Countering the Strategic Challenge of China

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), July 29, 1997 | Go to article overview

Countering the Strategic Challenge of China


Editor's note: The following is the latest memo on China policy from the Project for the New American Century, whose executive director is Gary Schmitt.

U.S.-China relations were largely stable when the two states had a common enemy in the Soviet Union. But with the Cold War's end, that mutual interest has disappeared. Now, China increasingly pursues foreign and defense policies at odds with those of the United States, both in Asia and elsewhere. It is hardly a surprise that this change in China's outlook toward the United States has paralleled its efforts to forestall domestic liberalization. China's current leaders wish to stay in power. They are using a policy of assertiveness abroad and repression at home to do so.

It may well be that China is a regime in transition. But the direction of that transition is neither certain nor necessarily friendly to American interests. Lacking elements of deterrence and sanctions, the Clinton administration's attempt to manage that transition has become little more than a hope and a prayer. As reflected by a number of new bills being offered in the House and the Senate, it is evident that many members in Congress find this situation to be unsatisfactory, and are looking for ways to put our China policy on the right path. Many of the bills contain useful and important proposals, including ones on human rights. We strongly support such an emphasis. But we also think that any serious effort to counter China's strategic challenge needs to include three essential components.

Strengthen alliances in the region

It is critical that we maintain our position of leadership in the region by strengthening our ties to our democratic allies in Asia. This will not only restrain the PRC, but will also reassure our friends in the region that China cannot simply deal with them bilaterally, using its relative size and growing power to dictate the terms of those relations. In addition to the normal measures taken to maintain alliance ties -joint military exercises, increased diplomatic and economic exchanges, etc. - Congress can, through appropriate legislative measures, insist on the following:

* The United States can make a commitment to maintain the current level of ground, air and naval forces in the region. This should be U.S. policy even if the situation on the Korean peninsula is resolved peacefully. As our continued military presence in Europe has shown, deployment of American troops abroad serves to confirm our continued commitment to the region's security. And a significant U.S. military presence also acts to lessen the chances that historical rivalries will reemerge.

* The U.S. can provide assistance to our allies in the region for developing ballistic missile defenses against the threat posed by Chinese ballistic missiles and China's growing willingness to use them to intimidate its neighbors. In the case of Japan, the United States can unequivocally express its support for Tokyo's likely decision soon to begin developing its own ballistic missile defense system. In the case of South Korea and Taiwan, the Congress can mandate that the United States provide whatever technical or material assistance is required for the development of missile defenses for those two states.

Target the PLA and PLA-owned companies

The People's Liberation Army controls large blocs of China's commercial enterprises. These PLA-controlled companies help subsidize China's military buildup. They also, by involving the families of party and military elites in company operations, help maintain their allegiance to the current regime through a pervasive system of corruption. Involved in weapons proliferation, arms smuggling, espionage, the diversion of dual-use technology for military purposes, the piracy of intellectual property, the use of forced labor, and the continued repression of political dissent, the PLA and PLA-owned companies should not be treated as normal commercial enterprises. …

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