- The Washington Times - Friday, September 15, 2000

U.S. intelligence agencies have a benign view of China and need more "alternative" analysis of the United States' most important future challenge, the chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence said yesterday.
In an interview, Sen. Richard C. Shelby, Alabama Republican, said he is working on legislation that would require more "unbiased" intelligence studies of China.
"What we're interested in is good analysis; the nation depends on it," Mr. Shelby said. "It has to be good, it has to be accurate; it has to be unbiased. Now, having said that, at times it's hard to get it."
Mr. Shelby spoke to The Washington Times in his Senate office. He said it is very important to get the analysis on China correct because policy decisions made now will influence whether or not the United States will be prepared to meet the future challenge of China.
"Fifteen years from now I could see a different China than we see today," he said. "I do see a China with possibly a vigorous economy and a modernized arsenal, nuclear and conventional, with more navy."
Legislation to fix analytical problems will be added to the current Senate Intelligence Committee's authorization.
Mr. Shelby said the Senate intelligence oversight panel and its House counterpart "have to rigorously examine any findings regarding China, considering China could be a formidable, heaven forbid, military adversary."
"China is going to be our biggest challenge, militarily and economically, down the road," he said.
China is rapidly modernizing both its industry and military, he said.
"To turn a blind eye to that or to say that it's not going to happen for 40 years or 50 years, I think is being naive," Mr. Shelby said.
A Senate aide said the current cadre of China analysts tend to view China as "a benevolent panda bear" based on past U.S.-Chinese ties. "And a lot of that has seeped into the analytical products," he said.
"It's hard for a lot of people to conceive China as a threat because we've viewed them generally as benign," the aide said. "We're trying to encourage more contrarian and alternative analysis within the intelligence community, in the CIA in particular, on China."
More competitive analysis is needed on security-related issues, such as Chinese military developments.
For example, China is not trying to compete directly with the U.S. military in the same way Moscow did during the Cold War, the aide said.
"You frequently hear people say the Chinese navy … couldn't defeat the U.S. Navy in the battle of Midway if it were held today," the aide said. "But that's not what they need to do. What they need to do is create a zone of free action around Taiwan that's their biggest priority and if they can make a U.S. president hesitate or be deterred from acting in that area, then they've done what they need to do."
The leading advocate of China's inability to build a modern fighting force is retired Rear Adm. Eric McVadon, who is a consultant to the Navy and CIA on Chinese issues. Adm. McVadon recently wrote that China's military research and development is "immature, isolated, fragmented and unfocused." He also wrote that China will be unable to challenge the United States militarily for at least 10 years.
Mr. Shelby said many analysts' views about China are based on Cold War, balance-of-power calculations that are not relevant to China's current strategy of asymmetrical warfare defeating a high-tech power with less capable weapons and forces.
"I think some people's thinking in the U.S. about China is like it was in 1982 or '83 and we can't do that."
The CIA has resisted an earlier legislative effort to require better analysis on China and the response from the agency has been "lackluster," another Senate aide said.
Mr. Shelby said requiring the CIA to approach its analytical reports from two or three competing viewpoints is "helpful" but not always welcomed by the bureaucracy.
The model for requiring competing views on China is the 1998 panel of outside analysts headed by former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld who studied missile threats, and a second group of experts, led by retired Adm. David Jeremiah, who examined how the CIA missed India's nuclear test.
"What we're trying to do is make sure that the same process is carried through with respect to China by directing that certain specific tasks be looked at in alternative and contrarian ways," the first aide said.
Some in the Pentagon also said U.S. analysis on China is flawed. A Pentagon official said the current and former directors of the National Intelligence Council, John Gannon and Joseph Nye, have "refused to bring balance into the analysis review process."
CIA spokesman Bill Harlow said the agency has begun "doing a whole lot more on alternative views and outside analysis on all of our products."
One CIA analytical review panel was headed by retired Army Gen. John Tilelli, a former commander of U.S. forces in South Korea. A second panel is led by Robert Sutter, a CIA China analyst who is viewed as dovish on Beijing.
Critics in Congress and the administration said members of both panels were limited in the access they had to intelligence data that could have allowed them to challenge draft reports. Also, many are academics with little intelligence experience.
"The issue of engaging with outside experts is a work impressively in progress," said a senior intelligence official, who defended the intelligence community's analysis products.
On a recent estimate of China, six experts with diplomatic or academic backgrounds reviewed the national intelligence estimate, the official said.
The senior official said setting up a permanent panel of experts from outside the intelligence community risked "politicizing" analysis. "That is not a healthy kind of development," he said.

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