Donald Rumsfeld says he’s not overly worried about China. “I read all this stuff about China like it’s forty feet high,” the former Defense Secretary said in a speech at the Conservative Political Action Convention in Alaska. “China’s got troubles.”
He listed the major troubles facing the Asian giant, including: Border problems with Russia, India and Vietnam; military power over the government; the disparity between the coast and the inner part of the country; diverse ethnic groups in the country; government corporations and the one-child policy.
Vice President Joseph Biden said in a speech in China in August, “Your policy has been one which I fully understand — I’m not second-guessing — of one child per family.”
Mr. Rumsfeld, on the other hand, does not understand it. He told the Republican activists on Thursday that a major issue for China is that, “it’s got this idiotic one baby policy that has created an enormous number of males and practically no females.” He continued, saying, “They are either going to have to do some immigration or ex-migration of males or reverse polygamy [laughter]. Is there such a thing as that?”
Mr. Rumsfeld said that China’s “monumental, big, government corporations that are the most inefficient thing in the world. He predicted that, “They are going to have to bust them up at some point. And you’re going to end up with tens of thousands of people out of work. And they’re going to have civil disorder and disruptions.”
Aside from these troubles, the former civilian military leader in the President George W. Bush administration does worry about the army’s power in the government.
“The only thing I really worry about with China is I don’t really understand the relationship between the political leadership - the Communist party leadership - and the [People’s Liberation Army (PLA)].” He said that, “I don’t know what [the PLA’s] influence is or who’s in charge of the place. It’s kind of a mystery to me.”
He said the incident in 2001 when an American EP-3 plane collided over China and was forced to land illuminated the issue for him.
Mr. Rumsfeld said that, “Jiang Zemin was in South America, and it looked like the PLA - the People’s Liberation Army- was in charge. “Their behavior was absolutely outrageous,” he said. “Our plane had to land on Hainan Island. We had no choice. They dismembered the plane. They took those people prisoners. They kept them there for a long time.”
The former defense secretary does not believe China will invade Taiwan. There’s no need for that, he said. But if it did, “it would be one of the most monumental failures of foreign policy and diplomacy in my lifetime.”
His strategic advice is to watch them closely and keep strong alliances in the region with South Korea, Japan, Singapore and Australia. China is “going to be reaching out and trying to assert themselves, to be sure. But if we stay strong, that’s a deterrent. That will moderate their behavior.”
Despite his concerns, Mr. Rumsfeld does see China’s strengths. “They’re doing a lot right. Their economy is growing smartly. And they are making investments in their defense,” he told the group.
“They are long-range thinkers. They’re not short timers like we are; they don’t have four-year terms. We have to keep our eye on them and we have to stay strong. And if we behave well, I think it’s probably manageable.”