Perhaps only the most cynical can see what the Chinese are doing.
But for the entire world, it sure seems to me like Beijing is doing
everything it can to make good on threats to diminish U.S. hegemony and
power in the Asia-Pacific region.
Just yesterday, for instance, Bill Gertz, defense correspondent for
The Washington Times, reported that the Chinese have again
shipped missile components to North Korea, in violation of every
agreement — written and assumed — that Beijing has ever given America
regarding missile proliferation. Gertz’s report was nearly a carbon copy
of his last report about China sending missile components to North
Korea, which was similar to all the earlier stories he has written on
this subject. In other words, the Chinese obviously don’t care what we
think of this. They’re obviously going to keep doing it.
What should bother Americans, however, are the characteristically
muted responses to stories like this one from the Clinton
administration. Instead of outrage, Americans hear about the need to
“engage” Beijing. Instead of indignation, we hear about how we cannot
jeopardize imagined “progress” on Chinese human rights. Instead of
threats to boycott Chinese enterprise and hurt Beijing economically, we
hear about how we must work to foster democracy in China through
If we keep this up the last thing we’re liable to hear are the
detonations of Chinese ICBMs. It’s getting to be that real.
In all fairness, it should surprise no one that the Chinese are still
helping the North Koreans. They have always helped the North Koreans,
ever since they fought along side of them against U.S. and South Korean
forces during the Korean War. And, as it stands, the Chinese need to
maintain a strong North Korea as a hedge against U.S. power in South
What is surprising is the relative lack of seriousness being
taken over this issue by American political and congressional leaders,
with few notable exceptions. But seasoned China watchers say it is a
mistake to ignore Beijing’s political and military rumblings.
Bruce Herschensohn, a senior fellow with the Claremont
Institute and a noted China expert, agrees
that U.S. leaders are dangerously apathetic towards China.
He told me, “Many people see the 20th century as ‘The American
Century,’ but I think it’s safe to say that the 21st century is going to
be ‘The China Century.'” He believes China’s attempts to garrison the
Spratly Islands, ally with Russia, keep Taiwan off guard and continue to
supply North Korea are all signs that Beijing is attempting to “stake
out China’s claims” on territory it wishes to influence. These moves are
all designed to reduce U.S. influence and help China gain a better
position to negotiate concessions on a number of economic and
“The U.S. is not looking far enough down the road, in the 10- to
15-year range, of where we’ll be in relation to China,” Herschensohn
said. In fact, he added, there are already signs that the Clinton
administration especially is much too conciliatory with China and has
been especially tepid on the question of Taiwan security and
He noted that China’s saber rattling should be met with resolve, not
“If all the experts agree that the U.S. currently holds a
technological and military advantage over China but may not in a decade,
why not threaten to retaliate now if, for instance, China attacks
“China’s threats ought to be taken seriously,” he said. “I have
seen members of Congress and other officials dismiss the Chinese before
and be wrong about it.”
He told me he remembers seeing U.S. officials scoff at a warning from
Beijing a few days before Tiananmen Square that Chinese leaders would
use force to dispel democracy protesters. They did.
There is also another perspective to the Chinese threat. China is an
emerging world power, while some suggest U.S. power and influence has
climaxed and, in some instances, may actually be starting to wane. That
makes for dangerous times because leaders accustomed to the power and
might of America, in the throes of denial, can often make poor decisions
reflecting arrogance more than prudence.
Many in Congress and millions of Americans still believe, for
example, that the insipid loss of U.S. nuclear weapons data to China is
no big deal because “they’d never dare to attack us.”
There is no good reason to automatically assume the U.S. could never,
or would never, be attacked again. Pearl Harbor comes to mind, as does
the attack on the battleship U.S.S. Maine and the sinking of the
Lusitania, the British mail ship sunk by German U-boats during World War
I that eventually led to U.S. entry into the war.
The point is, it’s dangerously arrogant to be dismissive of the
threat China poses to U.S. interests now and especially in the future.
Even if one shot is never exchanged, the fact that the Chinese are
openly hostile to U.S. influence in “their” corner of the world ought to