Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Jim Hamilton

Commentary: Reagan stumbling on China issue

First Published: The Call, Vol. 9, No. 31, September 8-21, 1980.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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GOP contender Ronald Reagan’s global strategy, a throw-back to the bygone days of unchallenged U.S. supremacy in the world, has once again gotten him into trouble.

Last month, Reagan stated that if elected president, he would restore official ties with the fascist Taiwan regime. He also pointedly referred to the island as the “Republic of Taiwan,” in opposition to Washington’s correct policy recognizing only one China of which Taiwan is an inalienable part. Mr. Reagan made this statement even as running mate George Bush scrambled in Beijing in an effort to assuage Chinese anger.

But, Bush’s acrobatics proved futile. Noted an Aug. 19 commentary in China’s People’s Daily newspaper: “Restoring ’official relations’ with Taiwan today would in fact be trying to resuscitate the ill-fated scheme of creating ’two Chinas.’ This would essentially destroy the basic principle of the normalization of Sino-U.S. relations...”

The rebuke to Reagan was justifiably sharp, and not just from Beijing. Aside from the expected denunciations of Reagan from the Carter administration, a host of public and media figures–including ambassador to China Woodcock–slammed Reagan.

It was pointed out that Reagan’s Taiwan policy would fracture the mutually beneficial ties between the U.S. and the Peopl’s Republic, and would serve no one in the world except the Taiwanese clique and the Soviet Union. In fact, Moscow would like nothing better than to see recent moves towards cooperation between the U.S. and China shattered so as to further Soviet expansionism, especially in Asia.

It is not just Reagan’s anti-communist fanaticism that drives him to try and turn back the clock on U.S.-China relations. His whole geo-political strategy holds that America is strong enough to “go it alone” in confronting the threat from Soviet expansionism.

In contrast, mainstream Washington policy-makers–though equally desirous of promoting U.S. domination in the world as Reagan is–recognize that America has weakened in the post-Vietnam era. Thus, while White House policy continues to be characterized by attacks on the third world (i.e., Iran, El Salvador), the administration sees the need for at least partial concessions to the third world and socialist countries like China to forge cooperation against the Soviets.

Not so with the GOP’s candidate and the ruling class forces he represents. Indeed, Reagan’s Taiwan comments fit in neatly with his view on other international issues: his opposition to the Panama Canal Treaty, his avowed support of U.S.-supported regimes in South Korea and South Africa, and his insistence that American involvement in Vietnam was a “noble cause.”

Not only is Reagan out of step with the views of the vast majority of his fellow ruling class leaders. He appears to have badly misread American public opinion as well. Opinion poll after opinion poll demonstrates that Americans support the new cooperative ties with the Peopl’s Republic of China.

But playing on popular dissatisfaction with Carter’s rule, or with taxes and inflation and Big Government, is one thing. Ronald Reagan attempts to reverse the American peopl’s verdicts on Vietnam or on normalizing relations with China, he just may find his conservatism exploding in his face come November.