In the following viewpoint, Frank J. Gaffney Jr. argues that the Chinese government may have long-term plans that are harmful to the United States and its vital interests. The author claims that, among other things, the People’s Republic of China is building up its armed forces, spying on the United States, and establishing relations with American allies and with anti-U.S. countries such as Iraq. Gaffney believes that to prevent future conflict with China, the United States should act now to subvert the Chinese Communist regime while also building up U.S. defensive capabilities in Asia. Gaffney is president of the Center for Security Policy in Washington, D.C.
As you read, consider the following questions:
1. What U.S. vulnerabilities does the author claim China is attempting to exploit through “asymmetric” means?
2. Why is it especially difficult to counter Chinese espionage, in Gaffney’s view?
3. What policies of the Clinton-Gore administration does Gaffney believe may have been affected by illegal Chinese campaign contributions?
The single-most important strategic question of the coming decade is likely to be: Is Communist China determined to harm the United States or its vital interests? The second-most important question is: If so, can conflict between our nations be avoided on terms that are consistent with the American people’s security and liberties?
Before examining these important issues, consider this observation about forecasts: There are few inevitabilities in the course of human conduct. Decisions taken—or not taken—at various points along the road can and do shape history. In hindsight, events may appear to be inevitable. But they rarely are.
The trouble is that, when living through a transitional period, we often are unaware of the turning points, of the choices being made. For example, take the period that led up to World War II.
Today we can clearly see evidence that the Nazis and Japanese were pursuing courses that would bring them into conflict with the United States and other Western democracies. We can also see the missed opportunities during the 1930s when different policies on the part of this country, Britain and France might have spared the world the conflagration that followed.
Yet at the time, the democracies were lulled into inaction by the seductive appeal of those who claimed that engaging with the thugs running Germany and Japan on their terms— a practice that came to be known as “appeasement”— would spare the West the tragic costs of another conflict.
This approach was tried again and again in the face of what proved to be insatiable demands by members of the fascist Axis. Feeding the tiger only made it come back for more. Despite the fact that Great Britain and Nazi Germany were each other’s largest trading partners, the war came when it suited Hitler.
What Beijing Wants
Unfortunately, I believe there is increasing evidence that a new conflict with an authoritarian regime is in prospect, this time with Communist China. As in the 1930s, this evi- dence is somewhat obscured by other information—what intelligence experts call “noise.” Some of it is genuine. Some of it is misinformation.
The difficulty of understanding which is greatly compounded by the efforts of those, like their counterparts of 60 years ago, who tell us that engagement will prevent conflict, that expanding trade and accommodation of China’s demands will ensure that peaceful relations between our two countries are preserved.
In fact, trade and accommodation will not necessarily prevent conflict with the People’s Republic of China any more than it caused Hitler to refrain from attacking Britain’s allies and, in due course, England herself. China is, after all, not the United States’ “strategic partner.”
As in the 1930s, we ignore evidence of a coming struggle with China at our peril. If anything will make that conflict inevitable, it will be our failure to address what the PRC is up to and the strategic implications of that behavior and policies that guide it for our vital interests and those of our allies in Asia.
Consider the following illustrative list of China’s ominous activities. Motivation and likely repercussions of these activities must be separate from the “noise” and addressed effectively.
• The PRC’s ambitious military modernization program: The Communist Chinese are engaged in what Mao might have called a “Great Leap Forward” in the lethality and power projection capabilities of their armed forces. The purpose of this effort is clear to those guiding the PRC’s People’s Liberation Army: to neutralize (preferably without a war) and, if necessary, defeat what the...