- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 3, 2005

On April 14, an unusual joint hearing was held by the House International Relations and Armed Services committees. At issue were the national security and foreign policy implications of possible European Union arms exports to China.

The clear concern of the assembled members of Congress was the enhanced threat from China to U.S. and allied forces if it gained advanced European weapons technology.

Yet, two officials from the Bush administration made very odd remarks in favor of a “strong” China. Peter W. Rodman, assistant defense secretary for international security affairs, said: “The United States seeks a strong, prosperous and transforming China, and we support strong economic and political ties between the EU and China.”

R. Nicholas Burns, undersecretary of state for political affairs, cited similar remarks from President George W. Bush, “During his visit to Beijing in 2002, the president stated that ‘China is on a rising path and America welcomes the emergence of a strong and peaceful and prosperous China.’ ”

A “peaceful” China, yes. A “prosperous” China, maybe. It depends on that prosperity’s source. An ever-increasing trade deficit with Beijing, which will likely top $200 billion this year, is an unacceptable transfer of wealth from America to China. And a prosperity that would embolden a “strong” China to menace U.S. security and the peace of Asia would be something to constrain, not enhance.

Beijing has orchestrated violent demonstrations against Japan, supposedly over how textbooks treat World War II and whether Japanese officials should honor their country’s war dead.

Chinese officials have charged Japan lacks the “moral qualifications” to sit on the United Nations Security Council. This is a claim Beijing, with the long and brutal record of its ruling Communist Party, has no credibility to make.

As recently as last January, Foreign Ministry spokesman Kong Quan stated, “The past 15 years have shown China’s decision was correct” to order troops to massacre students in Tiananmen Square. And the regime has committed aggression against nearly all its neighbors since World War II, as well as supported world revolutionaries, terrorists and rogue states.

Beijing wants the dominant position in Asia. It does not want Japan accorded equal status at the U.N. It opposes a closer U.S.-Japanese alliance that could extend a protective umbrella over Taiwan. Beijing’s recent “anti-secession” law meant to justify an attack on Taiwan was so militant it scared the EU into keeping (temporarily) its arms embargo on China. The dispute over islands in the East China Sea has heated up as China has started to drill for oil, and Japan wants to follow suit.

Later in his testimony, Mr. Burns cited a comment by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice during her February visit to Brussels: “We do have to worry about the military balance in the region, and we have concerns about technology and technology transfer.” Are those concerns not rooted in a well-founded fear of a stronger China?

Mr. Rodman was even more specific, saying: “Fueled by an impressive record of economic growth, China has been able to devote ever greater national resources to defense modernization. This has translated into double-digit percent annual increases in Beijing’s officially announced defense budget almost every year for the past 15 years.” He noted Beijing’s official defense figure “understates the large off-budget allocations, which include, for example, foreign weapon acquisitions, subsidies to defense industry, and some defense-related research and development.”

Boost in military spending is a function of being “prosperous,” and the massive American trade deficit with China gives Beijing the hard currency to finance “foreign weapon acquisitions” — mostly Russian systems designed to attack American targets. As for “transforming,” it seems Beijing is moving from a moribund Marxism to an energetic fascism. Is it really so difficult to connect the dots?

The failure to come to grips with the grand strategy is not confined to the administration. On the same day as the International Relations-Armed Services hearing, the House Ways and Means Committee held its own hearing on U.S.-China economic relations. In his testimony, Douglas Holtz-Eakin, Congressional Budget Office director, tried to mitigate concern over the rising trade deficit with China by arguing, “The primary force driving the increase in imports of goods from China is that manufacturers have shifted the final assembly of many of their products from other Asian countries [and perhaps a few non-Asian countries] to China.”

It is not, however, good to see trade shift to China from Japan and other Pacific Rim countries, mostly U.S. friends or allies. The trade gains should be used to strengthen American alliances, not enhance the capabilities of a potential adversary. But that would require thinking about the consequences of international economic relations and doing something to shape them in accord with broader national interests.

Shifts in trade and investment flows are one of history’s most crucial factors in determining the global balance of power. It is perilous for national leaders to ignore the geopolitics of economic activity.

William R. Hawkins is senior fellow for national security studies at the U.S. Business and Industry Council.

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