China, for most of its 3500 years of history, China led the world in agriculture, crafts, and science. It fell behind in the 19th century when the Industrial Revolution gave the West clear superiority in military and economic affairs. In the first half of the 20th century, China continued to suffer from major famines, civil unrest, military defeat, and foreign occupation. After World War II, the Communists under Mao Tse Tung established a dictatorship that, while ensuring autonomy of China, imposed strict controls over all aspects of like and cost the lives of tens of millions of people. After 1978, his successor Deng Xiaoping decentralized economic decision making; output quadrupled in the next 20 years. Political controls remain tight at the same time economic controls have been weakening. Present issues in China are: incorporating Honk Kong into the Chinese system, closing down inefficient state-owned enterprises, modernizing its military, fighting corruption, and providing support to tens of millions of displaced workers.
Today, China remains the major issue in U.S. security policy in Asia. The currently dominant security policy holds that China has essentially replaced the former Soviet Union as the chief strategic threat to the United States in the region, and the U.S. should essentially retain its containment strategy, with China as the new target. The basis of this new strategy includes a strengthening of cold war-era bilateral military alliances in with the development of a Theater-based Missile Defense system that would cover South Korea, Japan, and Taiwan. Revelations in early-to-mid 1999 indicating a pattern of Chinese nuclear weapons and missile technology espionage dating back from the 1970s to the mid-1990s has raised fears of China as an enemy to the highest level in 20 years. China’s defense budget has grown more than 50% over the course of the 1990s and is said to have increased 15% in 1999. China’s occupation of 11 islands and reefs in the Spratlys, including Mischief Reef, 378 kilometers from the Philippines is also used as evidence of the expansionist nature of China.
The accusations of espionage are more telling of the weaknesses in U.S. security than of providing any significant evidence that the Chinese have used this data to gain a qualitative strategic advantage relative to the United States. A more balanced conclusion would be that the espionage reveals that the privatization of the management of nuclear weapons labs did not adequately take into account the United States’ national security concerns. A report by Clinton’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory concluded that a “culture of arrogance” at the weapons labs had “conspired to create an espionage scandal waiting to happen” while another report by the General Accounting Office said that Los Alamos and Livermore had ignored warnings about their security for years.
The most recent news about the espionage situation with China has involved a man name We Ho Lee. Lee was terminated from his position at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in March for allegedly passing on classified information on the W-88 nuclear warhead to China. It is said that Lee leaked the documents electronically onto an unsecured computer network.
Since the furor over alleged Chinese espionage waned over the summer, U.S. intelligence and law enforcement officials narrowed the list of nuclear secrets that Beijing most likely stole while expanding the pool of potential suspects. After three years of a narrow focus on the Los Alamos nuclear weapons lab in New Mexico and Wen Ho Lee, officials now acknowledge that the classified information China most likely stole was accessible to hundreds of people at several federal facilities.
A primary piece of evidence continues to be a 1988 Chinese document that suggests China stole valuable information about nearly every major weapon in the current U.S. nuclear arsenal, including the W-88 miniaturized submarine warhead that is one of America’s most sophisticated weapons. This document was an important element of the report issued by a congressional committee chaired by Rep. Christopher Cox on Chinese nuclear espionage earlier this year. The Cox Report pointed to that document as evidence of the extent of China’s spying at U.S. nuclear labs.
More recent assessments by U.S. intelligence, however, conclude that a large portion of the information in that document most likely came from publicly available documents, some of which contained misinformation about American weapons. In the case of the W-88, intelligence officials now believe the 1988 Chinese document, which U.S. officials obtained in 1995, contains only a couple of pieces of classified information that could have been stolen only from secure facilities.
The growing dominance of commercial over security issues (as evident in the cases of the missile launches by Loral and Hughes) points to the dangers of having U.S. business interests shape peace and security issues toward China. Within the Clinton administration, a faction led by the Treasury and Commerce departments and promoted by transnational corporations opposed and continues to oppose security-based restrictions on trade and commerce, arguing that China’s partial liberalization make it a land of enormous trade and investment opportunity.
The London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies concludes that “China does not have the resources to project a major conventional force beyond its territory,” and points to China’s engagement with multilateral institutions and conventions as commander-in-chief of U.S. Pacific forces, Admiral Dennis Blair, has declared that “China will not represent a serious strategic threat to the United States for at least twenty years.”
China has demonstrated an increasing willingness to participate in efforts to control the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction by subscribing to or signing since 1992: the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, Chemical and Biological Weapons Conventions, and the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR). In addition, China has placed what the U.S. views as the most objectionable portion of its peaceful nuclear technology agreement with Iran on hold.
Last month, China completed its first successful test of a spacecraft for manned flight. In an article written by John Leicester which was drawn from the internet, he states that “this test has military implications because the same low-power propulsion system used to adjust the spacecraft’s orbit in flight could also be used to alter the path of offensive missiles, helping them evade proposed U.S. anti-missile defense systems known as TMD and NMD.
TMD, an acronym for Theater Missile Defense, and NMD, or National Missile Defense, would shoot down incoming missiles. The Clinton administration, with the support of Congress, is developing a limited national missile defense that could be deployed as early as 2005. It also is carrying out research with Japan on a regional missile defense.
Leicester then goes on to explain that China has condemned this action and have said that this could spark a costly and dangerous arms race. I cannot help but think how hypocritical that sounds because of all the allegations of espionage on the part of China! China is also worried that the TMD technology could be passed on to Taiwan, allowing the island that Beijing regards as a renegade province to defend itself against Chinese missiles.
The United States is trying to remedy this issue with diplomacy through having talks with Beijing aimed at bringing China into the World Trade Organization. China has been on a quest for membership in the WTO for 13 years. In order to join, China must reach agreements with the United States, the European Union, Canada, and other members for market opening.
As part of an agreement with China on the United States’ part, Congress must grant Beijing normal trade relations (NTR) status, formerly known as most-favored nation status. That would clear the way for China to open its markets and would guaranty Chinese goods the same low-tariff access to U.S. markets as nearly every other nation.
In closing, I think it is a good idea to make good with China because it seems as if China is becoming a very powerful nation. However, we must increase security at our most secret locations that contain sensitive information because the kind of information that has been leaked to China has been spread throughout the world long before China became one of our worries. We should not allow this situation to escalate high enough to cause another cold war. If another cold war happens, then it will just be a matter of time before someone presses the button that will causes our destruction.
Durant, Will, Ariel Durant. The Story of Civilization: Part IX: The
Age of Voltaire. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1965.
Frautschi, R.L. Barron’s Simplified Approach to Voltaire: Candide. NewYork: Barron’s Educational Series, Inc., 1968.