Last August, when it tested a new long-range intercontinental ballistic missile, the DF-31, Communist China
revealed just how successful free trade with American defense and high-tech firms has been not in expanding U.S. exports or in creating U.S. jobs, but in advancing China’s own strategic interests.
This is why Beijing and its allies are lobbying Congress so furiously to remove the last restrictions on the transfer of high technology to Communist China by granting Permanent Normal Trading Relations this week. The future of China’s strategic rocket programs hangs in the balance.
According to a Chinese scientist who lives in the United States after defecting from China in the late 1990s, the Chinese acquired most of the specialized military equipment and technology they needed for the DF-31 in the United States, with help and approval from the Clinton administration.
His view was borne out by the State Department, which last month accused Lockheed Martin Corp. of Bethesda, Md., of 30 violations of the Arms Export Control Act and International Traffic in Arms Regulations in conjunction with the sale of rocket technology to the People’s Republic of China (PRC).
In a series of interviews, the defector described in great detail how technology and cash from Lockheed, Martin Marietta, and Motorola helped his bosses develop a new generation of solid-fuel strategic missiles that led to the DF-31. I verified his information with these companies, and with Pentagon analysts who specialize in Chinese strategic military programs.
“Our factory was in trouble before I started working there,” the Chinese scientist said “Then we got a major contract from the U.S., and things took off.”
The scientist worked at the Hexi Machinery and Chemical Co. in Hohhot, the capital of Inner Mongolia, a once-independent state annexed by Communist China in 1949. In China, the plant is known as the 41st Research Institute, a branch of the Fourth Academy of the state-owned China Aerospace Corp. According to the Pentagon analysts, the Fourth Academy has built all of China’s strategic rockets as well as its Long March space launch vehicles.
On April 28, 1993, Motorola signed a contract with China’s Great Wall Industries Corp. (CGWIC), to launch 12 of its Iridium global communication satellites. As part of the contract the Chinese agreed to develop a “smart dispenser” allowing them to launch several satellites from a single rocket. Earlier Chinese attempts to develop such a dispenser had failed.
But according to the defector, help from U.S. engineers changed all that. “Our U.S. partners gave us the specifications and technical assistance to produce the dispenser,” he said, adding that engineers from Hexi traveled to Lockheed and Motorola facilities in the United States to exchange data and tweak their design. Motorola confirmed the contacts, and said the company’s interest was to ensure that their satellites were lofted reliably into precise orbits, not to improve China’s military capabilities.
Nevertheless, the exchanges caught the eye of U.S. intelligence analysts. A Dec. 10, 1996, Top Secret report from the National Air Intelligence Center, obtained by Bill Gertz, a reporter for The Washington Times, called the Chinese satellite dispenser a “technology bridge” that with few modifications would allow the Chinese to launch multiple nuclear warheads from their missiles. Despite this, the Clinton administration allowed Motorola and Lockheed to pursue their cooperation with the Chinese.
The Chinese first demonstrated the dispenser in September 1997, successfully lofting two test satellites into orbit. Just two months later commercial launches began.
In a separate contract, Martin Marietta, which has since merged with Lockheed, helped Hexi develop a solid fuel kick motor used to propel satellites into high Earth orbit. “Before we received this help from the United States, China had never succeeded in developing propellants powerful enough to be used for strategic-range solid-fuel rockets,” the defector said. “This gave us a new capability.”
A Lockheed spokesman insisted that the company cleared all Chinese technology exchanges with U.S. government monitors. But the State Department now says that Lockheed violated its export licenses repeatedly on 30 separate occasions.
Now that the Fourth Academy has resolved design snags with the DF-31, thanks to U.S. help, they are turning full time to perfecting a follow-up system, the DF-41, which is expected to have a range of 12,000 kilometers. According to the bipartisan Cox Commission report, released by Congress last year, U.S. intelligence analysts expect that the DF-41 will carry multiple nuclear warheads that are based on U.S. designs stolen from our nuclear weapons labs.
At every step of the way, the Clinton administration had the authority to block these technology exchanges but failed to do so. If Congress votes to grant China Permanent Normal Trading Relations status, no future administration will be able to block such sales to Communist China without risking an international trade war and sanctions against the U.S. economy from the World Trade Organization. America’s security hangs in the balance.
Kenneth R. Timmerman has been investigating U.S. high technology sales to China for the past six years for the American Spectator and Reader’s Digest.