In recent weeks Washington has become increasingly wary of one of
the most powerful geopolitical trends in today's world - the
emergence of China as an economic superpower.
The unsolicited Chinese bid to take over a US oil company has
riled Congress in particular. Many lawmakers are calling for
retaliation against a nation they believe has long flouted the rules
of fair international trade.
The White House, for its part, has been reluctant to publicly
criticize a deal that may never be consummated. And in general, say
analysts, attempts to hobble China's economic rise would be as
futile as using ropes to try to restrain a rocket. They would only
earn the enmity of the nation that may be most likely to emerge as
the world's next superpower.
"Perhaps because China is our strategic rival we are
overreacting," says Gary Saxonhouse, an expert on Asian economies at
the American Enterprise Institute.
Yet some moves are already being made. On Tuesday, the House
voted to add to this year's foreign-aid bill a provision that would
prohibit the US Export-Import Bank from approving loans to help US
firms build nuclear power plants in China.
Backers of the move argued that US government agencies should not
help finance China's rise, and that the Chinese should be prevented
from obtaining sensitive American nuclear technology.
Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R) of California went so far as to call
China a "Frankenstein monster" threatening US interests.
Meanwhile, key members of Congress were increasing pressure on
the White House to investigate the $18.5 billion bid of the Chinese
energy company CNOOC for Unocal Corp. House leaders were hoping to
pass as early as Thursday a nonbinding resolution urging a national-
security review of the deal.
On Tuesday, House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Rep. Joe
Barton (R) of Texas sent President Bush a letter urging him to block
the Unocal deal. Unocal's vital oil assets in the Gulf of Mexico and
Alaska shouldn't be under China's control, said Mr. Barton. In
addition, Unocal's advanced oil- and gas-exploration and production
techniques might have military applications, according to Barton and
cosigner Rep. Ralph Hall (R) of Texas.
Furthermore, China now has the third largest military budget in
the world, and its buildup of troops and weapons worries the
"The Chinese are great economic and political rivals, not
friendly competitors or allies in democracy," the letter said.
That China is now the economic engine of Asia is indisputable. …