China is “strangling” emerging island democracies in the Pacific in pursuit of narrow goals such as friendly votes at the United Nations, CIA Director Michael V. Hayden said in an interview in which he criticized Beijing’s failure to act as a responsible global power.
Mr. Hayden also criticized China’s pursuit of Sudanese oil supplies, even at the cost of backing a government that the United States accuses of participating in genocidal activities in the Darfur region of Sudan.
But in a nuanced appraisal of the Asian communist giant, Mr. Hayden also expressed professional “admiration” for the speed and sophistication of its military buildup, suggested its behavior is an outgrowth of its historical role in Asia, and opined it is “not inevitable that they will be an enemy.”
Chinese communist leaders “have not yet stepped up to the responsibility of a major power” and so far have failed to understand “they actually have some responsibility for the maintenance of the global system,” Mr. Hayden said Tuesday during a meeting with reporters and editors of The Washington Times.
“When you go and essentially corrupt an island nation in the South Pacific with massive infusions of aid no matter how appropriately or inappropriately it will be used, and you strangle nascent democracies in their crib by doing so just so you can get that island nation’s vote in the General Assembly, that’s pursuing it for a very narrow base,” Mr. Hayden said.
“If you want to be a great power, you’ve got be thinking more broadly, you cannot be acting just on those kind of narrow considerations.”
On China’s support for Sudan’s government, Mr. Hayden said it is “only the Olympics and the potential embarrassment to come out of the Olympics that convinces them to do more of the right thing there than they’ve previously done.”
China recently pressed the Khartoum government to permit the African Union force in Darfur to be resupplied.
A defense official said Mr. Hayden’s criticism of Chinese international behavior is “refreshingly candid.” He contrasted it with a recent Pentagon report on Chinese military power that, he said, was altered by State Department and National Security Council officials to play down similar criticism on Chinese activities.
China’s government has sent large amounts of aid to several South Pacific states as part of efforts to outflank Taiwan, which is recognized as being under China’s jurisdiction by several island states. Among the targets of Chinese influence-buying are the governments of Vanuatu, Samoa, Fiji and Papua New Guinea.
Taiwan similarly has used aid to try to win support from small countries for its bid for membership in U.N. organizations.
On China’s military buildup, Mr. Hayden said the modernization of the 7 million-member Chinese army is impressive, and he agreed with recent Senate testimony by Mike McConnell, director of national intelligence, that the buildup is part of China’s “maturation as a state.”
“There are a lot of policy choices that they and we can make over the coming year, decades and so on, that I think can lead us in far more constructive paths,” Mr. Hayden added.
The Air Force general expressed a professional “admiration” for the buildup of forces.
“I stand back in admiration at how the Chinese have constructed, built technology, integrated the technology, trained to the technology, modernized their forces opposite Taiwan,” he said. “And the development or stealing of the technology in order to underwrite that, from our perspective, it’s been a very integrated master plan.”
China’s military is accelerating the buildup of its military forces with new weapons systems and technology, including computer-warfare skills and anti-satellite weapons, according to a Pentagon report made public last week.
Mr. Hayden said U.S. intelligence analysts have differing views on the motives behind the buildup, which has entailed more than a decade of double-digit increases in military spending. He also said the buildup appears to have much to do with China’s historical role as the dominant power in Asia, a position it has held for millennia.
“When you sit back and see what they have done in terms of a big military shifting its weight from an army that had little red books, and [stressed] the importance of manpower and political ideology, to one that has absorbed the lessons of both Gulf wars, it is a remarkable, remarkable accomplishment,” he said.
Meanwhile, Adm. Timothy J. Keating, commander of the U.S. Pacific Command, said at a Senate hearing Tuesday that military relations with China are growing but that “there are miles to go before we sleep in our relationship with China.”
“We want a mature, constructive, cooperative relationship,” he said. “We are making progress, But, as I said, we have a long way to go.”
China’s military goals include seeking to expand influence throughout the Pacific, Adm. Keating said.
“They are working all throughout Oceania, the area that is Australia’s front porch, if you will, on through the Indian Ocean and all the way into internal Africa to develop these ports of call so as to provide some, it would seem, some sort of foothold in the area, not just a military port presence, so as to be able to protect that which is theirs and to ensure access to those maritime domains,” Adm. Keating said.
“We are watching that, and not necessarily attempting to counter it but just serve as a balance to those countries who are subjected to the Chinese pressure, offering them some sort of balance on a military basis at Pacific Command headquarters.”