Byline: Fred Stakelbeck Jr., SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES
Chinese President Hu Jintao must be a very persuasive speaker. How else can one explain Washington's conciliatory actions toward Beijing in the wake of Mr. Hu's recent visit to the U.S.? Since that visit, the Bush administration has made several pro-China decisions in the areas of military cooperation, space exploration and economic policy that seem designed to bring the two competing world powers closer together.
This new "pro-engagement" approach differs greatly from previous statements made by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice over the past year concerning Beijing's global intentions. It also raises serious questions about the overall consistency and direction of the administration's China policy.
In May, the head of U.S. Pacific forces, Adm. William Fallon, met with high-level Chinese officials and called for improved military ties as a way to promote "greater transparency." During his four-city tour of China, the admiral endorsed joint military exercises between the two countries, saying, "It is high time we re-engage with the Chinese military. There are a lot of things we ought to be doing together." To that end, the possibility of Chinese participation in U.S.-led military exercises with Pacific allies Australia, Japan and Singapore was raised and Chinese personnel were invited to observe U.S. military exercises next month near Guam.
The offer of greater military cooperation comes at a time when the Pentagon prepares to confront an increasingly dangerous and unpredictable China. In its just-released China Military Power Report, the Pentagon called on Beijing to explain the purpose of its accelerated military buildup and noted that the country's rapid modernization had altered the military balance in the Asia-Pacific region. Only months before, the Pentagon's Quadrennial Defense Review also described China as a potential military threat. According to a Defense Department report to Congress, China's spending on defense in 2005 reached an estimated $90 billion, making the country one of the largest defense spenders in the world. Over the past decade, in fact, China's military budget has grown by double digits.
The Bush administration said recently that it was more concerned with China's military spending than the possibility of Russia's President Vladimir Putin embarking on his own arms buildup. And with good reason: Several reports have noted the growing threat posed by China's ballistic and cruise missile forces, rapidly modernizing submarine fleet and cyber-warfare technologies.
Just recently, Chinese researchers boasted that the country has developed technology that can detect and destroy the latest U.S. jet fighter, the F-22 (a radar-evading stealth fighter that entered service last year).
John Tkacik, an Asia specialist with the Washington-based Heritage Foundation, views Adm. …