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The China Pattern In Washington

Rising Chinese defense spending is one of the factors raising concerns around the world.
by Martin Walker
UPI Editor Emeritus
Washington (UPI) July 09, 2007
There is an old rule among intelligence analysts that rather than focus on individual events in the vast floods of data, they should look for patterns. With that in mind, consider the number of recent events regarding China. The first is that both the leading Democratic candidates for the presidency, Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barrack Obama, have decided to support the bill from Sens. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Lindsay Graham, R-S.C., that threatens to impose punitive duties on imports from China to press Beijing to revalue its currency.

In a letter to U.S. Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson, Obama warned that the "administration's refusal to take strong action against China's currency manipulation will also make it more difficult to obtain congressional approval" for future free trade deals.

The second is that the Bush administration has now formally expressed its concern to Beijing about the numbers of Chinese weapons, particularly armor-piercing devices, being used against U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The concerns were made public by Richard Lawless, the Pentagon's top official on Asian security issues. He also complained of Chinese secrecy and its reluctance to take part in military visits and confidence-building exchanges, at a time of steadily rising Chinese defense spending.

"There is a great shortfall in our understanding of China's intentions," Lawless told reporters last week. "When you don't know why they are doing it, it is pretty damn threatening. They leave us no choice but to assume the worst."

These U.S. concerns lead to a third indicator of an emerging pattern, because they are matched by the main U.S. allies in the region, Japan and Australia. Last week, Japan's Defense Ministry warned that China's military power was poised to exceed that of Taiwan and expand to a point that could affect Japan's security. In its annual white paper, the Defense Ministry said: "There are arguments that China's intentions for modernizing its military forces could be something more than countermeasures for the Taiwan issue."

China's marine forces are "aiming to gain the ability to operate in further distant sea waters," the white paper noted, adding that China is also "aiming to build up its combat capabilities to control air space over its forward deployment, as well as its capabilities for air-to-surface and anti-ship attacks."

Tokyo's Defense Ministry said Beijing's military expansion plans include outer space, citing its successful missile test in January that destroyed a satellite. "It is highly possible that (China) is considering attacks against satellites as part of its military actions," the report went on, stressing that the rapid modernization of China's military forces "raises concerns" and the effects on Japan "must be assessed carefully."

This was paralleled in Australia, where Prime Minister John Howard's government issued a new defense white paper that warned: "The pace and scope of China's military modernization, particularly the development of new and disruptive capabilities such as the anti-satellite missile, could create misunderstandings and instability in the region," the paper said of China's rapid military expansion.

The white paper coincided with both the arrival of the U.S. aircraft carrier Kitty Hawk and a new $43 billion defense buildup by Australia to include two new amphibious assault carriers, missile destroyers, tanks and advanced strike aircraft.

The Australian white paper also pointed to the emergence of a strengthened U.S.-Japan-Australian defense alliance, saying "Australia has no closer nor more valuable partner in the region than Japan ... Japan's more active security posture within the U.S. alliance and multinational coalitions is in keeping with its economic and diplomatic weight."

It does not take much imagination to see how these events can be interpreted in Beijing as an ominous pattern. It is, moreover, a pattern that seems to fit with the sudden spate of concern about the safety of Chinese exports. Melanin in the dog food China exports to the United States and glycol in the counterfeit Colgate toothpaste coming out of China and now a ban on Chinese farmed-fish imports until they can be proved to be free of antibiotics and hormones -- all coming within a few weeks. This is the kind of coincidence that starts to look like hostile intent.

There is an entire department in the Chinese Embassy in Washington that concentrates on U.S. public opinion, and seeks to measure the mood through assiduous coverage of the U.S. press and TV, opinion polls and of events in the U.S. Congress. They will not have missed the latest column in Roll Call, the newspaper of Congress, by veteran commentator Mort Kondracke.

"I'm convinced after spending three weeks in China and Tibet, unless the United States gets its act together, our grandchildren will be living in a world dominated by the People's Republic," Kondracke writes. "China is simply inexorable in its pursuit of wealth, growth and power. It cares little about human rights, democracy, labor protections, fair trade rules or the environment. It is relentless in advancing its national interests."

Experienced Chinese students of the United States may shrug and note that they have seen this before, recalling presidential candidate Bill Clinton in 1992 vowing that there would be no more "coddling of dictators in Beijing." And yet Clinton went on to establish Most Favored Nation Trading status with China, paving the way for China to join the World Trade Organization in 2001.

But the Chinese economy is more than three times larger today than it was back in 1992, and its defense budget has been growing in double digits each year since. Americans of both parties are taking note that they have a serious economic and possibly strategic rival on their hands. And a pattern is coming into sharp focus.

Source: United Press International

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