Another great wall

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The most effective antidote to suspicions and rumors is transparency. This is particularly true in the case of comparing the People's Republic of China (PRC) and their neighbor Taiwan. The PRC shares little of its motivations and intentions of military strength, while Taiwan continually promotes peace and understanding across the Taiwan Strait through public statements of their defense activities. This transparency is typical of most democracies.

The Chinese military remains the core of power in China and the source of control for the country. The Chinese government is determined to modernize the military and increase its power projection capability. It is important for the Chinese government to make known its intentions in terms of these growing capabilities, especially as the Chinese economy continues its rapid growth.

Emphasizing its unprecedented expansion into the world community and aided by its booming economy, China detailed its national security strategy in a document titled “China’s National Defense in 2006” in December. China states that it intends to “uphold world peace, promote common development and seek cooperation” throughout the world. However, the document outlines significant increases in China’s defense spending and a buildup of offensive weapon systems. It further stresses that Beijing is shifting priority from low-tech infantry to high-tech systems capable of reaching well beyond China’s shores, and is thus inconstant with its stated “purely defensive” strategy.

Contradictory to China’s supposed defensive strategy was its recently conducted anti-satellite test. On Jan. 11, China launched a missile carrying a kill-vehicle into space that destroyed a Chinese weather satellite. This launch took place without notification in defiance of common international protocol and received condemnation from the international community due to the space debris created by the satellite’s destruction. China’s attempt at transparency proved disingenuous by disregarding the international community and failing to disclose its space and missile systems in the national security document.

The budgetary side of China’s white paper seems just as insincere as the description of its capabilities. Our intelligence agencies agree that the $36 billion in military spending disclosed in Beijing’s white paper is well below the actual level of funds devoted to that end. Rather, the budget that the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency identifies for PRC military spending is somewhere between $70 billion and $105 billion. Even if we were to accept the $36 billion figure, it would represent a nearly 15 percent boost in Chinese military spending by most estimates. This would continue the double-digit increases in Chinese military spending over the last decade.

Beijing also argues that Taiwan poses a grave threat to China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, which seems incongruous with Taiwan’s population being less than 2 percent of China‘s. In February 2007, Taiwan issued its own national security white paper, which further undermined the idea of a Taiwanese threat to the PRC. It describes modest increases in spending, limited to defensive measures designed to repel invaders.

Beijing labeled Taiwan’s previous national security posture statement of 2006 as an assault on the status quo across the Taiwan Strait. In fact, Taiwan’s national security does depart from the previous status quo. Taiwan looks across the Taiwan Strait at a Chinese shore brisling with more than 900 Taiwan-targeted missiles, yet Taiwan plans to reduce troop levels. Taiwan pledges never to use weapons of mass destruction. Taiwan proposes “political relations” with China and cross-Strait contacts between military leaders. Finally, Taiwan proposes a buffer zone between them to minimize the chance of accidental conflict. It remains to be seen if Beijing will accept any of these ideas.

It remains clear that without a deliberate approach to transparency, similar to that of Taiwan, relations between China and its neighbors will continue to be strained. Transparency of that kind by China would make a remarkable contribution to not only the region but also the world, and it should commit to doing so in the future.

Sen. Wayne Allard, a Republican, is from Colorado.

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