`Unbiased' China Data Needed, Senator Insists
Gertz, Bill, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)
U.S. intelligence agencies have a benign view of China and need more "alternative" analysis of the United States' most important future challenge, the chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence said yesterday.
In an interview, Sen. Richard C. Shelby, Alabama Republican, said he is working on legislation that would require more "unbiased" intelligence studies of China.
"What we're interested in is good analysis; the nation depends on it," Mr. Shelby said. "It has to be good, it has to be accurate; it has to be unbiased. Now, having said that, at times it's hard to get it." Mr. Shelby spoke to The Washington Times in his Senate office. He said it is very important to get the analysis on China correct because policy decisions made now will influence whether or not the United States will be prepared to meet the future challenge of China.
"Fifteen years from now I could see a different China than we see today," he said. "I do see a China with possibly a vigorous economy and a modernized arsenal, nuclear and conventional, with more navy."
Legislation to fix analytical problems will be added to the current Senate Intelligence Committee's authorization.
Mr. Shelby said the Senate intelligence oversight panel and its House counterpart "have to rigorously examine any findings regarding China, considering China could be a formidable, heaven forbid, military adversary."
"China is going to be our biggest challenge, militarily and economically, down the road," he said.
China is rapidly modernizing both its industry and military, he said.
"To turn a blind eye to that or to say that it's not going to happen for 40 years or 50 years, I think is being naive," Mr. Shelby said.
A Senate aide said the current cadre of China analysts tend to view China as "a benevolent panda bear" based on past U.S.-Chinese ties. "And a lot of that has seeped into the analytical products," he said.
"It's hard for a lot of people to conceive China as a threat because we've viewed them generally as benign," the aide said. "We're trying to encourage more contrarian and alternative analysis within the intelligence community, in the CIA in particular, on China."
More competitive analysis is needed on security-related issues, such as Chinese military developments.
For example, China is not trying to compete directly with the U.S. military in the same way Moscow did during the Cold War, the aide said.
"You frequently hear people say the Chinese navy . . . couldn't defeat the U.S. Navy in the battle of Midway if it were held today," the aide said. "But that's not what they need to do. What they need to do is create a zone of free action around Taiwan - that's their biggest priority - and if they can make a U.S. president hesitate or be deterred from acting in that area, then they've done what they need to do."
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