President Bush prodded China on Wednesday to grant more political freedom to its 1.3 billion people and held up archrival Taiwan as a society that successfully moved from repression to democracy as it opened its economy.Is he INSANE? Is he deliberately trying to piss off the Chinese government and stir up Chinese nationalism?
In remarks sure to rile Beijing, Bush suggested China should follow Taiwan's path.
"Modern Taiwan is free and democratic and prosperous. By embracing freedom at all levels, Taiwan has delivered prosperity to its people and created a free and democratic Chinese society," the president said.
I mean, Bush has said some dumb things. Really, really dumb things. He's legendary for it. Precious few, however, could start World War III... this is on the order of Reagan's "we're launching" comment, and that was a joke.
Actually, I kind of hope it was a mistake. I hope he is ignorant. I hope he doesn't realize that the government of a China bereft of ideological foundations and tiptoeing around the edges of fiscal calamity is going to be looking for other means of reinforcing its identity. I hope he doesn't realize that praising Taiwan as an example for the Chinese to follow is infinitely worse than a thousand Koizumi shrine visits.
(That this statement has followed on the heels of such a visit isn't exactly the best timing, by the by.)
I hope he's just stupid, because the alternative is that he's quite aware of the repercussions of what he just said, and said it anyway. That he doesn't care, or is deliberately provoking a Chinese response. That'd be far worse.
Hu Jintao isn't the only state leader whose domestic problems make foreign scapegoating look really, really attractive.
Edit: A nice succinct summary by watching the detectives: