Cued on China

The Washington Times Weekly - - Editorials -

The in­flu­en­tial and bi­par­ti­san U.S.China Eco­nomic and Se­cu­rity Re­view Com­mis­sion’s 2006 re­port to Congress, re­leased two weeks ago, fo­cuses on the theme of how China ap­proaches its new role as a world power. In ad­di­tion to strongly crit­i­ciz­ing China’s fail­ure to im­ple­ment and en­force many new laws that it cre­ated to af­ter gain­ing en­try to the World Trade Or­ga­ni­za­tion, the re­port hits China’s con­tin­ued re­fusal to break from its sin­gle-minded mer­can­tilist for­eign pol­icy and ac­cept the re­spon­si­bil­i­ties fit­ting of a world power.

“China’s grow­ing thirst for oil and nat­u­ral gas, com­bined with its in­ter­est in counter-bal­anc­ing U.S. power, has been lead­ing it to un­sa­vory part­ner­ships with in­ter­na­tional out­liers such as Iran, Burma and Su­dan,” said panel Vice Chair­man Carolyn Bartholomew. This cri­tique has be­come all but syn­ony­mous with China’s rise. To meet its en­ergy re­quire­ments, China will need to dou­ble its oil im­ports by 2010, and meet­ing this, along with its other en­ergy needs, in the pre­dom­i­nant con­cern for Chi­nese for­eign pol­icy in the Mid­dle East, Africa and South Amer­ica.

When pol­icy-mak­ers in Bei­jing are forced to weigh a sup­ply of nat­u­ral re­sources against a threat to re­gional or in­ter­na­tional se­cu­rity — in such cases as Su­dan and Iran, for in­stance — they in­vari­ably opt to se­cure en­ergy re­sources. China’s grow­ing in­vest­ment in Latin Amer­ica, par­tic­u­larly oil-rich and anti-Ameri- can Venezuela, should also gar­ner sig­nif­i­cant at­ten­tion. China pro­vides the al­ter­na­tive to the U.S. mar­ket that Venezuela has sought, and that bur­geon­ing re­la­tion­ship ap­pears to be pro­gress­ing be­yond crude oil deals. China may be con­tent with a mer­can­tilist re­la­tion­ship, but Venezuela will try to rope China into a po­lit­i­cal bond, adding might to its would-be anti-Amer­i­can al­liance that has thus far lacked it.

One par­tic­u­larly im­por­tant rec­om­men­da­tion, from the more than 40 that the com­mis­sion in­cluded in its re­port, is that Congress press the di­rec­tor of Na­tional Intelligence to put in place a pro­gram bet­ter able to de­ter­mine the pro­gres­sion of China’s mil­i­tary mod­ern­iza­tion — a de­vel­op­ment that Bei­jing has re­buffed diplo­matic ef­forts to make more trans­par­ent. The need for a bet­ter un­der­stand­ing of China’s mil­i­tary ca­pac­ity was em­pha­sized again by a re­port in The Wash­ing­ton Times last week that re­vealed that a Chi­nese sub­ma­rine had fol­lowed the USS Kitty Hawk and its bat­tle group with­out de­tec­tion, per­haps por­tend­ing a greater pro­jec­tion of China’s mil­i­tary force in the Pa­cific.

While the United States can, and should, con­tinue to work diplo­mat­i­cally to con­vince China that it’s in­creas­ing in­flu­ence is best used as a “re­spon­si­ble stake­holder” in in­ter­na­tional af­fairs, U.S. pol­icy, both in the short-term and long-term, needs to be for­mu­lated around the as­sump­tion that China will con­tinue to es­chew such a role.

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