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China's Looming Threat By: William R. Hawkins
FrontPageMagazine.com | Tuesday, June 21, 2005

The 2000 National Defense Authorization Act mandated that the Secretary of Defense submit an annual report to Congress  "on the current and future military strategy of the People's Republic of China." This year's report has repeatedly been delayed as the State Department and other agencies have sought to water down its content so as to portray Chinese military programs as less threatening and Beijing's ambitions as more benign. The most recent release date was supposed to be June 8, but the report has been delayed again by at least two weeks.

This year's report is expected to conclude that China's defense expenditures are much higher than Beijing has admitted. It is estimated that China has the third largest military budget in the world. Beijing is expanding its missile forces, with new units able to reach targets beyond the Pacific region. China is also improving its ability to project power in Asia and elsewhere, and is developing advanced military technology.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld foreshadowed the report at an International Institute for Strategic Studies conference in Singapore, June 4. He asked some tough questions of Beijing's intentions, "Why this growing investment? Why these continuing large and expanding arms purchases? Why these continuing robust deployments?" he wondered. The answer seems clear, Beijing is the strategic competitor to the United States that President George W. Bush noted when he first took office. 

Rumsfeld's remarks set off alarm bells among those who favor the appeasement of China. One of the more notable comments came from former Secretary of State Colin Powell speaking at a forum organized by Business Week magazine on June 13. "I, for one, do not see China as an enemy that is emerging as a threat, but as a nation taking its rightful place in the world," Powell said. Four days earlier, an editorial in The Boston Globe took the "blame America first" line so familiar from the Cold War, arguing that "China's military modernization may also be a response to US policies....Most provocative for Beijing is Washington's encouragement of an expanded military role for Japan." No mention was made of the idea that Tokyo's awakening may be a response to the same growing Chinese threat Rumsfeld sees.

Into this debate comes the new book China: The Gathering Threat by the late Constantine Menges. It deserves to become a best seller.  Menges presents a well documented history of the last half-century of U.S.-China relations, showing how Beijing has expanded its ambitions as its economy has grown, until it now plans to dominate not just Asia, but events globally.

During the Reagan administration Menges worked for the CIA and then served on the National Security Council.  He played a vital role in fighting the spread of Communism in Central America and drew up the plan for the 1983 invasion of Grenada that toppled a pro-Castro tyrant.  Menges warned President George H. W. Bush of the rising tide of terrorism and drew up a plan to combat it, but the incoming Clinton administration had no interest in the subject. 

During the Clinton interregnum, Menges moved from government to academia as a professor of international relations at George Washington University and a scholar at the Hudson Institute.  He was active as an advisor to many members of Congress, which is where I met him while working for Rep.  Duncan Hunter (R-CA). I had read several of Menges' books before I met him.  His memoir of the Reagan years, Inside the National Security Council, had made my blood boil.  It exposed the ways in which the State Department "career" bureaucracy had tried to sabotage the president's foreign policy against the Soviet Union.  This is a continuing problem, one that has quite visibly plagued President Bush in Iraq, but has also been felt on China. 

In China: The Gathering Threat, Menges advocates an immediate end to trade deficits with China to bolster American industry and to aid democratic allies whose economies are also being ravaged in competition with Chinese exports.  The gains from trade should be shared between countries who have compatible interests and values; not used to increase the capabilities of rivals. Such a change in U.S. trade policy would also dramatically slow the Chinese economy and discredit the Beijing dictatorship, opening the door for democratic reformers to make their case that China can only progress if it adopts a liberating system of popular government.   Menges does not want to fight a war with China, but to promote change in Beijing before the regime thinks it is powerful enough to risk a war.  

Rapid economic growth under a dictatorship that views the United States as its "main enemy" poses a threat even more potent than the Soviets.  The USSR eventually imploded because of the inherent flaws in the Marxist model.  China has sought to avoid the same fate by "opening" to capitalism.  Many in the West have naively hoped that this alone would bring about political reform and an eventual move towards democracy.  But what has actually transpired is the movement of Beijing from communism to fascism----the use of capitalist energy to fuel the ambitions of a tyrannical government. 

The 2004 Pentagon report on China noted that the "People's Liberation Army (PLA) is embarked on an ambitious, long-term military modernization effort to develop capabilities to fight and win short-duration, high- intensity conflicts along its periphery." This rising military capability is based on rising economic strength. "Self-sufficiency will continue to be China's long-term defense industrial goal, with plans to achieve weapon quality levels approaching those of the industrialized world within the next 5 to 10 years." says the report, which then lays out the policies Beijing is using, "Chinese defense industries have pursued a variety of measures, to include imports of foreign equipment, technology, and expertise; cooperative research, development, and production efforts; domestic research initiatives; and, facility expansion and modernization."

The Cold War strategy of containment was based on cutting Moscow off from outside sources of capital, technology and trade until the system collapsed.  In stark contrast, China has benefitted from a flood of outside support.  Since 1993, the United States alone has given China some $800 billion in hard currency from its expanding trade deficit.  The 2005 deficit will likely give Beijing $200 billion more, putting the cumulative total of wealth transferred from America to China at over a trillion dollars.  Add to that the surpluses China has run with Europe and Japan, plus foreign investment, World Bank loans and technology transfers, and it is clear that transnational entities are primarily responsible for the rise of Beijing's power.

And here is where democracy cuts both ways.  Corporate lobbyists work very hard to prevent the U.S. government from taking action to contain or deter Beijing.  Chinese strategists assume, writes Menges, "that all private businessmen are self-interested and self-seeking and that they do not consider or care about the broader national or geopolitical consequences of their actions" and that the transnational corporations "will continue to help China accomplish its purposes in the years ahead." It is imperative that in Washington "government officials, not businessmen, decide what is in the broader national interest of the United States." But how to wean politicians from corporate influence (and money) is not an easy task.

Exactly a week before the Hudson Institute event, the annual Fortune Global Forum opened May 16 in Beijing.  The Global Forum was an invitation only event "limited to chairmen, CEOs, and presidents of major multinational corporations" according to its website, though Chinese government officials (including President Hu Jintao) were more than welcome. The description of the event stated, "As the world's economic center of gravity shifts to Asia, the dynamics of the global economy are changing dramatically.  Already a dominant force in trade, China will overtake the US to become the world's largest economy by mid-century....  The focus of the 2005 Forum will be how multinationals can tap into the enormous potential of China. Among the featured speakers were presidents and CEOs from General Motors, Motorola, Wal-Mart, and Goldman-Sachs, which has put together the financing for many major Chinese projects. 

President Bill Clinton's Treasury Secretary, Robert Rubin, had been a co-chairman of Goldman Sachs. He recently told the Associated Press, "China is likely to be the largest economy in the world and a tough-minded geopolitical power equal to any other geopolitical power on the globe."  So the business execs can't say they don't know what they're doing. Menges is right, they just don't care. 

It is the duty of those in government, however, to care about the trends that threatened to shift the balance of power in the world against the United States.  They must be willing to act against the entrenched special interests who have decided they can profit from building China into the next Great Power, as well as the left-wing ideological opponents of American preeminence.  To do this in a democracy, U.S. government leaders need the active support of the American people.  The work of patriots like Constantine Menges are vital to inform the views of both officials and voters.  That is why the appearance of China: The Gathering Threat is so timely and important; and why Menges poured his last energies into completing this book before his death.  Everyone should be concerned about the rise of a China still ruled by a national-socialist dictatorship; and anyone so concerned should read Menges' book which lays out the situation in encyclopedic detail (the book runs 565 pages) while providing bold, but realistic, scenarios for meeting the challenge.

William R. Hawkins is Senior Fellow for National Security Studies at the U.S. Business and Industry Council in Washington, DC.

William Hawkins is a consultant on international economics and national security issues.

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