Thursday, October 13, 2005

China’s government is planning a charm offensive aimed at reversing Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld’s view that China could emerge as a threat.

“The Chinese will try to confuse Rumsfeld,” said Wei Jingsheng, a Chinese democracy activist living in Washington. “The best thing he can do is pretend to be fooled and then maybe they will tell him something interesting.”

The U.S. intelligence community has learned that Beijing outlined more than six propaganda themes and objectives for the visit.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Kong Quan told reporters in Beijing this week that Mr. Rumsfeld will visit China from Tuesday to Thursday. It will be Mr. Rumsfeld’s first visit to China as Bush administration defense secretary.

Mr. Rumsfeld is expected to visit the Second Artillery headquarters, Beijing’s missile command, but will not be allowed to see the Western Hills Command Center, an underground complex known as China’s Pentagon.

A key goal of the visit will be to dispel what the Chinese call the “China threat theory,” U.S. intelligence officials said. Beijing officials think that position has hampered China’s growth.

One official said China will “stress ceremony” through activities designed to support China’s power projection policies in Asia while covertly trying to undermine U.S. strategic interests.

One goal, said officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity, is to try to drive a wedge between the United States and Japan, which China views as its main rival to regional power after the United States.

Photographs of Mr. Rumsfeld meeting with Chinese military and civilian leaders will be used to reassure Asian nations that are worried about China’s growing military and economic power, the officials said.

Chinese President Hu Jintao told President Bush last month that China places importance on Mr. Rumsfeld’s visit, said Michael Green, an official with the National Security Council.

The U.S. intelligence officials said one concern is that Chinese officials will press their Pentagon counterparts to seek the removal of 39,000 U.S. troops from South Korea, which has been developing closer ties to China’s military.

The Chinese military also is expected to try to convince the Pentagon that it is open about its arms buildup, even though U.S. intelligence knows little about China’s weapons systems.

Mr. Rumsfeld said in a June speech in Singapore that China is building up its forces and deploying missiles that threaten Taiwan at a time when no nation threatens China.

He also criticized China’s lack of democracy, saying, “China will need to embrace some form of a more open and representative government if it is to fully achieve the political and economic benefits to which its people aspire.”

Bush administration officials who oppose Mr. Rumsfeld’s hawkish views on China say the defense secretary will voice the State Department position, outlined by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, that the United States supports the emergence of a strong China.

Mr. Rumsfeld so far has not said he supports the emergence of a strong China, only that he hopes China develops as a more democratic power.

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