Thu, Apr 07, 2011 - Page 8 News List

The US cannot appease the Chinese

By Li Thian-hok 李天福

According to George Washington University professor Charles Glaser (“Will China’s Rise Lead to War?” Foreign Affairs, March/April 2011), prospects for avoiding war between the US and China are good. Conventional Chinese assault on the US homeland is virtually impossible owing to the vast expanse of the Pacific Ocean and vice versa. Even if Chinese power were to surpass US power, the US can deter Chinese nuclear attack by maintaining survivable retaliatory nuclear forces. The US has the option of not responding to China’s modernization of its nuclear force. This restraint will make China feel more secure, thereby enhancing US security.

Glaser believes war or peace is shaped by general patterns of international politics as much as idiosyncratic factors such as “China’s unique qualities, past behavior and economic trajectory.”

However, his discussion focuses narrowly on national security concerns. By ignoring China’s history, its economic policy, domestic politics and other relevant factors and applying international relations theory in an oversimplified manner, Glaser arrives at policy prescriptions that will increase the chance of a nuclear attack on the US homeland, the exact opposite of his objective.

Glaser analyzes Sino-US relations solely on the basis of national security. In fact, Sino-US relations have many facets, economic, political and military. Focusing on military issues alone has led to misreading Chinese intentions.

China is advocating its model of governance — a combination of managed capitalism and one-party authoritarianism — as a more efficient alternative to a Western-style free market economy and democracy. China expends vast sums in this ideological competition, including funding dozens of Confucius Institutes on US college campuses and the publication of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) paper the Global Times in the US.

China implements a mercantilist trade policy and artificially sets a low value on its currency to promote exports, thus creating a large US trade deficit with China year after year. This beggar-thy-neighbor policy has resulted in steady transfer of US wealth to China. China is aided in this effort by US multinational corporations and Wall Street firms, which are lured by the vast Chinese market and China’s cheap labor.

The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has been modernizing at a rapid pace. China’s defense spending has increased by double-digit percentages annually since the late 1990s. The PLA has mastered the C4ISR (command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance) system of joint force fighting. Its modernization is not limited to the development of anti-access, area denial weapons against US forces, but also cyber war and space war capabilities. The PLA has demonstrated its ability to shoot down US military satellites. In cyber warfare, the wartime objectives include paralyzing an adversary’s information and communication systems, and destruction of financial data and infrastructure such as power grids and water supplies.

Given China’s multi-pronged efforts to compete with the US, it is not prudent to blithely assume that China’s intentions will always be peaceful.

By excluding Chinese history from his analysis, Glaser also misjudges the motives behind China’s behavior. China’s military modernization is not primarily motivated by its insecurity, as Glaser asserts. China is not threatened by the US or any of its neighbors.

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