On the day of the 100th anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party, the Chinese ambassador to Brazil woke up and went to Twitter to commemorate the death of former US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, aged 88, a victim of multiple myeloma. The one that was his first post of the day said the following: “The Communist Party of China won’t live to be 100 anyway, as long as I live — said so Donald Rumsfeld, the former US Defense Secretary, who died at 88 on Wednesday (30).” Just 31 minutes later, Yang Wanming spoke out about his party’s anniversary.
Rumsfeld is the man of the “War on Terror” and the ensuing invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. Because of this it is controversial and even hated. But not everything he did was bad. Here’s Ambassador Yang’s post to confirm. If China celebrated the former secretary’s death, it is incontrovertible evidence that Rumsfeld’s list of good things goes through paying attention to the Chinese regime’s wrongdoings.
I have nowhere to find the statement that the Chinese ambassador attributes to the former US Secretary of Defense. But my search for her pointed me to a host of others that hint at why China celebrates her death.
In 2005, Rumsfeld angered Beijing by publicly asking, “Since no nation threatens China, one must ask: Why this growing investment? Why do these large and continuing arms purchases continue to expand?”
The seemingly innocent question prompted one of China’s Foreign Ministry directors to make a confession. Cui Tiankai, who is currently China’s ambassador to the United States (check it out) said the following in 2005: “Do you really believe that China is not under threat from other countries? Do you really believe that the United States is not threatened by the rise of China?”
Boom! The regime had just assumed what was obvious at the Pentagon, but diplomats and bureaucrats refused to acknowledge it. China was preparing not only to impose its regional interests by force, but to stand up to the United States and, if that were the case, impose its interests by force wherever necessary.
Rumsfeld’s mantra, that there was a tendency in military planning to confuse the unknown with the improbable, was confirmed. Who in their right mind would imagine the emergence of a military power to put power back into dispute in the post-Cold War? Anyway, thanks to Rumsfeld, Ambassador Cui had just inaugurated Cold War 2.0.
Few people paid attention, among them was the hawk Rumsfeld.
While the United States was losing its soldiers’ lives, wasting a fortune from its budget, and seeing its image as a power eroded by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, China confessed that it was preparing for another war. And after years of mistakes in Afghanistan and Iraq, Rumsfeld might have learned that war was no longer a singular concept. There are wars within wars and wars so utterly improbable that even one obsessed with the improbable as he was could not foresee that on those battlefields where his soldiers fought against the Terror, the improbable was the greatest enemy.
Much of Rumsfeld’s failure (and I honestly don’t think it can be attributed to him alone) was due to the constant battle between ways of approaching conflicts waged in a fluid world where the Iraqi and Afghan insurgency have proven highly proficient.
Much of Rumsfeld’s success, however, comes from these failures. He pointed out to the American military a world of uncertainty and as unbelievable as it may seem, while the world outside those five lines of the Pentagon believed that Rumsfeld’s life was all about the War on Terror, the hawk hammered into generals’ heads the need to prepare for a chaotic future that was emerging in the East.
This week, Xi Jinping warned that anyone who decides to intimidate China, even belligerently, will end up “banging its head against a Great Wall of steel, forged with the blood and bodies of more than 1.4 billion Chinese”.
Cui Tiankai’s 2015 statement was not innocent. The Chinese already knew they could open the game, as the West never takes it seriously. It usually becomes aware of problems when it reaches a critical point or, often, of no return.
Ambassador Yang Wanming commemorated Rumsfeld’s death because the fewer men like him in the world, the easier the Chinese Communist Party’s strategy is.
In 2017, I saw Rumsfeld walking through a club lounge in Washington, DC Coincidentally, we were walking in opposite directions. I greeted him. He stopped, reached out and greeted me. He asked my name. I replied and said I was a journalist, but not to worry, I wasn’t asking for an interview, just wishing him a good afternoon. He was wearing a navy blue weather-stamped suit and a yellow-patterned tie that I don’t remember well. Rumsfeld was kind. He smiled, patted my arm, and we headed in different directions. Only on the day of his death, I wrote in the Twitter to have left that chance encounter with the feeling of having received a handshake from one of the men who helped write the opening pages of this century.