- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 28, 1999

Gen. Xiong Guangkai: The name is worth remembering. The scuttlebutt in Washington is that Gen. Xiong has been anointed by Beijing to visit the United States sometime in the near future. His mission: to resume the so-called "strategic partnership" between China and the United States.
A veritable stampede of reciprocal visits by Chinese and U.S. generals has been a hallmark of the Clinton administration's policy of military engagement with China. Chinese generals came to the United States to review troops, tour military bases and U.S. Navy ships, watch basic training, observe war games and collect American battle plans.
In a huff, Beijing broke off military ties with Washington after the United States bombed the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade during last year's air war in Yugoslavia. But if China's People's Liberation Army (PLA) profited half as much from its coziness with the Pentagon as authors Edward Timperlake and William C. Triplett II claim in their book, "Red Dragon Rising," the Chinese generals won't be able to stay away for long.
The book comes as a sequel to the author's best-selling "Year of the Rat," which detailed the Clinton administration's affection for Chinese campaign cash. The new book begins with a front cover photo of President Clinton and Gen. Chi Haotian, China's defense minister. For those who have forgotten, Gen. Chi, during his 1996 visit to Washington that included the photo-op in the Oval Office, told a friendly audience at the U.S. National Defense University that no one had been killed at Tiananmen Square.
The authors describe their book as a "Bill of Indictment." They say the Chinese regime's primary goal is territorial albeit not in the sense of building an Asian empire as the Imperial Japanese army sought earlier this century. Nevertheless, it is argued, some pretty big territorial ambitions lie behind a bold arms buildup now underway the main one being Taiwan.
A secondary, and not unrelated goal, is money cash that can buy the latest fighter jets from the Soviet Union and equip them with high-tech weapons systems from willing sellers such as Israel.
As long as a cash-hungry PLA thinks it can avoid getting caught by the United States, it will sell equipment and technology to make nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles for delivering them to anyone with cash. Its best customers are Libya, Iran, Iraq, North Korea and Syria. "When one asks, 'Is China a threat?' the real question should be, 'Is the PLA a threat?' " the authors maintain.
The book offers a new twist in retelling the events of June 4, 1989, when PLA troops gunned down hundreds, perhaps thousands of protestors and bystanders on the streets of Beijing near Tiananmen Square. It names the six PLA generals that ran the attack. Gen. Chi, seen grinning at Mr. Clinton on the front cover, had operational command of the troops.
Another of the six is Gen. Xiong the chief of military intelligence who is rumored to be on his way to Washington to rekindle the U.S.-China partnership. Gen. Xiong, who visited the Pentagon a few years ago, was responsible for creating a spate of incidents with Tiananmen protestors to justify the use of force.
During a 1996 crisis over Taiwan, Gen. Xiong issued a not-so-subtle threat to vaporize Los Angeles in a nuclear mushroom cloud. American officials, he said at the time, "care more about Los Angeles then they do about Taiwan."
Gen. Xiong, as China's top spymaster, also masterminded the theft of U.S. nuclear secrets from the Los Alamos laboratory and elsewhere, according to the authors.
Perhaps the book's most frightening contribution is a hypothetical scenario of a Chinese invasion of Taiwan, labeled "An electronic Pearl Harbor." It would combine a limited missile attack, the takeover by Chinese troops of a key airfield or two and an all-out assault using a new and largely untested weapon cyberwarfare.
The scenario sounds a bit like Tom Clancy, but if it seems far-fetched, the book cites plenty of evidence that electronic warfare is at the top of the PLA's agenda to build a credible offensive military force.
One can criticize the book for engulfing readers in a maelstrom of gloom without offering a way out. Is it in America's best interests, for example to expand trade and economic ties with China? Unfortunately the authors do not delve into broader aspects of Sino-U.S ties. Still, their clear intention is to influence policy in the next administration.
A reader can't help but question whether the Clinton administration's notion of "strategic partnership" will ultimately prove as futile as Neville Chamberlain's policy in the 1930s. A cynic could be forgiven for concluding the strategy might work, provided the United States is prepared to abandon Taiwan as Britain and France did much of Europe.

Willis Witter is an assistant foreign editor of The Washington Times.

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide