Sunday, July 21, 2002

China Bashing - Back in Style?

Pacific News Service, George Koo, Posted: Jul 21, 2002

Editor's Note:Two recently released reports suggest that U.S. policy toward China could take a turn for the worse.

Two recently released reports on China -- one from the Defense Department and the other from a congressional commission -- suggest that China bashing is back in vogue.

On July 12, the U.S. Defense Department submitted to Congress its annual report on military power in China, as required by law. The report is clearly schizophrenic.

On the one hand, the report recognizes that China has placed military modernization behind priorities to develop agriculture, industry, science and technology. Consequently, while China has the world's largest army, it "lacks the technology and logistical support to project and sustain conventional forces much beyond its borders." These and many other statements support the view that China hardly warrants consideration as a serious threat to the United States.

Yet, the department's report details the cozy relationship between China and Russia, from which China buys arms. In Cold War fashion, it painstakingly details China's relationship to every other state of the former Soviet Union, though most do not sell arms to China.

Dealings with the former "Evil Empire" take up an entire section, but not one word can be found on Israel's transfer of military technology to China.

The authors of the report blow up China's military spending from China's publicly reported $20 billion to $65 billion, even while admitting they cannot prove such a high figure. In this way, China is labeled second-largest defense spender in the world behind the United States. The report fails to mention that the United States outspends China by close to tenfold even at the inflated figure.

The Pentagon clearly believes that China is modernizing its military to develop the option of attacking Taiwan. China's modernization is presented as justification for the United States to supply Taiwan with more arms, even though the report's own analysis shows that the mainland does not have the logistics infrastructure to successfully invade the island for many years to come.

China, of course, can threaten Taiwan with a missile attack, and the Pentagon report paves the way for the sale of a U.S.-made theater missile defense system to the island. Skeptics in Taiwan consider such a defense system as needlessly provocative and not affordable.

Also unmentioned are the economic and social integration occurring across the straits, and how such integration can act as deterrence to military conflict.

The authors of this report seem unaware of the paper recently released by Andrew Scobell, a professor of the U.S. Army War College. Scobell wrote a painstaking analysis of China's history and came to the conclusion that China has never been the aggressor nation, a behavior counter to its culture.

In contrast to the Pentagon report, the report released July 15 from the U.S.-China Security Review Commission on "The National Security Implications of the Economic Relationship between the U.S. and China" bears closer resemblance to the infamous Cox Committee report on China. Released on the heels of the Monica Lewinsky affair, the Cox report sought to embarrass the Clinton administration by alleging that China had stolen missile designs from the United States and that the spy worked in Los Alamos.

Both Congressional reports set out to demonize China. The Cox Committee hearings were held behind closed doors; giving the public few ways of knowing how the committee's half-truths and inflammatory inaccuracies were fabricated.

Fortunately, the workings of the Security Review Commission are more transparent.

The commission was created by Congress to monitor how bilateral trade with China might impact national security. The commission conducted a series of public hearings where more than 100 witnesses testified. Prominent China experts from government, academia, think tanks and the private sector took the stand.

Unfortunately, while many of the written and oral testimonies were fair and thoughtful, the panel of commissioners was not. They were appointed to the commission by congressional leaders of both houses with an axe to grind. They virtually ignored the thousands of pages of testimony, except when they suited their purpose.

Half of the dozen commissioners appear to be lawyers with no prior experience on China. The one academic with China credentials is Arthur Waldron, a professor of history known for his hawkish anti-China bias. At the hearing on China entering the World Trade Organization, an exasperated William Lash, III, assistant secretary of the Commerce Department, had to ask Waldron to stop putting words into his mouth. He "thanked" Waldron for a history lecture, but asked him to try to understand the economic significance of China as a member of the WTO.

Apparently the report had to undergo revisions before 11 of the 12 commissioners agreed to sign it. The final language must not have been strong enough for Waldron, however, for he provided additional comments that showed his hostility toward China.

The lone dissenting view of the commission came from William A. Reinsch, former undersecretary of commerce in the Clinton administration. Reinsch criticized the report for failing to be fair and objective. The report "chooses simplistically to blame China for too many of our problems and misses the opportunity to focus constructively on how this relationship can be improved," Reinsch wrote.

It would be a shame if U.S. policy toward China followed the sentiments of these two latest reports. America has real enemies to battle and need not gratuitously create others.

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