On 22 June 2000, the US Department of Defense finally submitted its long-overdue report, titled "Annual Report to Congress on the Military Power of the People's Republic of China" to Congress. According to the FY2000 National Defense Authorization Act, the annual report should have been submitted by 1 February 2000. The delay was reportedly due to footdragging by the Clinton White House, eager to avoid any further bumps in the rocky relations with China.
The report addresses (1) China's grand strategy, security strategy, and military strategy; (2) developments in China's military doctrine and force structure, to include developments in advanced technologies which would enhance China's military capabilities; and, (3) the security situation in the Taiwan Strait.
One of the major conclusions of the report is that China is building up military forces in preparation for a possible conflict with the United States over Taiwan involving high-technology warfare. The unclassified version of the report states that "a cross-strait conflict between China and Taiwan involving the United States has emerged as the dominant scenario guiding [People's Liberation Army] force planning, military training and war preparation."
The Pentagon notes that "China seeks to become the preeminent power among regional states in East Asia. Beijing is pursuing a regional security strategy aimed at preserving what it perceives as its sovereign interests in Taiwan, the South China Sea, and elsewhere on its periphery and protecting its economic interests, while at the same time promoting regional stability."
But the report gives China wiggle room by saying that "[S]ome in China are aware that war with Taiwan could be economically and politically devastating. China's main national policy priority remains economic reform and development within an environment that is both peaceful and stable. To that end, Beijing has avoided activities that might threaten its economic growth and its access to foreign markets, investment, and technology. In initiating a military conflict with Taiwan, Beijing would run the risk of jeopardizing both its continued economic development and its political standing, especially among those regional states with which it has unresolved territorial disputes. China's resolve to employ military force, however, should not be discounted."
The report discusses developments in Chinese military doctrine, including "wars of no-contact" where air-power is the primary means of winning, exploiting critical vulnerabilities in adversarial defenses, "asymmetrical" warfare methods, and combining information warfare with irregular special and guerrilla operations.
Opposite Taiwan, Chinese missile forces pose a growing danger to the region, the report says. The Chinese military is acquiring an array of weapons that could be used in a "pre-emptive strike" against Taiwan, including long-range cruise missiles, air-launched bombs and short-range ballistic missiles, the report says.
The report states that Beijing's missile force will "grow substantially" with new missile facilities being built opposite Taiwan. The new bases mean China could attack the island "with little or no warning." "Should China decide to attack Taiwan, Beijing's goal would be to erode Taipei's will to fight with sufficient alacrity to avoid escalation of the conflict and potential third party intervention in the hope of forcing a political resolution in Beijing's favor," the report says.
The report suggests that China might resort to nuclear weapons if the U.S. intervenes in Taiwan's favor. "If a third party were to intervene militarily in a regional conflict involving China, the PLA would employ all means necessary in the hope of inflicting high casualties and weakening the intervening party's resolve," states the Pentagon.
The report also states for the first time that, "After 2005. . .if projected trends continue, the balance of air power across the Taiwan Strait could begin to shift in China's favor. . . ." This is a consequence of a build-up of new Russian fighters and fighter bombers, plus Israeli radar planes and better tactics and training. The new warning should be added to those of last year about the Chinese military's gathering short-range missile threat, which should be substantial by 2005, and a warning about Taiwan's inability to break through a naval blockade.
The report adds more information about the high-technology focus of the People's Liberation Army. The PLA is "investigating the feasibility of ship-borne laser weapons for air defense." Only the U.S. is known to be doing the same. China's "theoretical understanding" of stealth technology is said to be "excellent," and it is building a new, stealthy jet fighter.
The report sees China's qualitative edge over Taiwan's military forces growing strongly by 2010. The report underscores a key element in the Taiwan Security Enhancement Act -- the need for operational training between U.S. and Taiwanese forces to meet the PLA's integration of advanced systems.
"The change in the dynamic equilibrium of forces over the long term will depend largely on whether Taiwan is able to meet or exceed developments on the mainland with programs of its own. Its success in deterring potential Chinese aggression will be dependent on its continued acquisition of modern arms, technology and equipment, and its ability to integrate and operate these systems effectively, and its ability to deal with a number of other systemic problems - primarily the recruitment and retention of technically-qualified personnel and the maintenance of an effective logistic system - lest Taipei once again risk losing its qualitative edge."
On Wednesday, 21 June 2000, one day before the Pentagon report was issued, the House Armed Services Committee held a hearing on the "Strategic Intentions and Goals of China." Taiwan was very much a focus of concern. In his opening remarks, Committee Chair Floyd Spence (R-SC) noted, "The divergent security interests between the United States and China, especially as they relate to Taiwan, have led to increased concern that our two nations may be on a path that leads to more serious confrontation in the future."
Other hearing witnesses echoed Spence's concerns. Rear Adm. Michael McDevitt, USN (Ret.) stated in his testimony: "China is in many ways already a rival in East Asia. But being a rival is not the same as being an enemy and it would be a mistake for US policy to assume a hostile predisposition. The best orientation for US security policy would be to ensure that the United States continues to be appreciated by the vast majority of the countries of East Asia as a stabilizing presence. Emulating Teddy Roosevelt's formulation to "speak softly, but carry a big stick" would be a good way to do that."
Larry M. Wortzel of The Heritage Foundation also focused on the U.S. "strengthening traditional alliances based on shared values and systems."
The most comprehensive analysis was given by Professor Arthur Waldron, who is Lauder Professor of International Relations at the University of Pennsylvania and Director of Asian Studies at the American Enterprise Institute. On the next pages is a summary of prof. Waldron's testimony.
Prof. Waldron started his testimony by comparing the relations between the West and China now with those between the West and the Soviet Union just after WWII: in 1947, many in de West expected that after the joint defeat of Hitler, relations between the Soviet Union and the West would blossom. It didn't happen, because the Soviet Union was a Communist dictatorship, and needed external enemies to stay in power. George Kennan's 1947 "X article" applies to China today as it applied to Russia 50 years ago..
Prof. Waldron emphasized that China is carrying out a massive military buildup not because it faces threats or dangers it does not but rather because it remains a communist dictatorship which needs enemies. In spite of the fact that China is a poor country, it is spending tens of billions of dollars every year on costly military programs, ranging from a manned space program to extensive nuclear warhead development to the perfection of new generations of mobile, solid-fueled ballistic missiles, to submarines to aircraft to aircraft carriers, not to mention communications, satellites, and electronics. "To what end, since China today faces no identifiable enemy?" Waldron asked.
He identified three major reasons: 1) the increasingly important role of the military in politics, 2) the need to define external and patrioticand therefore acceptablemissions for them. One of these now is to prevent aggression by the US or Japan. Another is to recover Taiwan. And 3) the Communist party's absolute rule can only be justified by invocation of external enemies, enemies so threatening as to make plausible the postponing of any political reform until the problem is solved. He thus expects that, absent some systematic change in China, a steady level of military tension with Beijing with the real possibility of a crisis must be expected in the years ahead.
Prof. Waldron then discussed the Taiwan issue, saying that it is an issue chiefly because Beijing says it is one. "The island itself poses absolutely no threat whatsoever to China, unless we agree with Beijing that a fully functioning Chinese democracy is threatening", said Waldron. He stated that the expectation, which has been around since the 1970s that a deal was coming soon by which Taiwan settled pretty well on Beijing's terms"one country, two systems" has now definitively failed. Taiwan has a new president and a reinvigorated administration that will insist on sovereignty and equality.
Professor Waldron went on to say that China's big problem, is not with Taiwan, but with the fact that some in China envision an Asian order in which China somehow dominates. In order to make this happen, it is actively working to reduce US alliances in Asia. The recent Korean diplomacy, in which China clearly had a major role, prepares the way for a campaign to end South Korea's close alliance status with the United States. That in turn will bring the Japanese alliance into doubt.
Prof. Waldron considered this deeply worrying, because the pattern is so similar to what occurred before World War II: the cutting of Japan's alliance with Britain, the substitution of a weak multilateral system, an international tilt toward China that left Japan feeling cheated and finally, of course, Japan's catastrophic decision that, because the international community was unwilling to take her security needs seriously, therefore she had no choice but to act unilaterally.
Prof. Waldron described how China is building up a network of her own, cultivating Russia by pouring money into the floundering ex-Soviet arms industry, and receiving in return technology that greatly increases her military wherewithal. He sees an opportunistic triangulation in order to bring pressure on Washington and make the occasional million dollars from arms sales.
He then analyzed how China is pursuing hegemony over the Asia region in very much the same way Germany was pursuing its dominance over Europe, including its fascination with lightning victory, with strategems, deception, very much in the same way as Germany's "Blitzkrieg." Waldron states that China is planning hard to use this approach with Taiwan, while counting on keeping the United States out of the conflict with nuclear threats and the capability to attack US carrier task forces.
Professor Waldron concluded with a number of recommendations on what the United States should do, some of which are:
Rebalance our diplomacy. Move away from the current administration's almost obsessive focus on China to deal with other states as well. We need to strengthen our political and military ties with other democratic states, and always put our allies first.
Make the Chinese arms buildup an issue. US pressure prevents Taiwan from developing missiles, and Japan has none. But China's missile program gets a free pass. Waldron stated that the US has reportedly intervened to prevent our Korean and Japanese allies from making demarches to Beijing about their missile program. Yet, what drives the entire arms race in Asia is China's missile program.
See to it that China cannot use free world finance for military plans. China has received some three hundred billion dollars in foreign investment since the 1970s and now regularly works in foreign capital markets. There is no reason for the rest of the world to finance a Chinese military buildup.
One of the major issues in China's threat against Taiwan is the rapid increase in the number of short-range ballistic missiles aimed at Taiwan. In the beginning of 1999, a US DOD report indicated that the number deployed at that time was between 150 and 200, and that this number was expected to increase to a level of 650 by 2005.
One of the best ways to help defend Taiwan against this increasing threat, is to bring Taiwan under the umbrella of the Theatre Missile Defense (TMD) program presently being considered by the United States. The TMD is a smaller, regional version of the National Missile Defense which is so hotly debated these days, following the mishap on 7 July 2000, when a test missile failed to separate from its booster and thus did not hit the intended target missile.
As was so eloquently stated in a 9 July 2000 editorial in the Washington Post, titled "The Missile Misses", this test failure doesn't change the underlying reason for the missile defense system. The Washington Post:
One such reason [for deployment of the TMD] was eloquently provided last week by China's Communist rulers as they argued vociferously on the other side. They didn't bother to mask their rationale: China claims a right to bomb or invade the democratic country of Taiwan, and it doesn't want anyone to stand in its way. It opposes a theater missile defense that might protect Taiwan.
And it opposes a U.S. continental defense that would reduce China's ability to threaten the United States with nuclear missiles and thus, its leaders hope, discourage America from coming to Taiwan's aid in a crisis. To listen to China's complaints is to understand one rationale for missile defense.
At around the same time, US Assistant Secretary of State for Arms Control, stated during a visit to Beijing that the United States has not ruled out that at some time in the future it will provide Taiwan with Theatre Missile Defense capabilities to protect itself against a missile attack by China ("Taiwan may get antimissile technology", Washington Post, 9 July 2000).
Taiwan Communiqué comment: Bringing Taiwan under the TMD shield is the best way to avoid a future conflict in the Taiwan Strait. Unless the United States makes it crystal clear that it will help defend Taiwan, China will continue to threaten and intimidate the democratic island. Perpetuation of Mr. Clinton's "strategic ambiguity" will only embolden the Communist leaders in Beijing and the hardheaded generals in the PLA.
In our previous issue, we reported on Israel's plans to sell China at least one, and perhaps as many as eight Russian-made Ilyushin-76 AWACS planes equipped with the Israeli-designed Phalcon radar, and urged Israel to cancel the deal ("Caught between principle and greed", Taiwan Communiqué no. 91, pp. 20-22).
In the intervening two months, the deal has become a major political issue between the United States and Israel, with Congress threatening to cut funding for military aid to Israel, and the Clinton Administration _ to its credit putting significant pressure on Israel not to go ahead with the deal.
It appears likely that the matter will continue to fester unless Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak terminates the deal. At the end of June 2000, the House Appropriations Committee voiced strong objections to the deal, and endorsed a non-binding resolution calling on Israel to terminate the existing US$ 250 million contract for the first aircraft. A leading Democratic member of the Committee, David Obey (D-Wisconsin) stated that Israel has until September to rectify the situation, otherwise the Congress would surely take punitive action against Israel by cutting the military aid funding.
In Israel itself, the press has started to see the seriousness of the matter, and has published editorials urging the Barak government to give up on the deal and to maintain good relations with the United States government and Congress. In an editorial on 22 June 2000, the Ha'aretz urged Barak to cancel the deal sooner rather than later, to avoid irrevocable damage to US-Israeli relations. The daily Ma'ariv expressed itself in similar vein.
On the other hand, some Israeli industry leaders were quoted in the Washington Times as saying that canceling the China deal would be "bad for business" since it would reduce the possibility to market the Phalcon system elsewhere, such as in Turkey, India and South Korea ("U.S. pressure bad for business", Washington Times, 3 July 2000).
Taiwan Communiqué comment: Those people in Israel who still favor the sale of the AWACS to China still don't seem to have gotten the basic message that this sale to a repressive, Communist country that threatens its neighbors is equivalent to selling weapons to Hitler Germany.
Israel, where is your moral standard? Where is your sense of decency? Is business profit the only thing you care about? You know very well what it is like to be a small nation threatened by belligerent neighbors. Instead of looking for financial profit, you should display solidarity with the people in Taiwan -- and Tibet for that matter -- instead of assisting the Chinese aggressors. Or does Israel intend to become the latest "merchant of death?"
Back to: Table of Contents
Copyright © 2000 Taiwan Communiqué