The Pentagon’s top general warned yesterday that China may emerge as a Soviet-like superpower in the coming years.
“I am firmly convinced that we need to focus all elements of U.S. power and diplomacy on ensuring that China does not become the 21st-century version of the Soviet bear,” said Gen. Henry H. Shelton, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, during a speech to the National Press Club.
In particular, the United States needs to convince China that resolving its differences with Taiwan peacefully “is the only way ahead.”
China’s government stated in a recent official report that the situation in the Taiwan Strait was “grim.” The Communist government is building up its missile forces opposite the island and has also stepped up threatening rhetoric, calling for unification, through force if necessary.
Gen. Shelton said the combination of a capitalist-style economy and Communist political dictatorship is a potential threat to regional stability. He noted that it will not be easy for the United States to prevent China from becoming a new Soviet Union.
“China takes a distrustful view of the United States’ intentions, as articulated in their recent defense white paper,” he said. The government white paper characterized the United States as a global menace and threat to peace.
“They are aggressively modernizing their military forces, both conventional as well as nuclear. At the same time, they hope to maintain control of an expanding capitalist-like economy under a communist hierarchy that embraces centralized planning and centralized control.
“This situation is a contradiction that could threaten China’s internal power, and consequently threaten stability throughout the region.”
Gen. Shelton made no mention of the recent long-range missile test carried out by China during his visit to the country last month.
The flight test of the new DF-31 mobile missile was the second in the missile-development program and officials said a third flight test could take place in the next several weeks.
The four-star general, who will finish his term as Joint Chiefs chairman in September, said the next administration will need to boost defense spending by $60 billion to $100 billion to fix problems caused by underfunding during the Clinton administration, a depletion that has caused a “fraying” of the military.
The problem for defense planners is “plenty of strategy, not enough forces,” Gen. Shelton said.
“And the wear and tear on our equipment is significant, leading to what has been termed as a fraying of our force,” he said.
Recent instability in Haiti, Africa, Indonesia and Southwest Asia provide a window on the future international-security environment, Gen. Shelton said.
“I think we all realize it’s murky, it’s frustrating and it’s increasingly dangerous,” he said.
Asked if there will be any changes in the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy of permitting homosexuals to serve secretly in the ranks, Gen. Shelton said: “I think that the current policy strikes the right balance between the requirements for good law, order and discipline, and provides for opportunities for men and women to serve the nation, and I think from the policy standpoint, we’ve got it right.”
Improvements can be made in implementing the policy, he noted.