- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 18, 2001

Now that the impasse of the American EP-SE reconnaissance plane that was forced to land in Chinese territory is practically over we need to think seriously about Americas long-term interests, strategies and policies in the Pacific and especially in regards China.

Our reconnaissance plane was being pursued aggressively by the Chinese pilots as part of a consistent defensive Chinese policy an effort to dominate the South China sky with serious implications for its neighbors.

What should our Pacific strategy be? The Cold War is over in Europe, but not in the Pacific. So long as China is an authoritarian, aggressive, expansionist state, the American policy must be one of containment. The containment policy in Europe was based on the following: the economic and ideological exhaustion of Soviet power, and based on these fundamentals we won the Cold War.

In the case of China, it is more a balance-of-power relationship. Maoist ideology is in the process of decay. We should not be interested in weakening China´s economic development. On the contrary, we must encourage its economic development, which will impose upon the Chinese an international responsibility as members of an international economic system.

President Bush handled the case of the downed American spy plane deftly. It was a diplomatic success. But it does not represent a policy. He demonstrated he is not hostage to the Rose Garden like President Carter, but a policy toward China and the Pacific is imperative. Policy is not based upon helping the Chinese save face .It must be grounded in conservative realism, i.e. the importance of the state, the strength of the military and economic capabilities. Therefore, I hope President Bush will now put some meat on the bones of his Pacific policy of strategic competition.

The president demonstrated a strong inclination to end the Clintonian strategic cooperation with China that resulted in a military arsenal bonanza for the Chinese. We have to establish new rules of engagement; establish a classical deterrence policy grounded in the realistic foundations of the balance of power. This means U.S. domination of the skies over the South China Sea and continued surveillance of the Chinese coast.

Strategic rivalry should be the cornerstone of the Bush administration´s policy so long as the Chinese continue to be arrogant, aggressive and irresponsible. This behooves a diplomacy that is linked to military capabilities and negotiations from the position of strength that is the responsibility of a superpower. China is at least two, if not more, decades away from becoming a superpower. It needs instruction on how to behave once it becomes a great power. We must act in conformity with our interests in the Pacific area, reminding the Chinese that they are not free to threaten and bully their neighbors.

China must be discouraged from claiming an outdated concept of nationalism and sovereignty. In the missile age, territorial boundaries do not define relations between states or strategic assets. What defines power in this century is nuclear capability that cuts historical nationalist boundaries.

China indeed was afflicted in the past by colonial powers: Britain, France, Portugal and Japan. The day of the comprador and the Open Door Policy are over. We must make the Chinese aware that we are not challenging their pride, face or nationalism. We are challenging their aggressiveness.

It is the responsibility of the United States to provide a security umbrella to all of its allies who are neighbors of China. We must encircle China politically with an alliance of democratic states friendly to the United States, which include Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, the Philippines and India.

Without an American security umbrella over the Pacific, the Chinese could very well swallow Taiwan and South Korea, and possibly the Philippines. The absence of an American military presence in the area could isolate Japan and leave it at the mercy of Chinese aggression. Japan may be faced with a security dilemma, i.e. fearing China´s rearmament and military modernization, it would join an arms race that could be detrimental to stability in the Pacific. The United States must continue its surveillance of the Chinese coast immediately. It is strategically imperative and the essence of American military presence in the area discouraging the Chinese from threatening our allies.

We should not isolate Taiwan´s military modernization from America´s general security arrangement in Asia and the Pacific. Our strategic consideration concerning Taiwan must be linked to our dedication to support all our friends who are threatened by China, not exclusively Taiwan. We therefore must be engaged in military modernization and training of the Taiwanese armed forces, and we must modernize their navy. We have plenty of time to decide whether to sell the Aegis missiles to Taiwan. The system won´t even be ready for eight to 10 years. However, by modernizing the Taiwanese naval force, we signal the Chinese on our defensive balance-of-power strategy. At the same time, we should be engaged in modernization of the Indian and South Korean armed forces. We have already reassured Japan.

We should support the entry of China into the World Trade Organization. The WTO will discipline the Chinese and compel them to conform to the principles of free trade, which they have been violating continuously up until now. This will only enhance free trade.

Concerning the Olympics: First, we have no influence on the greedy and corrupt International Olympic Committee; second, there is no strategic value whatsoever in opposing China s hosting of the games in 2008.

The president´s diplomatic victory should not be squandered. The impasse should not influence the fundamentals of our realistic policy toward China. We should continue a policy of competition with China, and protect our Pacific and Asian allies so long as China remains an authoritarian, undemocratic, chauvinistic, aggressive power. Vigilance should inform our China policy.

Amos Perlmutter is a professor of political science and sociology at American University and editor of the Journal of Strategic Studies.

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