Thursday, February 18, 2010

The astonishingly resilient anti-Communist majority

CNN took advantage of today's meeting between President Obama and the Dalai Lama to conduct a poll on American attitudes toward the Chinese Communist Party. The results were a pleasant surprise, to say the least.

First, it should come as no surprise that the Dalai Lama is very well-liked in the United States. The rest of the poll regarding Tibet seems contradictory at first.

Nearly three-quarters of all Americans think Tibet should be an independent country, according to a new national poll.

However, the CNN/Opinion Research Corp. survey released Thursday also indicates that most Americans think it is more important to maintain good relations with China than to take a stand on Tibet.

Again, that may sound contradictory, but we have to remember that the Dalai Lama himself repeatedly insists that he is not demanding independence, and he himself has been trying to build bridges to Zhongnanhai. The independence question aside, the American people are largely following the Dalai Lama's lead.

Meanwhile, as one would expect, human rights remains at the forefront of American thinking:
The poll also indicates that 53 percent say it's more important for the United States to take a strong stand on human rights in China than to maintain good relations with Beijing, with 44 percent saying good relations are more important.

Where things get interesting is the "Taiwan question":
By a 6-point margin, the survey also shows that more Americans say taking a strong stand on Taiwan by force is more important than maintaining good relations with Beijing.

Read that again, slowly, and you'll see how dramatic a statement that is.

We're talking about Taiwan (a.k.a. the Republic of China), a subject so delicate even the anti-Communist community has to treat it with kid gloves. Making matters even more difficult, the solution most anti-Communists would prefer (an anti-Communist movement willing to help the mainland overthrow the CCP and then reunify with a democratic China) has vanished over the last few years do to event that have led to a Communist-friendly vs. anti-Communist/pro-independence polarization, with the latter also suffering from a serious corruption hangover that allowed the former to sweep the electoral field in 2007 and 2008.

On top of that, the poll asked about "taking a strong stand on Taiwan by force." In other words, the American people - in the midst of a two-pronged war against al Qaeda and the Great Recession - were asked about effectively going to war to protect the island democracy, with all of its troubles, against a would-be (and soon, will-be) superpower.

Despite all of this, the American people responded, "Sign me up."

This is the latest - and probably, the most dramatic - example of the American people's resilient anti-Communism. For much of the 1990's, a majority of Americans called the "China" a threat (they meant the CCP, trust me), but in part, that could have been Republican reaction to the Clinton Administration's "engagement" with the regime.

Now, in 2010, Republicans and Democrats have seen one of their own espouse "engagement" in the White House in an attempt to get Beijing's cooperation on their respective foreign policy objectives. Despite this, the anti-Communism did not wane. If anything, it became more resolute (I know of no poll that said Americans in the 1990s were willing to use military force to defend the ROC).

In the 1930's, the Democrats embraced anti-fascism: they completely dominated American politics until 1953. In the late 1970's, the Republicans firmly stood against European Communism. From 1980 to 2008, they were the driving force in American politics.

This poll confirms what I have said it before, and I am compelled to say it again: the party that embraces the anti-Communist majority will be the majority party in American politics for at least the next generation. If history is any indication, it will also lead the American and Chinese peoples to victory over the CCP.

What we still do not know - and had best figure out soon - is this: which party is it going to be? One could make the argument for either the Democrats or the Republicans. In fact, liberals and conservatives are more likely to be anti-Communists than moderates, further complicating not only partisan predictions but, more importantly, making it harder to build a political coalition.

However, this poll clearly shows that the coalition can be built, and events around the world show it must be built. The questions remain: when and who?