"...'Dangerous Straits' clearly was begun before the terror attacks drastically redefined the ranking of America's foes and tore up modern war's rules of engagement, and it struggles to contend with these epic changes.
On one hand 'Dangerous Straits' tries to stand by its basic premise, arguing that friction between the United States and China over the Taiwan Strait raises the specter of military conflict. On the other hand it tries to acknowledge the newly shared interest of both nations in battling terrorism by Muslim radicals and separatists. The result is a documentary that is both informative and uneven, perceptive and hyperbolic...
...For the Bush administration, the documentary explains, relations with China polarize two Republican constituencies. David Sanger, a Washington correspondent for The Times, describes these as 'a very business-oriented camp' that sees China as 'perhaps the greatest market anywhere in the world' and a 'containment crowd' that perceives a 'growing military threat from China.'
'Dangerous Straits' would have been wise to devote most of its time to exploring exactly the thesis that Mr. Sanger and Mr. Campbell set forth. Their wise words suggest not the zero-sum story of war or peace, enemy or friend, but a narrative of dueling constituencies within each country trying to exploit either business ties or the divisive Taiwan issue for their own gain...
...'Dangerous Straits' more accurately depicts the American engagement with China as a 'policy of strategic ambiguity.' When this documentary embraces and explores that ambiguity, it succeeds best. These days we know all too well what real war looks like and where it is being fought."
"Frontline: Dangerous Straits is an alarming report on the matter of America's relations with China. It suggests that the United States has been playing a very dangerous game with China, on the one hand nurturing trade that now amounts to $124 billion a year, and on the other hand selling masses of high-tech weapons to Taiwan. While these weapons are openly sold to Taiwan, a fact which enrages China, the Unites States also officially encourages a peaceful solution to the dispute over who controls Taiwan. In this program we meet Chinese officials who state bluntly that Taiwan is part of China. 'The land, the territory is ours. Return our land, is that clear?'
We are also reminded of an incident that has probably been forgotten in the context of recent events: the tense standoff over an American spy plane that was forced to land on Chinese soil. The pilot of the plane talks for the first time about his mission, and the American ambassador to China talks about the delicate negotiations it took to resolve the situation. He says that the first Chinese official he met told him, 'You owe us an apology and you owe us money.' This Frontline subtly suggests that the current American and Chinese administrations simply don't trust each other and that the United States is being slowly pulled into an inevitable war in the Pacific over the fate of Taiwan. Even that old war hound Henry Kissinger turns up to issue dire warnings."
home + introduction + interviews + experts' analyses
chronology & map + readings & links + discussion + teacher's guide
frontline + pbs online + wgbh
web site copyright 1995-2014
WGBH educational foundation
chinese army photo ©afp/corbis