- The Washington Times - Monday, December 18, 2000

The Bush administration is expected to take a harder line toward an increasingly belligerent China by abandoning President Clinton's notion of China as a strategic partner of the United States.
Colin Powell, the designee for secretary of state, highlighted this primary difference in President-elect George W. Bush's policy in accepting the nomination. The retired chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said the new approach to Beijing and Moscow will be to treat the nuclear-armed powers "not as potential enemies or adversaries, but not yet as strategic partners."
Militarily, the current chairman, Gen. Henry H. Shelton, set the tone for the incoming administration in a speech last week. The four-star general called China a potential "21st-century Soviet Union" that is aggressively modernizing its military and creating instability with contradictory market economic policies and a dictatorial political structure.
Gen. Shelton's harsh tone was based on recent internal Pentagon assessments warning that Beijing will emerge as a hostile military and economic power in the next 20 years, according to Pentagon officials. It was the first time Gen. Shelton had characterized China as a potential threat since he became chairman in 1997.
China's official media on Friday sent a warning shot across the president-elect's bow. The Beijing Review, a magazine published by the State Council, said in a commentary that "the most dangerous aspect of Bush Jr.'s position on U.S.-China policy lies in its destructive role in the tense relations between Taiwan and the mainland."
The journal repeated Beijing's hard-line position on Taiwan and said "war would be inevitable" if the United States defends Taiwan in a conflict with the mainland.
Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian welcomed Mr. Bush's election, noting that relations between the United States and Taiwan could be strengthened.
A key issue emerging for the new president will be arms sales to Taiwan, which have been limited under the Clinton administration while China has engaged in a major buildup of several hundred short-range missiles opposite the island.
The Taiwan government presented its annual arms-purchase request to U.S. officials last week, including renewed requests for Aegis guided-missile destroyers and other high-technology weapons, U.S. officials said.
A key issue for Mr. Bush will be whether the new administration will provide Taiwan with short-range missile defenses to counter the Chinese buildup, a plan opposed by the current administration.
Mr. Bush has supported the Taiwan Security Enhancement Act, passed earlier this year by the House. Supporters say it is designed to restore balance to U.S. policy toward Taiwan and reduce the growing instability created by the Clinton administration's tilt in favor of China.
He also favors deploying a national missile defense, which China opposes as a threat to its strategic nuclear missile arsenal.
Japan welcomed Mr. Bush's election victory. "We are encouraged that President-elect Bush has stressed the significance of strengthening the Japan-U.S. alliance during his campaign," Yasuo Fukuda, the Japanese chief Cabinet secretary, stated.
China views the U.S. alliance with Japan as part of a strategy to "contain" the communist-led nation and has refused numerous approaches from the commander-in-chief of U.S. forces in the Pacific, Adm. Dennis Blair, to take part in joint military exercises. The Beijing leadership views the military and diplomatic approaches as a trick, according to Pentagon officials.
The Bush policy toward China will be shaped by several key appointments; namely, the choices for positions on the White House National Security Council staff and in the State Department and the Pentagon.
Behind the scenes, former officials and academics already are sparring over the picks.
Critics of the Clinton administration's approach to China say the current pro-business policy has not worked. One former official called it "a dismal failure."
These critics say eight years of conciliatory policies toward Beijing have led to enhanced Chinese military power and bellicosity toward the United States, greater human rights abuses and a strengthened dictatorship unwilling to consider democratic political reforms.
According to U.S. officials close to the transition, among the officials under consideration for the top NSC China policy-making post are Chuck Downs, a former Pentagon China specialist who was a key aide on the special congressional committee that investigated Chinese missile technology acquisition and nuclear espionage. Mr. Downs is said to favor a more realistic strategy of dealing with China as a strategic competitor and not a partner, his supporters said.
Also being considered for the NSC China post is Harry Harding, a George Washington University academic who is viewed as favoring the current engagement policies.
Advocates of so-called "engagement" are urging Mr. Bush to appoint policy-makers who will not take a hard line against China's weapons proliferation activity, military buildup or increasing threats against Taiwan.
A leading proponent of this view within the Bush foreign policy team is said to be Robert Blackwill, who may become the deputy national security adviser.
Mr. Blackwill, a former arms control official, has been in charge of an executive education program at Harvard that has brought groups of Chinese military officers to the university. Critics have called the program a training program for Chinese military spies.
Mr. Blackwill also clashed with conservatives on China during a behind-the-scenes debate on the Republican platform during the Republican National Convention last summer. Congressional aides said Mr. Blackwill tried to tone down criticism of China in the platform's Asia policy plank, an effort that was defeated by former Rep. Robert Livingston and several other conservatives who said Mr. Blackwill's views on China do not represent the Republican Party's views.
The China "realists" are hoping that Paul Wolfowitz, a former defense policy-maker, will emerge in a key position to provide balance to the engagement advocates.
Mr. Wolfowitz is said to want the position of defense secretary but could emerge in the Cabinet-level post of U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Republican sources say. Mr. Wolfowitz currently heads the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies in Washington.
Another name being mentioned is James A. Kelly, president of the Hawaii-based Pacific Forum of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, who may be appointed as assistant secretary of state for East Asia.
Mr. Kelly, a former Navy captain, worked in the White House and Pentagon during the 1980s. Critics said he was known then for opposing U.S. arms sales to Taiwan, including F-16 jet fighters that eventually were sold.
In the Pentagon, China policy appointments being discussed include Curt Campbell, who was a deputy assistant defense secretary for China during the Clinton administration. Mr. Campbell could be named to a more senior post, the assistant defense secretary for international security affairs, which includes the China policy shop.
Air Force Maj. Mark Stokes, a current policy-maker widely regarded as the the Pentagon's most competent China hand, is being mentioned for the key Pentagon job of deputy assistant defense secretary for East Asia.
Also mentioned for the deputy job is Torkel Paterson, an academic said to be favored by pro-China advocates.
Another China specialist being considered for a top job is James Lilley, a former ambassador and CIA official, who is in the running to replace George Tenet as CIA director.
Mr. Lilley is currently at the American Enterprise Institute.
CIA analysis of China has come under fire from Sen. Richard C. Shelby, Alabama Republican, and others in Congress who say the agency has a pervasive benign view of China and needs more rigorous competing analysis from outside experts.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide