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Question of the Day
Both governments are trying to smooth over substantial friction over trade, North Korea’s and Iran’s nuclear programs, and China‘s generally more assertive diplomatic posture.
A rapid buildup of the Chinese military has fueled perceptions of aggression, unnerved China‘s neighbors and caused Washington to insist Beijing more clearly explain its intentions.
China has made strides in building a new stealth fighter jet, and Washington is also concerned about a new ballistic missile that theoretically could explode a U.S. aircraft carrier nearly 2,000 miles out to sea. China also apparently has beaten U.S. estimates to develop that weapon.
“We have to pay attention to them. We have to respond appropriately with our own programs,” Mr. Gates said.
At their news conference Monday, Mr. Gates and Gen. Liang denied that their governments are entering an arms race. Gen. Liang, dressed in his military uniform, animatedly defended China‘s growing capabilities, calling them entirely appropriate and consistent with China‘s rise as an economic and political power.
While both sides try to pave the way for a successful Hu-Obama summit, economics and politics also are aggravating strains between the world’s superpower and the fast-rising new power.
Chinese trade data released Monday showed exports swelling nearly 18 percent in December and more than 30 percent for all 2010, though surging imports narrowed China‘s overall trade surplus. The still-high surplus is likely to add to pressure on the Obama administration to penalize Beijing for trade and currency policies that some economists and U.S. lawmakers call unfair.
A defense spending authorization signed by Mr. Obama on Friday wades into the fair-trade battle. The act effectively prohibits the Defense Department from buying solar panels made in China, a leading supplier, by requiring the Pentagon to purchase panels made in the United States or from countries that have joined an international trade agreement that Beijing has not signed.
The spending measure also orders Mr. Gates to come up with a plan to ensure secure U.S. access to critical elements known as rare earths that are crucial to some weaponry and other high-technology products. China is the world’s biggest supplier but has restrained exports, citing environmental degradation from mining. Critics contend Beijing wants to drive up prices and demonstrate its control over vital commodities.
By Michael P. Orsi
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