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China rhetoric raises threat concerns
U.S. intelligence analysts, in analyses and estimates, also have dismissed or played down evidence of Chinese military deception to hide its true goals. They instead have said in classified reports that the use of strategic deception to hide China’s military buildup is similar to masking efforts of Western powers.
Critics of those analysts’ “benign China” outlook say such views resulted in missing major strategic and military developments by China for more than a decade, such as new missiles, submarines and other advanced military hardware, some that were built in complete secrecy.
The recent Chinese military statements have renewed the long-running debate in U.S. policy and intelligence circles about China’s long-term military intentions and whether they pose threats to U.S. interests.
Mr. Crowley said the U.S. is a global power and “will remain so for the indefinite future,” while China is a rising global power moving to gradually integrate into the global system.
Both countries “have a shared responsibility to cooperate where we can to solve critical international challenges, and manage areas where our national interests may collide,” he said.
Michael Pillsbury, a Pentagon policy official in the Reagan administration, said Chinese military authors have reignited a “nasty debate” in Washington on China.
Mr. Pillsbury, author of two books on Chinese military views of the future, said some U.S. China hands tried to trivialize the nationalistic views because senior Chinese officials do not make such statements at official meetings with U.S. counterparts.
“China’s foreign minister once told the U.S. secretary of state that China has no intention of ever pushing the U.S. out of Asia,” he said. Yet, “the Chinese military itself seems to function with considerable autonomy and no real civilian oversight, so it is plausible that these Chinese military hawks are not mere mavericks or fringe elements at all. Rather, their publications may be indicators of future Chinese programs that are veiled today,” he said.
For example, reports of China’s development of a high-tech ballistic-missile design to attack aircraft carriers first surfaced 15 years ago but were dismissed by many analysts as implausible. U.S. naval intelligence sources, however, expect China to conduct a flight test soon of the new missile that increases the threat to U.S. warships in the western Pacific.
Adm. Robert Willard, the new commander of the U.S. Pacific Command, added fuel to the debate last fall by highlighting intelligence shortfalls on Beijing’s arms buildup. He told reporters that for more than a decade China “exceeded most of our intelligence estimates of their military capability.”
Earlier this year, Adm. Willard questioned Chinese assertions about a peaceful rise, saying they are “difficult to reconcile with new military capabilities that appear designed to challenge U.S. freedom of action in the region and, if necessary, enforce China’s influence over its neighbors.” He told the House Armed Services Committee Jan. 13 that the Chinese military buildup was “aggressive.”
For years, senior U.S. civilian and military officials, including Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, have stated in public that they do not consider China a “threat” or an “enemy.”
Yet military statements like those of Col. Liu are making it difficult to continue those claims.
“I don’t think anyone who reads Col. Liu’s work can honestly deny that it reflects a consensus mindset in the Chinese military and political leadership,” said John Tkacik, a former State Department China hand.
“There’s no question that Col. Liu and other very influential and like-minded strategists … are psychologically preparing the People’s Liberation Army for confrontation with the United States.”
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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