- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 21, 1999

“Friends of China” is a term the communists in Beijing use to identify individuals and organizations in the West upon whom China can rely to promote its party line. In the United States, they have come to be known collectively as “the China Lobby.” Lenin had a less charitable term for the breed: “Useful idiots.”
Whatever their appellation or motivation, these advocates seem determined to mark the anniversary of the single most devastating assessment of the policies, purposes and intentions of the People’s Republic of China the completion of the unanimous report of the Cox committee with a full-scale effort to discredit that bipartisan initiative. As the dangers associated with allowing U.S. policy toward China to be guided by naive illusions or self-serving parochial interests inexorably grow, this cynical campaign must not be allowed to go unchallenged.
The most recent salvo unleashed at the report issued in December 1998 by the Select Committee on U.S. National Security and Military/Commercial Concerns with the People’s Republic of China universally known by the name of its chairman, Rep. Chris Cox, California Republican, was fired last week by Stanford University’s Center for International Security and Cooperation. CISAC sponsored a study prepared by four specialists and edited by a fifth who appear to share a generally benign view of the People’s Republic of China. The transparent goal of the so-called “Stanford 5” auth-ors is to help discredit the Cox report, which they have characterized as based upon “skewed research,” “misleading” information and “sloppy” analysis.
It is not hard to understand why “friends of China” want to undermine the Cox committee’s credibility and public confidence in its conclusions. The picture painted by the select committee on the basis of 22 hearings, hundreds of hours of testimony and the full participation of the U.S. intelligence community concerning China’s activities and their import for U.S. security (and other) interests is extremely damning.
Among the most important of these findings was the revelation that China has stolen design information on the United States’ most advanced thermonuclear weapons and associated reentry vehicles. Consequently, the next generation of Chinese thermonuclear weapons, currently under development, will exploit elements of stolen U.S. design information, enabling China to achieve capabilities on a par with our own much sooner than would otherwise have been possible. They will be launched aboard missiles made more reliable, accurate and deadly thanks to insights and equipment obtained from the United States.
In the Cox committee’s judgment, U.S. technology-export controls and laws are insufficient and lack proper enforcement and that the nation’s intelligence community is insufficiently focused on the threat posed by Chinese efforts to obtain militarily useful technologies by legal and illegal means. The committee concluded that the cumulative effects of these problems could have a significant effect on the regional balance of power, even as Beijing strives to incorporate Taiwan and make China the primary power in Asia goals that conflict with current U.S. interests in Asia and the Pacific.
Fortunately, despite some favorable publicity, the CISAC team has failed in its effort to impugn the Cox report, described by the New York Times as “the most comprehensive examination of the issue ever conducted by any part of the American government.” This stems, in part, from the CISAC team’s acknowledged inability to evaluate the as-yet-unreleased classified information that underpins many of the select committee’s findings that they assail so critically. In part, it is because their effort is full of straw-man arguments, mischaracterizations of the Cox report and their own factual errors. (These errors are detailed in a response to the CISAC study that was written by Nicholas Rostow, a former senior member of the Cox committee’s staff and present staff director of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.)
But most importantly, the CISAC effort ultimately fails to debunk the Cox report convincingly because it is driven by a competing and ever-more-incredible world view one that is not only sharply at variance with that of the Cox committee, but with the facts as well. The Stanford team appears to perceive China as a nation that is squarely on a glide path toward becoming a status quo power, one with whom the United States can perhaps after a tense transitional interlude safely divide the world into spheres of influence with Asia rightfully conceded to China. A central tenet in this conception is that “China will only become an enemy if we treat it as one” or if we fail to accord the Chinese sufficient prestige.
Indeed, this theme has become a leitmotif for China’s friends in the United States. Notably, the Clinton administration embraced the concept of a “strategic partnership” with China so that the latter would feel it was being treated as at least a prospective co-equal. In this fashion, the theory went, Beijing would be given an incentive toward status quo behavior including curbing proliferation and joining Western regimes on arms control and other matters.
In fact, “engagement” as pursued by the Clinton-Gore administration in particular and as advocated by the Stanford team, is creating the basis for China’s growing, comprehensive national strength, especially benefiting its military and strategic nuclear and information warfare capabilities. This is manifestly not in our interest.
The CISAC study shows that there will always be those who argue in the face of all history, fact and logic that conflict is improbable or outmoded because of “global interdependence,” parity of “status,” or other factors of dubious relevance except to their partisans. The truth of the matter is, however, that the only thing more recurrent than these shopworn and historically discredited propositions is conflict itself. The studied inability or ideologically driven unwillingness of the Stanford team to see the larger pattern behind China’s relentless militarization over two decades is precisely why the Cox report remains such a valuable and necessary benchmark work.

Frank J. Gaffney Jr. is president of the Center for Security Policy and a columnist for The Washington Times. Thor Ronay, the center’s vice president, contributed to this article.

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