Chinese-U.S. Relations Take Center Stage: Some Experts Fear Imperial Goals in Future

Article excerpt

Western political analysts are virtually unanimously agreed that China is the fastest-rising potential superpower for the 21st century, but they continue to fiercely debate what this will mean for the United States and the West.

Some analysts, such as Paul Wolfowitz, dean of the Paul Nitze School of International Studies at Johns Hopkins University, believe that China may present the same kind of aggressive challenge to the Western democracies in 20 or 30 years as Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union did this century.

Speaking last month at the second annual congress of the New Atlantic Initiative (NAI) in Phoenix, Mr. Wolfowitz, who was undersecretary of defense in the Bush administration, warned that China, as an emerging, heavily industrialized superpower of 1.2 billion people, could present the same destabilizing challenge to the existing international system as imperial - and later Nazi - Germany did in the first half of the 20th century.

No regional power in Asia has the strength to counterbalance the emerging strength of China on its own, Mr. Wolfowitz said.

Speaking this week to reporters and editors at The Washington Times, Mr. Wolfowitz said he believed the current strategic cooperation between Russia and China was motivated by short-term economic factors and, then in the long run, Russia would seek to cooperate with the United States, the NATO alliance and Japan to balance China's growing power.

"The main glue in the Russia-China relationship right now is [the exchange of Chinese] money for [Russian] weapons," Mr. Wolfowitz said. "The Russians would like the United States to encourage Japan to invest in their Far East region" to counter the growing Chinese influence there.

Other analysts also believe that China is systematically building up its power to eventually challenge U.S. dominance in the Western Pacific.

Ross Munro, co-author of the recent book, "The Coming Conflict With China," has argued that the United States and China are on a collision course "because China's long-term strategic goal is to dominate Asia."

But U.S. policy for the past century, since the "Open Door" of John Hay, President Theodore Roosevelt's secretary of state, has been to prevent any single power from dominating Asia, Mr. Munro said.

"We don't want to dominate Asia. They want to dominate Asia," he said.

CHINESE OBSESSION

"There is almost an obsession among Chinese leaders about squeezing out American influence from the Asian continent," said Mr. Munro, former Toronto Globe and Mail correspondent in Beijing and a former analyst for the Foreign Policy Research Institute in Philadelphia.

Other analysts such as Frank Gaffney of the Center for Security Policy have criticized the Clinton administration for allowing the sale of advanced U.S. technology to China that can have military applications.

They note that in May 1996, federal authorities announced they had broken up a Chinese smuggling ring that had sold thousands of AK-47 machine guns to West Coast street gangs and was also prepared to supply them with shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles.

Senior Chinese government officials, including Maj. Gen. He Ping, son-in-law of China's late paramount leader Deng Xiaoping, were involved with the Chinese company that dealt in the sales.

As further evidence of China's suspected long-term strategic hostility toward the United States, critics cited Beijing's sale to Pakistan of ring magnets, a key ingredient in the enrichment of uranium for nuclear weapons pur-poses. Former Undersecretary of State Lynn Davis said the sale marked a violation of the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty.

However, other experts argue that a long-term strategic clash between China and the United States is far from inevitable and that demonizing China's current policies could bring about the very confrontation that could otherwise be avoided. …