"When Nothing is Amiss in the World, Why Disturb It?
Comments on US Department of Defense's 'Report on China's Military Power'"

By Zhan Yan Jiefangjun Bao

September 8, 2003

(FBIS Translated Text) During his speech last year at Qinghua (Tsinghua) University, President Bush said that China is one of the most energetic and creative countries in the world, and that the United States welcomes the power and prosperity of China. In his many meetings with the Chinese leadership, he emphasized that good China-US relations are not only extremely important for US security interests, but also have extraordinary significance for the Asia-Pacific Region, and indeed the entire world. For the past two years, China-US relations have developed smoothly on the whole and, following the end of the Cold War, are in their "very best period" (according to US Secretary of State Colin Powell). China is making every effort to build up stable China-US relations and is actively promoting regional and world peace. However, the US Department of Defense's "Annual Report on the Military Power of the People's Republic of China" (hereinafter abbreviated as "Report"), which made its appearance at the end of July, reveals much worrisome content which is out of line with the mainstream of China-US relations.

Misrepresenting China's Strategic Goals and Defense Policy

Because the United States in its strategic perceptions defines China as "a country that is currently emerging, but with unclear developmental directions, and which challenges the objectives and interests of the United States in the Asia Pacific Region," it therefore maintains a high degree of caution towards China's developmental trends. This year's "Report" has yet to shed the stale old cliches of the previous two reports and continues to be crammed with suspicion. In analyzing China's future strategic aims, the "Report" takes the development of "comprehensive national power" and establishment of "strategic configurations" as China's two big and simultaneously pursued objectives.

It particularly mentions that an economically powerful China will "reallocate resources and establish some kind of more favorable 'strategic configuration'. " It hints that China is dissatisfied with the status-quo and is energetically pursuing its strategic interests within an even greater sphere, especially towards extending the strategic maritime channels tightly controlled by the United States; "is continuing to seek opportunities to weaken US influence in this region"; and is challenging the US-dominated "strategic configurations. " In fact, since reform and opening up, China, in setting its national strategic goals, has always clearly placed development of the economy and raising the living standards of the people as its main objectives. China neither has political aspirations nor the military capability for external expansion. Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir bin Mohamad has put it bluntly: "Asian countries need not fear China's ever-growing military and economic powers, because China has no tradition of external territorial aggrandizement (dui wai zheng fu de chuan tong)."

In commenting on China's security strategies and military objectives, the "Report" uses the development view to interpret China's complex and grim peripheral security environment and security-related strategic goals, and not the aspect of the international strategic situation. In understanding why the Chinese Government prioritizes concern for the core objective of national unity, it tendentiously considers that "avoiding challenges to the existence and position of the Communist Party is the most important element of consideration." This kind of understanding which narrows, simplifies and politically generalizes China's security interests shows that in the United States' view of China, its fundamental and deep-rooted ideological coloration has still not faded.

In fact, compared to what the United States has focused on, the scope of China's security interests is broader by far. China confirms that the basis of its strategic objectives not only includes the ever-changing international situation, but also the new terrorism, separatism, extremism, the spread of weapons of mass destruction, transnational crime, narcotics smuggling, environmental degradation, and AIDS -- threats which are traditional or non-traditional, actual or latent. In analyzing China's security-related strategic objectives, the "Report" treats these threats that China faces in a cursory manner, especially the threat of terrorism. This shows that the elements forming the basis of the analysis by the United States of a big country's strategies are too reductionist. It exposes the inaccuracy and irrationality of the "Report's" approach which inevitably lead to the bias of its point of view and unconvincing nature of its conclusions.

The "Report" sees China as "using tricks" of ambiguity in the areas of its security and military strategies, intentionally downplaying its long term ambitions, and obscuring its real strategic goals. The "Report" especially mentions the trends and aims of China's nuclear development and its developmental tendencies towards the militarization of space, and then raises questions about these defense strategies. In the view of the "Report," the principle of defensive military strategy pursued by China is not inherently passive or defensive, and "not necessarily well-intentioned or peaceful. " In fact, as a big developing country, the number one task of military strategic objectives is to protect the security of the state, and to create and safeguard a peaceful environment for economic development. China adheres to the policy of its forces build-up in service of, and subordinate to, the big picture of economic development. China pursues a policy of independent and sovereign peaceful diplomacy and always actively strives for world peace.

China neither seeks to lead the world nor does it have pretensions of becoming a "regional hegemon. " Militarily, China follows a peaceful and defensive national defense policy. It actively promotes international disarmament and prevention of the spread of weapons of mass destruction.

China actively promotes the building of a stable security environment along its periphery and internationally, and will not pose a threat to any country which treats us well.

Exaggerating China's Military Power

The bulk of the "Report" discusses in detail the various aspects of China's military power. From military theory and strategic training to management, command and control; from conventional power to strategic power; and from the current weapons equipment of the various military services to the various kinds of innovative weapons of modernization, the "Report's" coverage is very broad. Although the "Report" admits that "very little is known about those most important areas of China's military power," clear information is conveyed "from between the lines" that China is presently engaged in a rapid build up of its military power and that its military power poses a grave threat to Taiwan, the United States, and its allies. In its lurid exaggerations of the threat of China's military power, the "China threat" hovers like a shadow over the entire report.

The "Report" states that China's published military expenditures in 2002 were $20 billion, but that the real number could be as high as $65 billion. China thus "has become the world's second biggest-spending country on military expenses, after the United States," and "the top such spender in Asia. " At the same time, the "Report" boldly projects that by 2020, China's military expenses will have increased in real terms three to four times. The reason for such an inordinate exaggeration by the United States of China's military power is that "most of the national defense modernization expenditures are not in the military budget. " There is no need to be coy about this; for the past several years Chinese military expenses did indeed achieve a certain increase to meet the needs of its forces build-up and reform. However, such increases were still at a fairly low level. The 2002 military expenditure of 169. 4 billion yuan was 1. 6 percent of national GNP, while those of the United States reached 3. 5 percent. If there were $65 billion in such expenditures, as conjectured by this "Report," then the weighting of military expenses in the GNP and in the national financial revenue would reach 5. 4 percent and 29 percent, respectively. In today's world, no country could undertake such ratios. Just think, if China really invested this much money into the modernization of its forces, then how could it be that "economic construction is the core"? And how could it maintain the world's fastest rate of economic growth? With only a little more analysis and, leaving bias aside, such a conjecture would be totally unable to bear scrutiny.

The "Report" goes on, page after page, discussing the great amount of new model weapons and armaments currently being researched and developed by the various branches of China's military, and it talks in detail about Russia's weapons sales and technology transfers to China. The "Report" plays up the newest levels of development of China's weapons, and implies that China's modernization now forms a threat to international society. The truth is, the weapons of China's armed forces overall still do not meet with the requirements of warfare, let alone match other big military countries which lead the world in the trends of the new military transformation. Just imagine, a country which needs to import high tech weapons from other big military countries -- could you say that its weaponry has reached levels where it poses a threat to international society? In May of this year, the US Council of Foreign Relations published an appraisal which acknowledged that, "in military technology and capabilities, China's armed forces are at least 20 years behind the United States. " In June, the non-profit International Crisis Group published an appraisal of the Taiwan Strait conflict, pointing out, "In equivalence, Taiwan's imported weapons clearly exceed the Mainland's." In reality, the thinking of the US military is quite clear. There is still a big gap between the level of China's military technology and that of the United States. It is simply for reasons which it cannot say outright that it intentionally plays this up so much.

Regardless of military expenditure or weapons, the end purpose of this intentional exaggeration by the United States is to try to lead to the conclusion that China's military capabilities already pose a threat and a challenge to the region, and to the world. Looking at the "big picture" of the world, it is normally the earnest hope of every country to protect its own security by modernizing its military power. No country would automatically abandon military power. No country would adopt measures viewing as unimportant the various kinds of security threats that confront it. The United States is the current top military power in the world. No one can hope to match its military strength. But even so, it still has incrementally large increases in its military expenses as it endlessly raises the technological level of its armaments.

China is a country with a vast area facing all kinds of complex security threats. Even if it appropriately increases military expenses, improves its armaments, and carries out a modernizing build-up of its armed forces, this is completely for its self defense and to protect its national security and territorial integrity. There is nothing wrong with that.

Fabricating Excuses To Hasten Military Sales to Taiwan

It stands to reason that the main aim of the US Department of Defense in concocting this "Report" is for military sales to Taiwan, and to ensure the strategic interests of the United States in the Asia Pacific region. For a long time now, quite a few people in the United States have consistently made Taiwan into a strategic pawn with which to stem the rise of China, and the preservation of the status quo of the split in the Taiwan Strait as key to ensuring the strategic interests of the United States in the Asia-Pacific region.

Beginning with the publication of the first "China Military Report" in 2000, the "China threat theory" has become the keynote of this kind of report. This year's "Report" makes a greater effort to cover this up with a seemingly objective presentation but gives the clear impression that when comparing the forces on both sides of the Taiwan Strait, there is a "directional tilt" in favor of the Chinese Mainland. The "Report" intentionally overdoes its argument of the "Mainland threat theory," the "desperate Taiwan situation," and the "desperate situation of the United States' Asia-Pacific interests. " By its exaggeration of the "Mainland threat" in the Taiwan Strait crisis, its real purpose is none other than to fabricate for the US Congress, the public, and Taiwan, a sense of crisis and dread over the increased possibility of an attack by the Mainland against Taiwan, to preserve the status quo in the Taiwan Strait, and to come up with the excuse for repeated weapons sales to Taiwan.

The most salient characteristics of this "Report" are its continuing strong exaggeration of the threat of Mainland guided missiles and its spreading of "guided missile threat theory. " The "Report" says, "If Taiwan does not raise the level of its defense capabilities, within several years China may have the capability to inflict serious damage to all of Taiwan's air bases and rapidly weaken Taiwan's land-based anti-aircraft system capabilities. " Furthermore, the "steady fall of its national defense budget as a proportion of government expenditures will increasingly pose a challenge to the modernization of Taiwan's armed forces. " At present, Taiwan's "defense capabilities (against the Mainland) ballistic missile are insignificant. " This clamoring is obviously to press Taiwan into reaching the decision as quickly as possible to buy the United States' "Patriot" (PAC-3) (acronym rendered in romanized letters) ground-to-air guided missile system. On the second day after the Pentagon's publication of the "Report," the White House spokesman announced that the Bush administration was prepared to "put into effect the promises we made (in the Taiwan Relations Act, signed in 1979)" to sell weapons to Taiwan for its self-defense. These two performances -- "one in front and one in back" -- look just like plays which are both tightly linked. You get the strong impression from this that the relevant departments on the US side have already worked things out in talks, and are just looking for an impressive-sounding excuse to sell weapons to Taiwan annually.

In order to make the "Report" appear realistic and credible, the drafters of the "Report" carried out "meticulous" selecting and layout from large amounts of source material. They have made "reasonable inferences and projections" in regard to the level of modernization of the PLA and the Taiwan Strait military situation, while at the same time padding it with much of their own material which seems true but actually is not. For example, the "Report" says "China's ambitious military modernization casts a shadow over its declared preference to consider peaceful means to resolve differences between the Mainland and Taiwan. " We must point out that the ill-will of the "Report" is extremely surreptitious and subtle (fei chang gui mi). Without actually saying so, it "naturally" indicates the Mainland as the dominant element in the contradictions involving Taiwan, and blames the mainland for the Taiwan Strait conflict. In fact, "Taiwan independence forces," based on their manipulation of political power, frequently provoke revolt. The real source of the Taiwan Strait crisis is the influence of the "Taiwan independence" movement.

According to US scholar David Isenberg, many US analysts interpret the "Report" to mean that the United States is trying hard "to demonstrate the adversarial threat posed by a big country. " This scholar raises the opposite question of why "has not this report really made a final assessment of the overall threat posed by Asia in the future to US military power?" Contrarily, "the results of the assessment would show that China actually does not pose as serious a threat to the United States as is commonly claimed."

Normal Exchanges Between China and the United States Maligned

In the inner circles of the US Government and Congress there are always some people who are not willing to see China's development and the improvement in relations between China and the United States. They will jump out every time China-US relations move ahead and make up all kinds of reasons to obstruct them. Over the past few years the "China threat theory" has been half-hidden, half-visible. It has not only disturbed China-US relations, it has also attempted to create a rift in the relations between China and the countries on its periphery. Previously, the "China threat theory" had increasingly lost its "marketability" in international society; however, there are still some people who stop at nothing in trying to manufacture new obstacles to the China-US relationship.

In discussing sensitive military technology, the "Report" points out that China hopes to achieve its military aims through obtaining important foreign military-civilian dual purpose technology and knowledge. The "Report" states: "China has set up thousands of commercial entities in the United States. These entities operate with the business objectives of obtaining military-civilian dual use commercial goods which the United States limits for export to China, and controlled technologies. " Practically at the same time, the FBI fired off the alarmist information that "China has over 3,000 'front-line' companies in the United States whose main purpose is to direct espionage activities. Among the visitors, students, and businesspeople who come to the United States each year, there are many who have been given the mission of ferreting out intelligence for the government. " It also lists China as the United States' greatest espionage threat in the next 10 to 15 years. These are groundless frame-ups by anti-China forces in the United States. In fact, Chinese companies in the United States are the "fresh troops" which spur on China-US trade and exchanges. It is precisely such enterprises which can make China and the United States each other's fourth and second biggest trading partners, respectively. Using the United States' logic, since there are more US enterprises in China, would it not be reasonable to assume that they have been entrusted by the US Government to steal intelligence in China?

In reality, the trick of the "China spy threat" fabricated by a number of conservative forces in the United States did not just start today. In 1999 they made a big fuss over the "Wen Ho Lee case," which was later proven to be a complete fiction. Today, this "Report" repeatedly raises the so-called spy question, which cannot help but make people question the "Report's" true motives. For a long time now, the development of China's military technology and progress in its weaponry has had its foothold in self-reliance. There is no intention to steal US technology. Chinese people are smart enough and capable enough to practice technological creativity and to progress in weapons development.

The "Report," with its words of innuendo, clearly violates the original meaning of China-US exchange and it is not favorable to the stability of China-US relations.

China is a peace-loving country. The national character of inner restraint of the peace-seeking and defense-minded Chinese people, together with their rich, warm Confucian culture determines that it is impossible for China to carry out a military expansionist policy. China has neither the mentality, behavior, or habit for projecting outward appeal, nor the tradition of foreign expeditions of subjugation; nor even less the precedent of stationing troops outside of the country. China unswervingly follows the road of peaceful development. The objectives sought by military force development are to provide strong guarantees for national security, economic prosperity, and social stability. But the viewpoint held by this "Report" has misled public opinion and brought a discordant note to China-US relations. We hope that the United States will have much more understanding of the still-developing China, and make a lot fewer guesses. We convey to the world and the people of the United States correct and accurate information, and truly promote the forward development of the relations between both countries -- China and the United States -- and between the militaries of both countries, and we work for a more assured and more desirable peace for the world.

(Description of Source: Beijing Jiefangjun Bao (Internet Version - WWW) in Chinese -- Internet version of daily newspaper of the General Political Department of the People's Liberation Army (PLA), reporting on a wide range of military affairs. Root URL on filling date: http://www.pladaily.com.cn)

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