The Chinese State Council's white paper on national defense, entitled China's National Defense in 2004, presents an unprecedented rise in threatening and provocative language, while at the same time condemning the US for selling arms to Taiwan. Meanwhile, Beijing continues to gradually expand its military in a display of strength -- proof that little has changed in the communist regime's warlike nature, which is a relic of the Cold War era.
China's military budget has seen double-digit growth over the past 10 years. Its total military expenditure is exceeded only by the US and Russia. Such military expansion has not only endangered the balance of power in the Taiwan Strait, but also poses a serious threat to the Asia-Pacific region.
Beijing claims that its defense policy is, well, defensive. But what Taiwan sees is the deployment of over 600 ballistic missiles, as well as around 730 fighter jets within striking range of Taiwan. China has also expanded deployment of missiles capable of attacking Japan, South Korea and many US military bases in Asia. Such comprehensive deployment is far from a "defensive" policy, and in the light of such obfuscation it can only be said that Beijing is not only trying to establish a hegemony in Asia, but is doing so with little opposition from other world powers.
After the Cultural Revolution finished wreaking havoc in China in the 1960s and 1970s, Asia and the rest of the world were delighted to see that this ancient country might be capable of rising from an ill-fated past. The economy began to really boom in 1990, when China maintained annual growth of more than 8 percent. However, with a population of nearly 1.3 billion, the country's average annual income remains a meager few hundred US dollars, which means that China can only consider itself a developing country. According to figures compiled by civil-rights activists, China still has hundreds of millions of people subsisting on very little income, and masses of unemployed and homeless people can be found in cities all over China.
The suffering of the Chinese people is profound, even as the government spends a large portion of the money generated from economic growth on developing and purchasing advanced weapons. What China's leadership craves is to become a hegemonic power in Asia. Under present circumstances, this is hardly consistent with the slogan "serve the people" which Beijing likes to throw around.
Taiwan's government and opposition should take careful note of the hardening of language China is using. When "peacefully promoting unification," this year's white paper calls for "preventing the forces of Taiwan independence from splitting the country." Taiwan is being forced into a corner by China's pressure, and the public must be determined to resist Beijing's threats of violence.
Taiwanese should not fear China's opposition, as stated in its white paper, to Taiwan independence, nor should they be intimidated by China's opposition to Taiwan's arms purchases or Taiwan's cooperation with other nations in military matters.
But at the same time, the international community cannot be allowed to ignore the terrible results that China's arms buildup may deliver. For if a conflict like this eventuates, its effects are likely to be felt throughout Asia and in every modern economy around the world.