Sat, Feb 05, 2005 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: China's threat not hard to see

The outcome of the US presidential election shows that the governing and opposition parties in the US still have major differences. Yet, in dealing with issues regarding national security, the US Congress, regardless of party affiliation, is united against external threats. On Wednesday, the US House of Representatives overwhelmingly supported a resolution (411-3) condemning the EU's intention to lift its arms embargo on China.

The resolution stated that China has been stepping up its military buildup, including the deployment of hundreds of missiles targeting Taiwan, and that China's arms manufacturers transferred military technology to Iran. Therefore, the EU's intention to lift its arms embargo will jeopardize Taiwan's military as well as US forces in Asia.

The US State Department recently warned the EU not to lift the embargo lest this endanger international security. In addition, former CIA director James Woolsey recently said in testimony to the the House of Representatives that he considers China a major threat to the US. Faced with internal problems, an authoritarian regime such as China would seek to divert internal pressures by targeting an enemy. The easiest enemies for China are Taiwan and the US.

During his testimony, Woolsey pointed out that Beijing's latest defense white paper, China's National Defense in 2004, released in December, described in detail Beijing's hostility towards Washington, as well as how the People's Liberation Army is striving to modernize. Woolsey said that this is a serious problem caused by the Chinese regime, and that the Chinese leaders are nervous, as those without legitimacy are always nervous. Otherwise, how can anyone explain their relentless attacks against the Falun Gong?

Woolsey said that tens or even hundreds of millions of people in China are unemployed. Beijing's leaders are paying particular attention to the matter, because social unrest will threaten their ability to rule. When autocrats face social unrest, they often try to find a foreign enemy for the public to focus on. Naturally, the most convenient enemies are Taiwan, and the US which protects it.

China is already a leading nuclear power, and is rapidly modernizing its military. The US should be cautious about this. While handling the war in Iraq, it should not ignore the possibility of a showdown in the Taiwan Strait.

The US Congress, the State Department and the US intelligence community appear to be in general agreement about China. During the Clinton administration, the US adopted a policy of engagement and treated China as a strategic partner. After the spy plane incident of April 2001, the US started to perceive China as a strategic rival. Subsequently, there was a re-emergence of engagement because of Washington's need for Chinese support for its war on terror, its actions in Afghanistan and efforts to curb North Korea's nuclear-weapons program.

Now, however, there is a growing current of opinion demanding that Washington be wary of the potential threat posed by China. This is a practical and far-sighted strategy.

Although China and the US are separated by the vastness of the Pacific Ocean, many people see clearly the nature and direction of Sino-US relations. China and Taiwan are separated only by the Taiwan Strait. Beijing also has 706 missiles targeting Taiwan. Why are there are still so many people who are uncertain whether China sees Taiwan as a threat or a partner?

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