What to do about China?

— 12:11 AM on April 5, 2001

I've been following the Taiwan situation with interest for a while now, and this latest mess with the mid-air collision and China's subsequent detention of the U.S. soliders who served as crew of the EP-3 reconnaissance plane is intriguing. (Spicy tech info on the planes here and here.) It appears we're facing an intractable standoff between the U.S. and China right now, since China is demanding an apology for a collision almost assuredly caused by its own fighter jet, and the U.S. steadfastly refuses to shoulder the blame. The fate of 24 U.S. soldiers hangs in the balance, and we're left to wonder exactly how much of the EP-3's sensitive technology has been compromised.

All of this is very relevant to what we do here at TR, because U.S.-China relations will largely determine the fate of Taiwan. If things go wrong for Taiwan, the PC market will go haywire, to say the least. And I get the sense this entire diplomatic/military confict is, just beneath the surface, really about Taiwan—and about the Bush administration's recent declaration of intentions to sell defensive weapons technology to Taiwan, in particular.

The most perplexing question, to me, is what the U.S. ought to do next, should China continue to refuse to return the EP-3's crew. This guy is ready to send in teams to destroy the EP-3 and rescue its crew. He seems quite determined:

China's behavior so far has been predictably arrogant and lawless. Chinese politicians are going around puffed up like poison toads with bogus indignation, emitting clouds of gassy bluster about the U.S. having "violated our air space." Fine: when you've been arrested, tried and found guilty of an offense, you might as well commit it. Let's show these gangsters what a real violation of Chinese air space looks like.
War talk is so fun.

But perhaps such a display of force is necessary to remind China of our resolve. The question is: if you were Colin Powell or Don Rumsfeld, how would you advise Dick Ch—er, George Dubya to handle this one? What options does the U.S. have, and which ones are best? Remember: get it wrong, and no more motherboards for you.

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