- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 21, 2001

While the United States is correct to seek China's assistance in what will be a long war against terrorism, it should harbor no illusions that China will share all of the same goals in this fight, or that China will cease being a longer term adversary.

Yes, Chinese President Jiang Zemin was swift to condemn the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in the United States, and China has shared some counterterrorism intelligence. And it would be welcome to have Beijing's full cooperation for the many battles ahead. But as he meets Jiang Zemin in Shanghai, President Bush should be mindful that any future Chinese assistance in the war on terror can only be effective if China reverses the aid that it has given to a number of rogue states.

For example, should Osama bin Laden or his allies obtain a nuclear weapon in the future, it is likely that many of its components will come via Pakistan or Iran, and could very well carry the stamp "Made in China." China's assistance to Pakistan's nuclear weapons program dates back to the mid-1970s and includes the training of engineers, provision of nuclear-fuel-reprocessing components, and perhaps even the plans to make nuclear weapons. China has sold Pakistan more than 30 of the 180-mile range M-11 ballistic missiles. China has also sold Pakistan the means to build solid-fuel 450-mile-range Shaheen-1 and 1,200-mile-range Shaheen-II missiles.

China has sold Iran nuclear-reactor and nuclear-fuel-reprocessing components and cruise missiles that could conceivable carry a small nuclear device.

For more than a decade the United States has been "engaging" Chinese officials in a repetitive pattern of U.S. complaints, Chinese denials and promises not to proliferate, occasional U.S. slap-on-the-wrist sanctions, but with no definitive cessation of Chinese proliferation. So far, Beijing is correct to question U.S. resolve. It took the Bush administration until August this year to impose some sanctions on Chinese companies selling Shaheen missile parts to Pakistan, a program that likely began early in the Clinton administration, which produced no Shaheen-related sanctions during its two terms.

This failure to stop Chinese proliferation helped fuel the nuclear missile race between India and Pakistan. And as the later weakens under pressure from radical pro-Taliban forces, the danger increases that nuclear weapon technology could fall into the hands of terrorist groups like bin Laden's. But rather than isolate radical Islamic regimes that harbor or aid terrorists, Beijing engages them, too. In recent months, China has been caught red handed helping Saddam Hussein to build new fiber-optic communications networks that will enable his missiles to better shoot down U.S. aircraft. Beginning in late 1998, according to some reports, after they gave Beijing some unexploded U.S. Tomahawk cruise missiles, the Taliban began receiving economic and military aid from China.

The more important subtext is that China engages these regimes because it shares their goal of cutting down U.S. power. And, incredibly, China may be attracted to using their methods as well. Bin Laden himself has a fan club in some quarters of China's People's Liberation Army (PLA). In their 1999 book "Unrestricted Warfare," two PLA political commissars offer praise for the tactics of bin Laden. They note that bin Laden's tactics are as legitimate as the tactics that Gen. Norman Schwartzkopf used in the Persian Gulf war. Of bin Laden, they state that the "American military is inadequately prepared to deal with this type of enemy."

While some U.S. analysts downplay "Unrestricted Warfare" as written by officers with no operational authority, it is well known that the PLA is preparing to wage unconventional warfare, especially cyber warfare. Should China attack Taiwan, the PLA would want to shut down the U.S. air transport system. The PLA now knows this can be done with four groups of terrorists, or perhaps by computer hackers that can enter the U.S. air traffic control system and cause four major airline collisions.

So to qualify as a U.S. ally in the war on terrorism, China must stop lying about its nuclear and missile technology proliferation and prevent states like Pakistan and Iran from fielding nuclear missiles. Also, China must end its economic and military commerce with regimes that assist terrorists, like the Taliban and Iraq. In addition, China must halt is preparations for a war against Taiwan, a war that will very likely involve U.S. forces.

In this regard, it is not time to end Tiananmen massacre sanctions on arms sales to China, such as allowing the sale of spare parts for U.S.-made Blackhawk helicopters. The administration is considering this move to reward China and to allow it to rescue U.S. pilots that may be downed over Afghanistan. China has plenty of good Russian helicopters to that do job, and it makes no sense to revive military technology sales to China as it still prepares for war against Taiwan.

In his Sept. 20 speech, Mr. Bush correctly declared that "any nation that continues to harbor or support terrorism will be regarded by the United States as a hostile regime." China's aid to the Taliban and its continued nuclear proliferation are not friendly actions. The United States should press China to undo all it has done to strengthen the sources of terrorism.

Richard D. Fisher Jr. edits the China Brief newsletter of the Jamestown Foundation.

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