't get another opportunity to regret." The people of Taiwan told Zhu what he could do with his threats.'

Nonsense. In fact the "people of Taiwan," the overwhelming majority of whom resolutely oppose Taiwan independence, told Chen Shui-bian, not Zhu Rongi, what he could do with his reckless and irresponsible "Long Live Taiwan Independence" rhetoric. Even after Chen flip-flopped, swearing up and down that if elected he absolutely, positively would NOT declare Taiwan independence, the people of Taiwan still voted against him, by a margin of 61 to 39 percent. Imagine how much lower his numbers would have been had he not loudly repudiated his pro-independence ideology?

Chen won solely because ROC election laws do not provide for run-off elections, and because KMT Party Chairman Lee Teng-hui deliberately prevented his own party from nominating James Soong, purposely splitting the anti-separatist vote between the immensely popular Soong and the unelectable Lien Chan.

Forever Munich, Forever 1938

Helms wrote:

"Now it is the United States' responsibility to ensure that Zhu can never fulfill his threat to make Chen's election the final democratic election in China... the Clinton administration has tried to buy peace in the Taiwan Strait by kowtowing to the Chinese Communists... the administration sticks doggedly by its Chamberlainesque approach... Those who support economic engagement with China must recognize the Clinton policy for what it is -- appeasement."

Oh please. Not the specious "totalitarian communist Goliath denying a democracy-loving David's right to exist" thesis. Not the imperialistic, un-American "It's America's solemn duty as the world's only remaining superpower to make the world safe for democracy" thesis. And God have mercy on us, not the brain-dead "Chamberlainesque appeasement no! Churchillian firmness si!" or as George Szamuely puts it, "Forever Munich, Forever 1938" thesis.

Forever Vietnam, Forever 1960

What is Helms' alternative? Helms demands that:

"The United States must make clear to Beijing that there is no military option in dealing with Taiwan by (1) approving Taiwan's full defense request... (2) sharing theater missile defense technology with the aim of bringing Taiwan under a regional missile-defense umbrella; (3) passing the Taiwan Security Enhancement Act, which will junk antiquated restrictions prohibiting senior U.S. officers from visiting Taiwan, expand the advice our experts can give them and establish direct, secure communications between our two militaries."

In short, Helms proposes that Americans repeat every one of John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson's Asian policy blunders of the early and mid 60s, which incrementally but inexorably dragged America down into the futile and costly quagmire known as Vietnam. First materiel. Then "advisors." Then air support. Then ground troops. Then the Hercules transports filled with bodybags. Mission Creep Redux. Helms has no excuse. After all, he was there. The lesson of history, it seems, is that nobody ever learns a damned thing from history.

Blank Checks and Moral Hazard

Mind-bogglingly, Helms proposes that:

"The United States can help Chen restart the cross-strait dialogue only by allowing Taiwan to engage the mainland on the basis of peace through strength. A renewed dialogue with Beijing can be successful only if it is undertaken on the basis of political strength as well."

Say what? Write a foreign separatist political leader a blank check, to be filled out with American soldiers' blood, and subsidized with American taxpayers' hard-earned dollars? This is supposed to encourage Chen to engage in serious cross-Straits dialogue? Is Helms kidding?

Taiwan Independence and Free Lunches

East and West Germany, North and South Korea, East and West China

Helms wrote:

"Just as East and West Germany were part of "one Germany," they were nonetheless separate "states." The same holds true for the two Korean states and for the two Chinese states--the People's Republic of China in Beijing and the Republic of China on Taiwan. Accepting this objective reality does not require abandoning the possibility of reunification."


Neither West Germany nor South Korea were headed by pro-Japan Quislings like Lee Teng-hui and Chen Shui-bian. Neither West Germany nor South Korea were saddled with Stockholm-syndromized, Japanophile elitists dead set against reunification on any terms, deliberately dragging their feet and sabotaging all good faith efforts at negotiating a gradual, peaceful reunification.

Jesse Helms, Clueless

Whether Helms is sincere, or whether he is paying pro forma lip service to reunification, only he knows for sure. But one thing is certain, the only nation the Taiwan independence elite wants to reunite with is the Japanese Empire.

The problem is not that the Taiwan independence elite doesn't want to live under communism. The problem is not that the Taiwan independence elite doesn't want to live under authoritarianism. The problem lies somewhere else altogether.

Hell, mainland Chinese don't want to be communists. Mainland Chinese don't want to live under authoritarianism. They haven't wanted to since Mao's asinine and tragic Great Leap Forward and Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution. Contemporary mainland Chinese hate communism, probably more than anybody in the world, including even the Russians. Nobody hates Hell as much as someone who has lived inside the inferno.

We just don't want to be Chinese!

No. Communism is not the issue. Even authoritarianism is not the issue. The real issue is the Taiwan independence elite doesn't want to be Chinese. The real issue is they have a emotional hang-up about identifying themselves as Chinese.

The Taiwan independence elite had no problem with communism in the past. After all, Lee Teng-hui, would be Father of a Republic of Taiwan, was a card-carrying member of Taiwan's Communist Party. The only reason he survived was he ratted out the same five members he recruited in order to save his own miserable hide. They were executed by firing squad. Lee became "Mr. Democracy."

Nor has the Taiwan independence elite ever had a problem with authoritarianism. Demagogue Chen Shui-bian and harridan running mate Annette Lu are themselves bonafide petty dictators, and have made no effort whatsoever to conceal their admiration and nostalgia for fascist Japanese colonial rule.

To understand the bizarre psychology underlying the Taiwan independence elite's obsession with denying their own ethnic and cultural identity, see "Taiwan Independence and the Stockholm Syndrome."

China's Free Market Communists

Perception often trumps reality. More than one western China hand has noted, only half-jokingly, that the smartest PR move Beijing could make would be to simply change the name of Chinese Communist Party to something less emotionally loaded. Some have suggested "Social Democratic Party of China." I prefer "Chinese Capitalist Party." That way they wouldn't even have to change the initials on their official party stationary. While they're at it they might want to change the design of the flag, the national anthem, and take down Mao's portrait above Tiananmen Square.

Ironically if the authoritarian capitalists ruling China were to do so they would not be misleading anybody. On the contrary, they would be reflecting current reality far more honestly than they are doing now, when they refer to themselves as "communists."

The reality is American college faculties probably contain more dyed in the wool communists than the Chinese Communist Party. For that matter, the United States congress probably contains more bonafide Marxists than the Chinese Communist Party. Senator Paul Wellstone for example, is probably to the left of PRC President Jiang Zemin.

How many "communist" countries, after all, can boast not one, but two stock exchanges? How many "communist" countries have, according to Nobel laureate in economics Robert Mundell, a private sector comprising over 60% of China's GDP? A private sector larger not only than Sweden and Denmark's (50%), but larger even than France and Germany's (55%).

It's a New Era, Jesse

Helms wrote:

"... just as the two German states eventually reunited under democracy, so too do we hope that the two Chinese states may one day reunite--under democracy."

Helms may be sufficiently out of touch with the real world that he actually believes he is ingratiating himself with the DPP by advancing such arguments. If so, Helms is in for a surprise. This line of argument may have pleased the outgoing KMT, but it's not about to win him any Brownie points with incoming DPP hardliners. Lee Teng-hui is no longer KMT party chairman. Liu Tai-ying is no longer KMT business affairs manager. If Helms wants the Taiwan Lobby's generous six figure checks, made out to the Jesse Helms Institute to keep rolling in year after year, he'd better get a clue.

The Senator from Taiwan

"The Jesse Helms Center was created to preserve the works Jesse Helms. It includes congressional documents and other such memorabilia. It also appears to act as a center for questionably legal donations. Many of the contributors to his center are companies or countries that Helms often acts in the interest in. It's illegal for foreign governments to donate money to a political campaign, but not to an independent center.

The Jesse Helms Center has used this to raise large sums of money for itself and also as a way for foreign countries to give money to Jesse Helms. Taiwan, which Helms supports, donated $225,000 to the center in 1993. Kuwait donated $100.000 to the Helms Center after the Persian Gulf War.

If the center was simply something set up by a few independent citizens for individuals to 'appreciate' Jesse Helms, the donations would not be suspicious. However, Helms' links to this center are hardly passive. Helms' wife and daughter serve on the Board of Directors of the center along with his foreign relations chief of staff and a former chief legislative assistant... Helms also evidently helps to set up some of the donations."
-- House of Crooks Presents: Jesse Helms