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Open Letter to President Obama from Chinese netizen, LTML

Following is an open letter posted on the popular Chinese BBS forum, bbs.huanqiu.com,  by a member named “LTML.”  The English version of it follows the Chinese in this post.  It is addressed to U.S. President Obama on his decision to sell weapons to Taiwan.

President Obama has repeatedly stressed that he wants to reach the people of China. Well, based on what we’ve read in some of China’s BBS’s, we believe the sentiment expressed by LTML is widely and deeply held inside China.

We urge President Obama or his administration to take this view seriously, and to respond and change course.  Sovereignty is amongst the highest of core interests of China. There is a huge gap between the Chinese and the U.S. perspective regarding the extent of Chinese sovereignty.  Closing this dangerous gap will be better for the two countries and will lead to a more peaceful, stable world.

The following letter has circulated in Chinese blog-sphere for a while.  A recent submission of a copy by a reader to Fool’s Mountain, our sister blog, and a call in the Chinese blog-sphere for people to help spread the word has compelled us to publishing it here.

尊敬的总统先生:

素闻您非常在意网民的声音,也注意到您去年11月首次访问中国时还特意要求与网民“对话”,回答他们的关切和问题。总统先生对普通网民声音的重视让像我这样的网民深受鼓舞,这也是我冒昧给您写这封信的重要原因,因为我是一名普通的中国网民,而且我想谈的事情也正是这些天中国网民非常关切的由您宣布的对台军售问题。所以,我真诚地希望您能看到我的这封信,听到一位普通中国网民对国家民族统一与和平安定的向往。

记得您去年11月在上海与中国青年对话时说过这么一段话:“所以21世纪的实力不在零和游戏,一个国家成功不应该以另外一个国家的牺牲作为代价。这就是我们为什么不寻求遏制中国的崛起。相反,我们欢迎中国作为一个国际社会的强大的、繁荣的、成功的成员。”您在竞选期间多次呼吁“change”,所以您的这番“不寻求遏制中国”的明确表态当时确实让我感受到了您在中美关系上“change”的诚意,至少我当时首先想到的是:您所领导的政府肯定不会如您的某些前任那样,在事关中国国家统一的台湾问题上让中国难受,因为中国老百姓太珍惜目前来之不易的台海和平局面了。

令我感到遗憾的是,离开上海才两个月,您“不寻求遏制中国”、“我的政府全面支持一个中国政策”的承诺里就增添了“对台军售”的奇怪内容。我不知道是我错了–您根本就没有“change”,还是您“change”得太快,快得我这个与您一样有着强烈民族自豪感的人还没来得及憧憬您的承诺可能给海峡两岸中国人带来何种和平与安宁。当然,我不希望是我错了,也不希望是您“change”得太快,因为无论是不“change”还是太擅长“change”,都与当初带着“hope”入主白宫的奥巴马总统形象不太相称。

一直以来都非常仰慕您雄辩的口才,真希望您能在百忙中抽空给您去年面对的中国青年、中国网民再来一次精彩演说,解释一下您对他们、对中国的承诺到底有没有“change”?不过在此要提醒一下,我们不需要美国国务院最近所称的“对台军售有利于台海安全与稳定”这种多少有点侮辱人类智商的解释。道理很简单:国家分裂势力手中的武器越精良,他们分裂国家的冲动就越强烈,就如美国南北战争期间南方叛军得到英国军舰援助后就更加敢于藐视林肯总统所领导的联邦政府一样。

总统先生,在您按着1861年林肯用过的《圣经》宣誓成为美国第44任总统时,不少人都将您视为“林肯第二”,有媒体还历数您与林肯总统有哪些共同点:出身贫寒、才华横溢、能言善辩等等,您也在自传《无畏的希望》一书中毫不掩饰您是林肯的超级粉丝。但无论您和林肯总统有多少相似点,从我这个普通中国人的角度来看,你们有着本质上的不同:林肯总统有过民族分裂的锥心之痛,有过对外部势力干涉国家统一的刻骨之恨!而这些您都没有!

总统先生,您知识渊博,一定还记得美国南北战争期间的“特伦特号”事件。面对当时大英帝国的蛮横霸道,在举国上下誓言与英国干涉军血战之时,林肯总统忍辱负重,满足了英国的无理要求,释放了南方叛军向英国派遣的求援特使。但当时林肯总统也对自己的人民说:“这是一颗难以吞咽的苦药丸,但我感到宽慰的是,英国在这件事上的胜利是暂时的,等到我们胜利地结束这场战争之后,我们将会变得非常强大,现在它让我们难堪,到时候我们将和它算总账。”

总统先生,您是否知道,您现在宣布对台军售干涉中国的国家统一,也是在逼中国人民吞咽“一颗难以吞咽的苦药丸”?您是否想过,中国领导人也完全有理由说出您的偶像–林肯总统当年曾说过的那番话:现在它让我们难堪,到时候我们将和它算总账?!

此致

敬礼

一个来自环球网论坛的中国网民:LTML

2010年2月2日

====================================

特别感谢87楼网友CHSHH给翻译的英文版

Letter from a Chinese web user to US President Barack Obama

Dear Mr President:

I’ve heard that you care for the voices of web users. I’ve also noticed that you requested a direct dialogue with web users to answer their questions and concerns during your visit to China last November. Your attention to web users has encouraged me to write to you. I am an ordinary web user from China. What I want to talk to you about is the US’ arms sale to Taiwan, which has raised a heated discussion on the Internet in China. I sincerely hope this letter reaches you, and that you would be able to hear the voice of an ordinary Chinese web user and his wishes for reunification and peace and his nation.

In your speech to Chinese youth in Shanghai you said, “the strength of the 21st century is not a zero-sum game, the success of a country to another country should not sacrifice the cost. This is why we do not seek to contain China’s rise. On the contrary, we welcome to the international community, China, as a strong, prosperous and successful member.” You have called for “changes” during your election campaign; so I think your words on “not seek to contain China’s rise” shows your sincerity in making some “changes” in Sino-US relations. The first thing that comes to mind is that the US government under you, unlike your predecessors, will not annoy China on China’s reunification and the Taiwan Question, as the Chinese nationals really appreciate the current peaceful cross-Straits relationship.

However, two months after you left Shanghai, your promise “not seek to contain China’s rise” and “my administration fully supports a one-China policy” is weirdly mingled with your decision to sell arms to Taiwan. I am not sure if I have interpreted you wrongly. Either you have not changed, or you have changed so fast that I do not even have the time to picture what great peace and happiness your promise would bring to the people across the Taiwan Straits. Of course, I hope I am not wrong in understanding your promise, and you are not changing fast. Because a president who brings hope into the White House, is not expected to “change nothing” or “change too fast”.

I enjoyed your speech and admired your speaking skills. I really wish you could meet the Chinese youth and the Chinese web users, and explain whether your promise to them or to China has changed. But I’d like to add a note here. We do not need lame explanations like “arms sale to Taiwan is good for security across the Taiwan Straits”, because it is an insult to our intelligence if we believe in such excuses. It is a simple fact that for the separatists, the more advanced their equipments is, the more they would want to split from the nation. In the American Civil War, the southern rebels were even crazier in their fight with the Federal government under Abraham Lincoln after they received military support from Britain.

Mr President, when you first put your hands on the Bible that Abraham Lincoln once used and vowed to be the 44th president of the United States, many people called you “Lincoln the second”. There are even people in media counting the similarities between you and Lincoln: you are both from an ordinary family, and both have brilliant talent and eloquence. You also said you are a fan of Lincoln in your autobiography, The Audacity of Hope. But no matter how many similarities you and Abraham Lincoln might have, I, as an ordinary Chinese, think you have one deep-rooted difference. The difference is that President Lincoln had suffered from the splitting pains of his nation, and bore hatred for the external power that intervened to split his nation; but you did not.

Mr President, you are a knowledgeable man. You must have remembered the Trent Affair during the American Civil War, where President Lincoln bit the bullet and met the unreasonable demands of the British to release the special envoys the southern rebels sent to Britain. However, during that time, Lincoln told his people “that was a pretty bitter pill to swallow, but I contented myself with believing that England’s triumph in the matter would be short-lived, and that after ending our war successfully we could if we wished call England to account for the embarrassments she had inflicted upon us.”

Mr President, do you know that you are compelling Chinese people to swallow a bitter pill by selling arms to Taiwan and interfering in the reunification of China? Has it occurred to you that the leaders in China might have spoken the same words your idol, Abraham Lincoln once said, that “we wished (to) call America to account for the embarrassments she had inflicted upon us”?

Yours sincerely,

LTML
A Chinese web user from bbs.huanqiu.com

Feb. 2, 2010

  1. Geoff from the US
    March 11th, 2010 at 17:27 | #1

    I would like to just point out that we are only selling Taiwan Defensive Weapons. We will not sell them Offensive weapons.

  2. March 13th, 2010 at 19:56 | #2

    @Geoff,

    Yes – even if we can clearly delimit between offensive and defensive weapons – and even if assuming that all the weapons sold could only be used for defensive purposes – there is the issue where Chinese sovereignty ends.

    If Taiwan has a right to purchase defensive weapons, then the presumption is that Chinese sovereignty to Taiwan is qualified. That is the meat of the dispute here. From the mainland’s perspective, Chinese sovereignty extends to Taiwan – and as far as how foreign powers treat China is concerned: sovereignty comes in only one variety: either you have it or you don’t. The U.S. says China has sovereignty over Taiwan but acts like it doesn’t: Chinese sovereignty is conditional – on many factors. But truth to be told, such conditional sovereignty is not sovereignty.

  3. George Monser
    March 25th, 2010 at 03:25 | #3

    Dear Sirs, I am from Arizona, in the USA. I am interested in learning more about China and the ideas of its people. That is why I read the Open Letter to President Obama.

    1. Concerning Taiwan: I can understand why China compares US sales of weapons to Taiwan with England’s sales of weapons to the American South during the US Civil War. But the matter is complicated by a treaty that was made over 60 years ago. When the CCP formed the Peoples Republic of China in 1949, the US was afraid that Chinese and Soviet Communists sought to dominate the world, just as Hitler tried to dominate Europe a few years before. So the US promised military support to the non-communists who fled the mainland to Taiwan. Then in the 1970’s, we reopened our relations with China. At that time, the US made an internal political compromise: Improved relations with the Chinese government, but a continued US military presence (the Navy) and continued arms sales to Taiwan to prevent forcible reunification. This is either a formal or de facto treaty. President Obama does not have the power to cancel it. Only the US people can do that. However, the average US citizen does not yet want to do that. Partly, this is due to lack of knowledge. The average American thinks that the Chinese government maintains its power by force, instead of the consent of its people, and would oppress the people in Taiwan. Most Americans do not know about the 228 Incident (I just learned about it today, from reading a Chinese person’s comment to an American media article). Lack of understanding is at the heart of the Taiwan weapons issue. I think that a continued dialog between our peoples (such as by comments to media editorials) will help correct misunderstandings, and (I hope) foster agreement between our governments. Lack of knowledge is a problem, and it is the main potential cause of conflict between our countries in the future. Also, if the people of Hong Kong continue to enjoy their post-colonial status, that will show Americans that the Taiwanese will do well after reunification.

    2. Concerning Tibet and the Uyghur Autonomous Region: I have read that Chinese people are angry about comments from Westerners about events there. The criticisms from the US are due to Americans thinking that the Han Chinese are displacing and oppressing the indigenous people of these two regions. They forget that the United States was created by people from Europe, who oppressed (and often killed) the indigenous people of America, in order to take their land beginning 500 years ago. I think that Americans who criticize China on the two regions should honestly understand their own history. Then a more reasonable dialog may occur. But talk will not change the fact that these regions are now part of China, just as the place where I live (Arizona) is now part of the United States. Dialog here is a moot point, unlike the matter of weapon sales to Taiwan. The history of the World is the story of stronger people displacing weaker people, with little concern for justice.

    3. Recently I have read comments by some Chinese people, who say that they mainly want (1) prosperity, (2) Continued development of Chinese law to squelch corrupt officials, and (3) internal peace and harmony. They don’t want a Western-style democracy. I am interested in reading ideas like these from China and other countries, now that I am retired and I have enough time to read and think new thoughts. I welcome any comments from people who read these (perhaps overlong) words from an American. Best wishes, George Monser

  4. r v
    March 25th, 2010 at 08:13 | #4

    George,

    As a 1st generation Chinese immigrant to US, naturalized US citizen, and a lawyer, I have some comments.

    1. The Taiwan Relations Act, was passed by Congress, but only after Nixon’s reestablishment relationship with mainland China. As yet, that law, though passed, has not been challenged for its legality. However, any law student can tell you that US Congress cannot pass a law as a “treaty.” Treaties are established between 2 nations, first signed by the President, and then ratified by the US Senate. US Congress cannot unilaterally pass a “treaty”, especially not concerning a region within the jurisdiction of another sovereign nation.

    It would be akin to China passing a law of “Native American Tribe – China Relations Act”. One cannot call that a “treaty.”

    And if the TRA is not a treaty, then it is only a domestic law of US’s own concern, to sell weapons and provide aid to Taiwan, (again a region of another sovereign nation).

    However, then the TRA is in conflict with US-China’s treaties. And naturally, that conflict harms all existing US-China treaties.

    Legally, only of these can stand, and the other must fall.

    2. Regarding Tibet and Uighur autonomous regions, I must point out that Han Chinese have had much longer historical conflicts in these regions, and much longer historical claims to these regions than any European settlers in America.

    Tibetans themselves are not native to the Tibetan region. Uighurs are also not native the Uighur autonomous regions.

    Han Chinese had established military and civilian outposts and fought border wars in those regions almost 2000 years ago, with other nomadic tribes.

    Thus, I would caution the use of “indigenous people” when it comes to the Tibetans and the Uighurs. If any thing, other ethnic groups of Chinese have had much longer historical claims as “indigenous people” in those regions.

    Xinjiang for example, used to be homeland for several ethnic tribes that were later incorporated by intermarriage into what we call “Han Chinese.”

    3. Regarding Western style democracy, with the exception of some minority groups of people in China, majority of Chinese have no preference for any new “democratic” system for China.

    One major reason is that the core of Chinese cultural identity is still very much based upon Confucian doctrine of social order based upon a hierarchical political structure.

    Although modern Chinese enjoy substantially more individual freedom than under the old imperial system, Most modern Chinese would probably prefer a gradual change over time, as China has done in the last 60 or so years.

    I would compare the current Chinese system to the British historical change from an absolute Monarchy to a Constitutional Monarchy. (Except in the Chinese case, China did away with an absolute ruler, in favor of an oligarchy).

    In that sense, the current Chinese system is actually much closer to the system of the Venetian Republic, which BTW, lasted over 1300 years, the longest lasting Republic in human history.

    In the Venetian Republic, the ruling Doge is elected from the elite families of Venice, and the Doge appoints his counsels of trade and war. There is also a council of elders who are elected.

    The current Chinese mind set is not drastic improvements of the political system, but rather drawing small lessons from all political systems, to change laws to clearly define individual freedom and civic responsibilities.

    To the Chinese, China has gone from having a Chairman with near absolute power to Prime ministers and Presidents with limited terms and peaceful transitions. As such, the current system is already changing. There is no reason to copy someone else’s system.

  5. March 25th, 2010 at 14:05 | #5

    @George

    Welcome to HH. Under “Resources” at the top of this blog, you can also access the archives of all of our prior posts. There has been many discussions on many topics related to China. If you want to quickly “catch up” on the conversation that’s certainly a way to do it.

    “Lack of knowledge is a problem, and it is the main potential cause of conflict between our countries in the future.”

    Agreed. It only takes one side to be ignorant, and the other side will follow in due time.

    “I think that Americans who criticize China on the two regions should honestly understand their own history. Then a more reasonable dialog may occur. But talk will not change the fact that these regions are now part of China, just as the place where I live (Arizona) is now part of the United States.”

    Agreed. Many Chinese construe criticisms from the U.S. as not constructive. We see tendencies within these criticism to want to divide China. We could even go further. If some nation is powerful enough, it could divide the males and the females on this planet; or the rich and the poor; or along any arbitrary number of lines.

  6. March 25th, 2010 at 14:09 | #6

    @r v

    Great comments.

    “The current Chinese mind set is not drastic improvements of the political system, but rather drawing small lessons from all political systems, to change laws to clearly define individual freedom and civic responsibilities.”

    Completely agreed with that.

    The U.S. democracy also has many problems on display for the world to see: debt, budget deficit, lack of universal health care, crime rate, and very low public participation in elections.

    If the U.S. model is a perfect one in totality, then Americans should be confident the world will be eager to copy in totality.

  7. r v
    March 25th, 2010 at 17:47 | #7

    I would also point out, that many of the problems with US’s political system is very much hidden from the view of average people, because they are indirect problems of the system that cause other issues.

    One large problem with US’s system is actually one that also troubles China.

    That being, the local government often has more power and has the most corruption.

    (Most Americans do not know or understand this,) but in comparison, the US Federal Government has comparatively less power than the State government, even though the Federal government is higher in authority.

    The Dual Sovereign system of the US Republic, strictly prohibits the Federal Government from reaching its authority in most individual citizen rights.

    However, State Constitutions in US can allow the State to regulate individual rights more than the Federal Government.

    For example, individual states decide whether they have death penalties, concealed weapons laws, etc.

    Individual States also decide whether they can exercise “Eminent Domain” to forcibly take private properties for public use with compensation, (and state decides what is Public use, and what is adequate compensation.) In comparison, the Federal government rarely exercises Eminent domain power, because Federal government has very few uses for more property beyond what it already owns in Federal land.

    When one begins to dig deeper into US’s system, one can find all kinds of problems that have caused problems in the past.

    *one must recognize, that the many controversial issues in US politics are often caused by hidden problems with the US system itself. And yet, all we ever debate about, are the symptoms of US “democracy.”

    Let me put it simply. “Slavery” was not a problem of the US system, but rather a symptom of it. It took a Civil War in US to get rid of that symptom, but it almost destroyed US. If history of Civil War took a slightly different turn, that symptom (like a high fever) would have broken US.

    But some thought the system was good, with only some minor symptoms every now and then.

    I do not see it that way.

    I believe, even in Slavery issue, it was due to the fact that individual states at the time had the power to decide whether to keep slavery legal.

    That, to me, is the ultimate corruption.

  8. George Monser
    March 26th, 2010 at 11:30 | #8

    @r v

    Thanks for your answer to my comment yesterday. After reading your it, I wondered what exactly the US has agreed to concerning Taiwan, and what the US has been doing in the area in the past 40 years. So I looked for info in Wikipedia articles, like The Political Status of Taiwan. I learned a lot that is new to me. The most promising sign of progress that I read is the recent increase in cross-Strait trade and other interaction. But a few hours of reading in Wikipedia have not made me an expert on the subject, so I will not try to guess how or when the issue will be resolved. Best regards, George.

  9. r v
    March 26th, 2010 at 11:44 | #9

    George,

    I’m no expert, but then who is.

    The most troubling part of US-Taiwan relationship is that so much of it is hidden, under the table type agreements, with no accountability to the People at all.

    As I wrote some where before, if the American People really knew how much money US has spent to aid Taiwan, and how little it has produced, there would be a massive controversy.

    One wonder how much democracy there really is in US and Taiwan.

    I mean really, 40-60 years of messing around with Taiwan, Taiwanese defense is still puny, compared to China?

    Does anyone ever mention the words “Exit strategy” when it comes to Taiwan? Or is the American public just going to keep pouring money into that dark hole?

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