Tue, Sep 06, 2005 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: China's credibility gap

Ahead of Chinese President Hu Jintao's (胡錦濤) expected visit to the US, Beijing has issued a white paper entitled Endeavors for Arms Control, Disarmament and Non-Proliferation. The paper points out that the Taiwan question involves China's core interests, and that action by the US to provide help or protection to Taiwan would "erode trust between big powers."

The paper intends to set the tone on the Taiwan question ahead of Hu's visit, and lay to rest the "China threat" theory.

China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued the paper -- nominally to complement commemorations of the 60th anniversary of victory in the Anti-Japanese War -- but in actuality it has been designed as spin for Hu's US visit. The paper addresses and answers questions other nations have asked regarding the expansion and increasing power of China's military, its use of nuclear weapons and its commitment to non-proliferation, among other things. Nevertheless, the content of the paper is contradictory and at odds with China's actions.

The paper stresses that China will never seek hegemony, and that it is following the road of peaceful development. Beijing repeatedly promises not to be the first to use nuclear weapons, vowing to eventually destroy its nuclear weapons to realize the goal of building a non-nuclear world. The paper also says that -- on the premise of ensuring national security and interests -- Beijing has always kept the scale of its armed forces at the minimum level necessary to protect itself, and has repeatedly cut its troop numbers. It also criticizes the development of missile defense systems and Taiwan's inclusion in such a project.

China's military expansion has far exceeded the minimum level necessary to protecting itself, and has made its neighbors uneasy. Beijing believes that its defense budget is not unduly high, even though it has grown at a two-digit rate for 17 consecutive years. Not to mention that the US, Japan, and the EU all suspect that its actual military spending is much greater than that disclosed by Beijing.

During the fourth Shangri-La Dialogue held in Singapore in June, US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld asked: "Since no nation threatens China, one must wonder, why this growing investment?"

In fact, the white paper raises more questions than it answers. The joint Sino-Russian military exercise held last month was a source of considerable interest to Taiwan and China's other Asian neighbors. After all, China reportedly agreed to bear the cost of the exercise, and plans to purchase military equipment from Russia. Although the white paper insists that Beijing would not initiate the use of nuclear weapons, Major General Zhu Chenghu's (朱成虎) recent threat that China would consider using nuclear weapons against the US if it intervened militarily in a cross-strait conflict, continues to reverberate. Policies are implemented by people, and the attitude of China's senior military figures undermines the credibility of the peaceful protestations in the white paper.

Taiwan is not a threat to the Chinese Communist Party, but this has not prevented Beijing from targeting over 700 missiles at it. This totally contradicts the white paper's assertion that "China will never seek hegemony or be the first to use nuclear weapons."

Taiwan naturally needs to seek missile defense, as this is a legitimate matter of self-defense. Rather than putting so much effort into obstructing Taiwan's inclusion under a missile defense umbrella, China should simply remove the missiles targeting Taiwan and declare the Taiwan Strait a demilitarized zone. This would be a way of proving that it wants to resolve the cross-strait issue peacefully.

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