Letters to the Editor
Readers write about outsiders' perceptions of China and how to better train the Iraqi Army.
China cannot explain away its past aggressive policies
Regarding Xu Wu's recent Opinion piece on Western misconceptions about China: The piece suggests that if historical behavior has contemporary relevance, China's nonaggressive behavior in the past may be taken as a guide to its future aspirations and inclinations. China's own historical records repeatedly contradict the fundamental premise that it did not engage in imperialistic, aggressive, or predatory actions over its long existence.
Oracular inscriptions clearly show that even at its inception with the Shang dynasty, lengthy expeditionary campaigns intended to defeat and enslave contiguous peoples were already being undertaken with great frequency from the 13th through mid-11th centuries BC.
Even if these expeditionary campaigns might, as is currently fashionable, be dismissed as having been defensive or preemptive in nature, the invasions of India and Vietnam carried out by the current regime, and the forceful subjugation of Tibet – a state populated by an ethnically, culturally, and religiously distinct people – cannot.
For decades, PRC spokesmen have vociferously promoted this interpretation of history to allay fears and forestall countermeasures, and it is now being echoed by Western optimists and pro-China commentators. While the nature and intention of these PRC assertions may be debatable, the baselessness of any claim to an inherently benign history is not.
Ralph D. Sawyer
Senior research fellow, Warring States Project, University of Massachusetts, Amherst
Regarding Xu Wu's May 1 Opinion piece, "The real US deficit with China – knowledge": I would agree with Mr. Wu that the average American is probably out of touch with today's China. The average Chinese is probably just as out of touch with today's America. However, it is very disingenuous to compare the senseless slaughter of innocent individuals in Tiananmen Square with Watergate. What reading I have done on China indicates that the Chinese people are still very aware of the ability of the state to impose its will with measures that are, by American standards, very harsh. China is still a Communist country, and Communism is not tolerant of those who protest its rule.
In response to Xu Wu's recent Opinion piece on Western depictions of China: Mr. Wu's take on this issue is very unusual and is not valid or truthful. China cannot be described as "Confucian." China's total lack of respect for human rights for its citizens still smacks of a communist dictatorship, as does its overriding of human rights in Darfur in order to get oil from Sudan. I see China's domestic and foreign policy as the outcome of an immoral government.
Bruce Evans Woods-Jack
Kirkby Lonsdale, England
How to prepare Iraq's military
In response to the April 30 article, "Iraq Army's first battle tests": I am a former captain in the field artillery branch of the US Army. We have not given the Iraqis the capability to provide their own fire support or air support. In my opinion, this situation is inexcusable and will contribute to the need for US forces in Iraq for many years to come. We can easily train the Iraqis to competently handle the 105-mm howitzer. We can train their counterfire people and provide them with new countermortar radars. We should have already started their training. There is much that we can do, and it should be done soon.
Bruce W. Cobb
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