Jewish World Review July 16, 2002 /7 Menachem-Av, 5762
Frank J. Gaffney, Jr.
Back on the China front
An old stand-by in the silent-movie era of Westerns was a screen
that displayed the words "Meanwhile, back at the ranch" to warn that some,
usually dangerous dramatic twist was about to befall the heroine while her
cowboy was elsewhere on a posse or fighting the Indians. Today, while much
of America's national security energies are focused on the global war
against Islamist and other terrorists, there is growing reason to be
concerned about what is meanwhile afoot on the China front. For example:
Despite its present preoccupation with the war on terrorism, the
Bush Administration cannot afford to ignore, let alone to misperceive, the
dangers emanating from a China experiencing growing internal social and
economic turmoil, a disproportionately young male -- and therefore
potentially more aggressive -- population, increasing demand for imported
energy and what may prove to be another messy Communist leadership
transition. There is plenty going on back at "the ranch" and the stakes
there are getting higher every day.
- The Defense Department publicly released a report last week that
painted a decidedly ominous picture of China's ambitions to: dominate Asia,
compel Taiwan to reunify with the mainland and prevent the United States
from interfering with either objective. As the Washington Times reported on
July 13, "Recent statements about Taiwan and China's military buildup 'may
reflect an increasing willingness to consider the use of force to achieve
unification [although] Beijing's current strategy is not to seek an invasion
of Taiwan, as many U.S. military leaders have suggested. Instead, the
Chinese government is working on a 'coercive' strategy of threats,
intimidation, missile attacks and a naval blockade of Taiwan."
Such coercive intentions offer the most benign explanation for the
array of new weapon systems China has been fielding, many of them bought
from Russia. These include: advanced SU-30 fighter aircraft, modern
air-to-air and air-to-surface weapons, supersonic anti-ship cruise missiles
and as many as 350 short- and medium-range ballistic missiles. According to
the Times, the Pentagon report finds if such weapons were actually to be
used, "any Chinese attack on Taiwan would be designed to be a rapid strike
before any other countries could come to its defense."
The Chinese are, however, preparing as well for what they consider
to be an "inevitable" conflict with the United States -- often referred to
by the People's Liberation Army (PLA) as "the main enemy" and the one
country that could (and, according to President Bush, would) do "whatever it
takes" to defend Taiwan. In a "China Brief" published on July 8 by the
Jamestown Foundation, Dr. Richard Fisher, arguably the Nation's preeminent
independent expert on the PRC's military capabilities and activities, writes
that Beijing is determined to be able to sink any American aircraft carrier
that might be sent (as was done in 1995) to aid the Chinese democracy on
Taiwan. [Dr. Fischer quotes in this context Major General Huang Bin, a
professor at the PLA National Defense University, in Hong Kong's Ta Kung Pao
daily newspaper on May 13:
"Missiles, aircraft, and submarines all are means that can be used
to attack an aircraft carrier. We have the ability to deal with an aircraft
carrier that dares to get into our range of fire. Once we decide to use
force against Taiwan, we definitely will consider an intervention by the
United States. The United States likes vain glory; if one of its aircraft
carrier should be attacked and destroyed, people in the United States would
begin to complain and quarrel loudly, and the U.S. president would find the
going harder and harder." ]
The Defense Department report noted that China was working to
improve its ability to threaten the United States mainland, as well. Toward
that end, it has in train a two-hundred percent quantitative increase in the
number of ballistic missiles pointed at this country and myriad qualitative
improvements (for example, considerably longer-range, multiple warheads and
decoys or other "penetration aids"). As PRC spokesmen have, from time to
time in the past, warned of attacks on Los Angeles and other American cities
in the event the United States came to Taiwan's aid during a conflict with
the PRC, this growing menace cannot safely be ignored. The same applies, by
the way, to threats arising from China's two other distinctions: its status
as the most formidable cyber-warfare adversary we face and as the world's
most assiduous proliferator of weapons of mass destruction and related
- A second report, issued on July 16 by the congressionally mandated
U.S.-China Security Review Commission has reached no less troubling
conclusions about economic relations with the People's Republic. It comes
amidst news articles that the Chinese Communists have, yet again,
disappointed free trade advocates by failing to live up to China's
obligations as a member of the World Trade Organization.
As part of a generally dour assessment of the seriously imbalanced
trade relationship with the PRC (currently running an annual deficit of
approximately $87 billion), the Commission warned of the security risks
associated with Beijing's efforts to raise some $40 billion in foreign
capital markets -- including roughly $14 billion in the United States.
American investors, reeling from declining portfolio values elsewhere, are
likely to be even more furious when they learn that their funds may be
financing China's threatening military build-up. Only one commissioner -- a
former Clinton Under Secretary of Commerce, William Reinsch, who now works
for the China lobby -- dissented from the majority view that these practices
constituted threats to American security as well as economic interests.
- The nexus between these two is especially evident in the activities
of Chinese businessmen like Li Kashing who has, according to the Washington
Times, been identified by U.S. intelligence as having "close ties to senior
Chinese Communist Party leaders." Li -- whose cargo shipping company,
Hutchison Wampoa, secured long-term leases at either end of the Panama Canal
two years ago -- is hard at work acquiring a presence for his country at
other strategic "choke points" around the world. These include the
Caribbean's Bahamas, the Mediterranean's Malta and the Persian Gulf's
Straits of Hormuz.
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JWR contributor Frank J. Gaffney, Jr. heads the Center for Security Policy. Send your comments to him by clicking here.
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© 2001, Frank J. Gaffney, Jr.