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China rhetoric raises threat concerns
Recent statements by Chinese military officials are raising concerns among U.S. analysts that the communist government in Beijing is shifting its oft-stated “peaceful rise” policy toward an aggressive, anti-U.S. posture.
The most recent sign appeared with the publication of a government-approved book by Senior Col. Liu Mingfu that urges China to “sprint” toward becoming the world’s most powerful state.
“Although this book is one of many by a senior colonel, it certainly challenges the thesis of many U.S. China-watchers that the People’s Liberation Army’s rapid military growth is not designed to challenge the United States as a global power or the U.S. military,” said Larry M. Wortzel, a China affairs specialist who until recently was co-chairman of the congressional U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission.
A Reuters report on Col. Liu’s book, “The China Dream,” appeared Tuesday in the Communist Party newspaper People’s Daily. It quoted the book as stating China and the United States are in “competition to be the leading country, a conflict over who rises and falls to dominate the world.”
Mr. Wortzel said the statements in the book contradict those of former President Jiang Zemin and other Chinese leaders who said China’s rise to prominence in the 21st century would be peaceful. They also carry political weight because the book was published by the Chinese military.
The book was released after calls by other Chinese military officials to punish the United States for policies toward Taiwan, U.S. criticism of China’s lack of Internet freedom and U.S. support for the exiled Tibetan leader Dalai Lama.
One official, Maj. Gen. Luo Yuan, called for using economic warfare against the U.S. over arms sales to Taiwan and urged selling off some of China’s $750 billion in holdings of U.S. debt securities.
China’s military also recently cut off military exchanges with the Pentagon after the announcement of a $6.4 billion sale of helicopters and missiles to Taiwan.
Asked about Col. Liu’s book, State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said it would be wrong for China to view itself as a U.S. competitor. For the 21st century, U.S.-China relations are the most important ties in the world and “it is a mistake to see the relationship in zero-sum terms,” Mr. Crowley said.
Some U.S. officials in the past dismissed similar alarming statements from the Chinese military as not reflecting official views.
However, Chinese leaders have not disavowed Gen. Luo’s remarks or those of others, such as Maj. Gen. Zhu Chenghu, who in 2005 said China would use nuclear weapons against the United States in response to any firing of conventionally armed long-range cruise missiles against Chinese cities. The statement contradicted Beijing’s declared policy of not using nuclear weapons first in a conflict.
Gen. Zhu reportedly was criticized and demoted but surfaced in print Feb. 10, calling for increased defense spending and boosting military deployments in response to the Taiwan arms sale.
China on Thursday announced that it would increase defense spending this year by 7.5 percent, a smaller increase than in previous years, in an apparent effort to limit criticism of its double-digit annual spending increases for more than a decade.
The recent military statements also counter insistence by many U.S. officials that China’s strategic intentions toward the United States are masked by the lack of “transparency” in the communist system.
About the Author
Bill Gertz is a national security columnist for The Washington Times and senior editor at The Washington Free Beacon (www.freebeacon.com). He has been with The Times since 1985.
He is the author of six books, four of them national best-sellers. His latest book, “The Failure Factory,” on government bureaucracy and national security, was published in September 2008.
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