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China Held an Arms Race
By Rand Green
Any mention that China remains communist and has both the intention and the potential to become a superpower in its own right is usually dismissed with such statements as: "China is no threat to anybody. They're too poor, too weak, too backward. They're too busy trying to solve their own problems to bother anyone else. And besides, China's communist leaders are not ideologues like the Soviet leaders were. They're moving toward a market economy. It's only a matter of time before they'll join the free world."
To borrow a phrase or two attributed to a great English barrister: "I would that it were so. I hope it may be so. God knows it ought to be so."
A False Sense of Security
But in reality, that is exactly what the communist party leadership in Beijing wants us to believe. Convincing the majority of westerners that China is harmless and benign has been a tremendous propaganda victory for China. We have dropped our guard. Operating on the premise that there is no major military threat remaining in the world, the United States has weakened its defenses. We are unquestionably the greatest military power in the world today, but much of the world, China included, is scrambling to catch up.
While we have languished, convinced of our invincibility, Beijing has been quietly building its military might. Drawing on the resources of an increasingly robust economy, China's People's Liberation Army has been modernizing and strengthening its military capability at a much faster rate than the Pentagon previously predicted, and is building military fortresses in strategic extraterritorial locations. It is also establishing strategic military alliances with various countries around the world, and specifically with those countries which are avowed enemies of the United States.
Why? Because it fears aggression from the United States? No. Rather, because it wants to assure that the United States is powerless (or afraid) to interfere with its ambitions to dominate Asia.
Set To Take Over Taiwan
A decade ago, Beijing would not have dared make a military move against Taiwan. As the situation stands today, military force may not be necessary. China's military threat against Taiwan is becoming so overwhelming, and Taiwan's ability to resist militarily has been weakened to such an extent that unless Taiwan is confident of its free-world allies coming to its aid, the island republic may at some point have little choice but to acquiesce without a struggle.
China would prefer it that way, of course, because it can then claim that Taiwan rejoined its motherland of its own free will, and the western world will simply shrug it off. But if Taiwan does resist, China will not hesitate to use its military might to crush the Taiwanese into submission. Beijing's military leaders have said as much.
On February 29, 2000, Stephen J. Yates, senior policy analyst in the Asian Studies Center at The Heritage Foundation, wrote, "China's recent rhetorical assault on Taiwan is a tutorial for the Clinton Administration on one important principle: You reap what you sow. Administration officials were shocked that, less than 24 hours after the State Department's latest peace mission to China, Beijing unleashed a lengthy White Paper [an official government position document on national defense strategy] that harshly criticizes Taiwan's democratic leaders, changes the terms under which Beijing will use military force against Taiwan, and uses President Clinton's own words to justify this coercion."
President Clinton, wrote Mr. Yates, had said, during a visit to Shanghai on June 30, 1998, "We don't support independence for Taiwan, or two Chinas, or one Taiwan-one China. And we don't believe that Taiwan should be a member of any international organization for which statehood is required."
In its White Paper, China "gleefully cites the President's [Clinton's] concession as an implicit endorsement of its 'one-China' policy," and as "justification for coercing Taiwan to the negotiating table, or worse," Mr. Yates wrote.
"Before another Administration official again speaks of a 'one-China' policy or principle, he should consider whether he really wants to be a party to this coercion."
In March 2000, Arthur Waldron, Luder Professor of International Relations at the University of Pennsylvania and director of Asian studies at the American Enterprise Institute, wrote, "Chinese President Jiang Zemin's increasingly confrontational stance toward the West is motivated largely by his domestic political concerns. The failure to recognize that has led the Clinton administration to adopt a conciliatory policy toward China which has actually increased military tension in South Asia rather than reducing it."
It is Mr. Waldron's view that Jiang Zemin "is having domestic political troubles and that the new hard line against the West is part of his survival strategy.
"Faltering economic growth over the past year," Mr. Waldron said, "has swelled a rising tide of protest by farmers and industrial workers and has also driven a steadily increasing crackdown on all forms of dissent, including democratic activists (even as they scrupulously follow prescribed procedures in seeking recognition), the harmless followers of the Falun Gong movement, Roman Catholics, as well as Protestants and Tibetan Buddhists __ and now the Internet and international business interests involved in it."
And, of course, an increasingly aggressive posture toward Taiwan.
The Clinton administration, which "regularly confused effect with cause," Mr. Waldron wrote, responded to China's increasingly menacing language toward Taiwan by making concessions, "asserting a 'one China' policy and imposing the current de facto moratorium on major arms sales to Taiwan."
An Aggressive China?
Nor is Taiwan China's only territorial objective.
It has been unpopular, since the end of the Vietnam war, to suggest that communist China (or any communist government) has any ambition to expand its sphere of influence. Almost everything that has been written about the Vietnam Era in the last quarter century, including the highly acclaimed works of Robert S. McNamara and Stanley Karnow, embraces as a fundamental premise the concept that China has never been ambitious. That paradigm they presume to now be obvious to everyone, and they make the point that had we only realized earlier how non-threatening China is, we'd have had no need for concern over whether Vietnam fell to the communists.
How easily we forget Communist China's brutal invasion and suppression of Tibet. When that subject is mentioned, it is often referred to as China's suppression of a Tibetan "uprising," as though presupposing the validity of China's territorial rights in Tibet on grounds of military occupation.
In 1974, China seized the Paracel Islands in the South China Sea from Vietnam. The Paracels lie about 200 miles east of Vietnam and approximately the same distance southeast of Chinas island province of Hainan.
Four years later, China forcefully wrested control of the Spratly Islands from Vietnam, sinking two Vietnamese gunboats in the process. The Spratlys, a sprawling archipelago situated between southern Vietnam and the southern Philippines, are considered to be of immense strategic importance in terms of being able to control shipping lanes in the South China Sea and are also thought to sit atop vast oil and natural gas fields. Vietnam still claims sovereign rights over the Spratlys, as does Taiwan, and some of the islands are claimed by Malaysia, Brunei and the Philippines as well. But China is using its military clout to enforce its supremacy not only over the islands but the surrounding waters.
More recently, we have seen Hong Kong "revert" to China with hardly a whimper.
Oh, but Hong Kong belonged to China, you say. The British had just leased it, and the lease expired. Yes, but the British didn't lease Hong Kong from a communist government. That government didn't exist at the time. And I don't recall that the people of Hong Kong were given the opportunity to vote on whether they wanted to rejoin a China now under communist control.
Of course, nothing was expected to change in Hong Kong after its return to China. Almost everybody said so. But they were wrong. Things are changing. The heavy hand of suppression from Beijing is beginning to close in around Hong Kong.
We'll get into that subject in more detail in a forthcoming report in a future issue of Perspicacity & Paradigms. Of more concern in the present article is China's aggressive military expansion which, although well documented, has been all but ignored by the mainstream press in the United States.
Building Military Might
Even four years ago, China's military capability was impressive. It possessed the world's largest army, some three million strong, owned 5,000 combat aircraft and had a nuclear arsenal of 300 warheads, the world's third largest. (That's a bit more than the 20 or so that some who attempt to minimize the Chinese threat say Beijing has today.)
What China did not have four years ago was a supercomputer capable of guiding its nuclear intercontinental ballistic missiles accurately to targets in the United States. Mr. Clinton obligingly closed that gap by selling Beijing the computer technology it lacked.
China's gross product in 1997 was nearly half that of the United States and was growing at nearly 10 percent annually. That pace slowed over the following couple of years with the general decline in the Asian economy but is once again robust. Some estimates indicate that China could become the world's largest economy within another 12 to 15 years.
An article by Stuart Sweet of Capitol Analysts Network Inc. in Investor's Business Daily on April 2, 1997, projected that China's military spending could exceed that of the United States by 2012 "with its military hardware exceeding ours 15 years later."
Besides having nuclear missiles targeted at the United States, China has been selling "weapons of mass destruction to U.S. opponents such as Libya, Iran and Iraq," Mr. Sweet stated.
In January 1999, Lawrence Morahan, staff writer for the Conservative News Service, reported that "China is building military facilities on strategically located sovereign islands in the South China Sea in what is seen by a senior House Republican lawmaker as an illegal attempt to seize energy resources and control strategic waterways."
Representative Dana Rohrabacher (R-California) called on the U.S. government to speak out against the Chinese military buildup in the scattered reefs and islands in the Spratly archipelago, Mr. Morahan wrote.
A Serious Threat to U.S. Security
"Howard Philips, chairman of the Conservative Caucus, said in an interview with CNS that the Chinese aggressive designs on the Spratly Islands is further evidence that the United States needs to treat China as a serious threat to our security," Mr. Morahan continued.
"At issue," he continued, "is Mischief Reef, an island less than 200 miles east of the Philippine island of Palawan. The Philippine Government maintains that Mischief Reef lies within its 200 mile "exclusive economic zone" established under the United Nations Law of the Sea Convention. Rohrabacher said the Chinese "are building a fortified [military] base that could threaten the passage of oil and commodity transport ships" through the South China Sea.
Rep. Rohrabacher told The Washington Times, "It is dangerous for the [Clinton] administration to continue to hide this issue from Congress and the American people. Now is the time to impress on the Chinese the need to end their aggression toward their neighbors."
In September 2000, the American Foreign Policy Council [AFPC] published an Investigative Report entitled, "China's New War Fighting Skills: Emerging Threats to the U.S., India, Taiwan and the Asia/Pacific Region." Written by Al Santoli, a best-selling author of books on military history and editor of the weekly China Reform Monitor, the report details some of China's recent military activities that signal a threat to stability not only to Taiwan but to India and the entire Asia-Pacific region.
The AFPC prefaced the report by stating that during July and August 2000, China's People's Liberation Army [PLA] "conducted large-scale joint military exercises in the Nanjing Military Region on the coast of the Taiwan Strait, demonstrating significant new fire power coordination and command-and-control capabilities."
After extensive investigation, including consultation with intelligence analysts, military officials and international security experts in various parts of South Asia, Mr. Santoli concluded: "The PLA's modernization and joint war fighting capabilities are developing at a rate far more rapidly than the Pentagon's previous predictions. The Nanjing Region exercises have showcased the PLA's new high-tech capabilities, based on U.S. military tactics with information technology and weapon systems purchased or stolen from the U.S., Russia and Israel."
Cutting Edge Weapons Technology
The PLA, reported Mr. Santoli, is expanding its ballistic and cruise missile inventory, has recently acquired advanced fighter aircraft from Russia as well as supersonic anti-ship missiles, and is making substantial progress in information and electronic warfare. That expanding Chinese military capability, he said, poses "an immediate potent threat" not only "to Taiwan's military, whose leaders feel increasingly isolated from the West," but also to U.S. military forces.
With Russian assistance, the PLA is developing such cutting-edge weapons technology as anti-satellite and electromagnetic pulse weapons which would have no purpose other than "to attack U.S. dependency on high-tech military systems," he wrote.
China's military exercises are not limited intimidating the Taiwanese. In August 2000, in the Bay of Bengal and along the coasts of the Andaman Sea, Chinese military advisory teams oversaw "air-land-sea communications exercises" by forces of the ruling military dictatorship of Myanmar (formerly Burma). Also observing the maneuvers were observers from Pakistan's military. Both Pakistan and China supply fighter aircraft and other military supplies to Myanmar, according to the AFPC report.
"The sum of these exercises demonstrated not only significant progress in the PLA's high tech military modernization, but Beijing's growing alliances with non-democratic anti-Western nations along its massive border, from Central Asia to the Pacific.
"The 'asymetrical' multi-dimensional threat posed to Asian democracies, such as India, Thailand and the Philippines" by the Beijing-Pakistan-Myanmar alliance "is further demonstrated," Mr. Santoli wrote, by the alliance's direct and indirect support of "military aggression, terrorism and narcotics trafficking across southern Asia."
Beijing, he continued, is "conducting a 'double-edged' diplomatic strategy to further its strategic goals in the region. This is demonstrated in China's political/military pursuit to control the South China Sea." While reassuring neighboring governments with talk of "peaceful compromise," he wrote, China's PLA "continues its determined military build-up of permanent 'fortresses' in the Spratly Islands ... whose ownership is contested by neighboring countries."
In late July 2000, the PLA published openly in its own newspaper a description of the ultra-modern network of "fortresses of the sea" it is building in the Spratly Islands. A year earlier, Beijing had claimed that the construction in the Spratlys was nothing but shelters for fishermen.
"Thai security experts believe that Beijing is determined to control Burma's strategic waterways to the Bay of Bengal and Indian Ocean, for both economic and strategic purposes," Mr. Santoli wrote.
In addition to the military build-up, Beijing is engaged in efforts to undermine the stability of its perceived rivals in the region. While seeking "to keep narcotics and Muslim fundamentalism out of its own territory," he wrote, Beijing, along with Pakistan, supports such "ruthless neighboring tribal groups" as the Taliban and the Wa, which "are engaged in massive drug trafficking that is destabilizing their neighboring regions."
U.S. Must Cease Its Ambiguity
Mr. Santoli pointed out in the September 2000 report that even as the PLA undergoes rapid modernization, "Taiwan is prohibited by the Clinton Administration from purchasing essential defense equipment to ward off missile attacks, information and electronic warfare attacks or a navel blockade." Already, as of that date, he wrote, a Taiwanese defense of a missile attack by Beijing "is nearly impossible" and defense against the PLA's new generation of jet fighters "with superior on-board radars and air-to-air missile systems -- is increasingly difficult."
Mr. Santoli makes a strong case for continued U.S. support of Taiwan, stating that "the preservation of Taiwan's freedom is essential for democratic evolution in China and for further democratization and peace throughout the Asia-Pacific Region." It is "essential," not only for the security of Taiwan but for regional stability, he stressed, "that the United States cease its 'ambiguity'" with respect to the Beijing-Taiwan issue.
But once again, Taiwan is not the only concern. PLA navy war games, wrote Mr. Santoli, "have included Jiangsu province and the East China Sea, adjacent to U.S. bases in Japan."
Applying U.S. military doctrine, he said, the PLA is "relentlessly expanding" its strategic missile force, its naval fleet (including a destroyer with anti-ship missiles) and its force of high performance jet fighters purchased from Russia.
In addition, he wrote, the PLA now has "state-of-the-art secure communications systems purchased from the U.S. and other Western companies" and is rapidly developing "advanced information and electronic warfare capabilities."
Particularly disturbing as a threat to U.S. military capability is "the PLA's doctrine of 'asymmetrical' warfare [which] emphasizes paralyzing the high-tech strength of the U.S. and our allies through attacks on military, economic and governmental computerized information systems."
China has already applied internet warfare tactics against Taiwan, and the PLA is now "openly recruiting an 'army of hackers' in civilian newspapers," Mr. Santoli wrote.
In January 2000, the PLA initiated "an aggressive new program to develop exotic high tech weapons." In that program, said Santoli, "China is using technology from the U.S., Europe and Israel.
Psychological Preparations for War
Meanwhile, Beijing is "psychologically preparing the civilian population for a potential war," he said.
That conclusion has been confirmed by reports from several sources that in August 2000, the Chinese government begun conducting air raid drills for the first time in 50 years. Moreover, China's military leaders have openly stated on several occasions since mid-2000 that they expect to go to war with the United States within five years. Writing in an issue of China Military Science in late 2000, a PLA officer said that a war with the United States "is not far from us now."
On July 22, 2000, the Hong Kong Ta Kung Pao stated that the Chinese military had begun to prepare the Nanjing Military Region as the main theater of battle in a war with Taiwan. The newspaper quoted Fang Zuqi, political commissar for the Nangjing Military Region as saying that the armys "most realistic and most urgent task is to step up efforts to get well prepared for military struggle."
Meanwhile, according to the Beijing Jiefangjun Bao, the PLA navy continues to upgrade its "fortress buildings of the seas with combat readiness capability" on a network of attols throughout the South China Sea.
USDefense.com reported in August 2000 that the Chinese navy had begun "to increase its wartime mobilization plans by incorporating civilian transport and container ships into military exercises conducted by the navy.
According to Chinas Xinhua news agency, nearly a dozen such exercises have been conducted. In one recent exercise, Xinhua reported, "several tens of thousands of elite troops were transported by more than 1,000 civilian vessels."
The civilian vessels used were primarily fishing boats, a further evidence that Chinas fishing fleets have been pressed into military service. And were not talking about sampans here. The Chinese press described the vessels as having "good mobility, low logistics requirements, long navigational range and advanced communications equipment" and said that such vessels would "constitute an important transportation force of supporting the army in future sea crossing battles."
Picking Up the Pace
In the five short months since the American Foreign Policy Council's Investigative Report on "China's New War Fighting Skills" was published in September 2000, the pace of military expansion and activity in China has intensified.
The American Foreign Policy Council has been monitoring these developments closely and has published regular updates in its China Reform Monitor, edited by Mr. Santoli. Various newspapers and news services around the globe, and occasionally even newspapers in the United States, have carried stories on the subject.
In addition to building its own military capability, and readiness for war, Beijing has been bolstering the military capability of various enemies of democracy in a clear attempt to destabilize its potential adversaries.
Following, are highlights of some of the more recent developments.
In October 2000, the government of India discovered that a Chinese agency was supplying weapons to militant Naga groups in northeast India, according to a report in the New Delhi Pioneer.
At about the same time, the official Vietnam News Agency reported that talks between military leaders from Beijing and Hanoi had concluded in an agreement to work together.
In November 2000, China's President Jiang Zemin visited Laos and signed a series of "bilateral cooperation" documents with Laotian communist leader Khamtay Siphandone, according to the Bangkok Nation. Similar relationships, including military and strategic cooperation agreements, have been established with communist Cambodia.
On November 10, 2000, a Chinese immigrant plead guilty in a Massachusetts court of attempting to ship weapons to China in violation of U.S. laws, including ship missile guidance systems. He was sentenced to just two years in federal prison.
On November 20, 2000, General Zhang Wannian, one of China's top military leaders, said "it is inevitable that war will break out over the Taiwan Strait" within the next five years and promised a pre-emptive attack by the PLA. Gen. Zhang made reference to the use of electromagnetic pulse warheads to "instantaneously paralyze Taiwan's electrical power supply."
Not To Be Taken Lightly
On November 28, 2001, Singapore senior statesman Lee Kuan Yew told Hong Kong based Phoenix TV that China's threat to go to war with Taiwan was not just idle talk and "should not be taken lightly." Mr. Lee also said he expects that within the next ten years, China will have "formidable" economy and military and will be "unbeatable." The interview was reported in China's official newspaper, China People's Daily.
China Reform Monitor editor Al Santoli noted, however, that there are "key intangibles that will define mainland China's future" which were not mentioned by Mr. Lee. Those include, he said, "the uncertain stability of the national economy and growing social disparity under a corrupt political system."
On December 20, 2000, Caracas El National in Venezuela reported that the Venezuelan armed forces had signed an agreement with China under which China will furnish Venezuela with military equipment and training.
On January 2, 2001, Taipei's Chung-Kuo Shih-Pao reported that Chinese General Fu Quanyou had made an official visit to Cuba and signed a cooperative agreement with Cuba's military. (Earlier, Cuban officials had signed new joint agreements with Russia's Defense minister Marshall Sergeyev on Cuban-Russian military cooperation.)
With its recent test firing of the long range DF-31 ballistic missile, its growing ties with Cuba and its spreading of missile technology to rogue states, said the Chung-Kuo Shih-Pao report, "China now has an increasingly great assault strength to threaten the United States on its own land."
On January 6, 2001, the Chung-Kuo Shih-Pao reported that China had launched its first 094-type strategic nuclear submarine, capable of launching nuclear warheads over the United States, Australia and Europe. Full deployment of the new strategic sub is now expected to be achieved two to three years ahead of the originally scheduled date of 2005.
At least six of the new 094-type nuclear submarines are to be built consecutively, each with the capability of launching 576 nuclear warheads simultaneously. They will carry Julang-2 or Dongfeng 31-type missiles, each with three to six "independently targeted multiple warheads having a range of more than 5,000 miles," according to the China Reform Monitor. "The deployment of the six submarines will enable China to launch nuclear strikes at four times as many as the total number of targets reachable by China's entire current force of land based and underwater strategic missiles."
Targeting American 'Hegemonism'
On January 8, 2001, the same publication reported that the governments of Russia and China have begun drafting an expanded "strategic cooperative partnership" agreement aimed against the "international hegemonism" of The United States and its allies.
The Washington Post reported on January 13, 2001 that diplomats expect the Sino-Russian strategic cooperation treaty to be signed by mid-2001 when China's President Jiang Zemin is scheduled to travel to Moscow.
A January 17, 2001 article in Jiefangjun Bao, the daily newspaper of the PLA's General Political Department, carried an extensive article by two members of the China Defense Science and Technology Information Center describing future warfare in space and advocating antisatellite weapons "to strike the enemy's [read America's] enormously expensive yet vulnerable space systems."
On January 31, 2001, Agence France-Presse reported a standoff between navy ships and aircraft from The Philippines and groups of Chinese fishing vessels near Scarborough Shoal, an islet 135 miles off the coast of the main Philippine island of Luzon in the South China Sea. The Philippine government views the islet as having strategic importance. It was used by the Japanese prior to World War II as a staging ground in preparation for its invasion of the Philippines.
But fishing vessels? What's the big sweat? Simply this, according to the China Reform Monitor: "Chinese military construction at Mischief Reef began with fishing boat incursions."
Also on January 31, 2001, U.S. defense officials told United Press International that Taiwan has no defense against deployment of China's conventionally armed short range and medium range ballistic missiles. Even the United States has no defense system, presently, which would be effective against a launch of a large number of such missiles, the officials said.
On February 6, 2001, the Washington Times reported that, according to a senior U.S. military official, China is rapidly increasing the number of short range missiles aimed at Taiwan. In 1998, there had been fewer than 50 of the missiles deployed near Taiwan. The number increased to 150 in 1999, and today there are as many as 300. Over the next several years, that number could possibly increase to 600 or 1,000.
Allying with Repressive Regimes
On February 20, 2001, the Washington Times carried an article by Bill Gertz reporting that "China is building a fiber-optic system for Iraqs new air-defense network that was targeted by U.S. and British bombing last week." Consisting largely of buried fiber-optic cables, the network would be protected from air attacks, a senior Pentagon official said. The air defense network "will greatly increase Iraqs ability to target and shoot down patrolling U.S. aircraft with anti-aircraft missiles," according to the Pentagon spokesman, Mr. Gertz wrote.
"The Chinese involvement in an Iraqui military program is raising questions among some U.S. officials about Chinas assistance to Americas enemies," he continued. "CIA Director George Tenet stated in senate testimony last week that China is a leading supplier of weapons and missiles to rogue states, such as Iran, Libya and North Korea. However, the Iraqui fiber-optics program is the first time Chinas involvement in selling arms to the Baghdad government was made public."
Mr. Gertz also quoted Arthur Waldron, a China specialist at the University of Pennsylvania, as saying that Beijing continues to align itself with the "most repressive regimes in the world."
Copyright Ã‚Â© 2001 by Rand Green Communications