China is stepping up its military preparedness to force reunification with Taiwan while maintaining the ability to keep at bay foreign forces sent to help defend the island democracy.

According to regional press accounts, Chinese military sources also say U.S. attempts to undermine Beijing’s readiness won’t have any effect on the communist regime’s bid to upgrade the capabilities of the People’s Liberation army, air force and navy.

Aircraft fly over USS John F. Kennedy. China is preparing to interdict U.S. carriers if sent to aid Taiwan.

One report in the pro-Beijing Wen Wei Po newspaper July 19 also quoted a senior PLA officer as saying China’s “chief aim now is to preserve national unification.”

“It is natural that all our military preparedness is for this,” the officer said.

Al Santoli, national security adviser to Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif., and author of the American Foreign Policy Council’s China Reform Monitor, said the Wen Wei Po usually reflects the viewpoints of China’s top leadership.

He said the paper “for the first time quoted a top military source as ‘not denying’ the PLA had shifted its strategic focus to the southeast coastal region,” which appears to indicate “Beijing is prepared to invade Taiwan and confront any U.S. forces in the region.”

Last year, President Bush said the U.S. would defend Taiwan in any way possible if attacked by China or any other nation. Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, speaking to Taiwanese military officials earlier this summer, reiterated the administration’s position.

Meanwhile, the South China Morning Post reported July 21 that secrecy is the “trump card” in China’s military arsenal.

“Among things irking the Pentagon as it engages Beijing is a perception that America, while former President Bill Clinton was in power, gave Chinese military officers high-level access to politicians, officials and facilities, but received little in return,” Santoli wrote.

Assistant Secretary of Defense Peter Rodman, in a recent visit to Beijing, has also reportedly expressed frustration over what the U.S. believes is the Chinese military’s reluctance to give American officials better access to PLA soldiers and equipment.

One of two Russian-built Sovremenny-class destroyers currently active in China’s Navy, which is set to purchase two more.

During the Clinton years, PLA officials were given access to U.S. military combat exercises and bases, but recently Bush administration officials are being shown martial arts demonstrations, displays of outdated aircraft and, Santoli says, “even tours of irrelevant facilities such as canteens.”

“It is clear China understands its own strategic interests … would be undermined by giving away too much information,” Santoli said. He also noted that Beijing is attempting to rely heavily “on elements of surprise as integral factors for any future military action.”

“China, as a developing power, seeks to retain ambiguity about its capabilities in order to gain strategic advantages,” he said, quoting Chinese policy analysts.

Recently, China has begun to deploy weapons such as hundreds of mobile-launched, medium-range ballistic missiles in military districts facing Taiwan. Also, U.S. officials believe China is working on strategies to target and defeat U.S. carrier battle groups that would likely be sent by Washington to defend Taiwan, should Beijing launch an attack.

A recent Pentagon report also said the Chinese were making qualitative leaps in military technology, aircraft and warships, and that under current conditions, Taiwan could lose its qualitative edge by 2005 if the island democracy did not spend more on its defense.

Chinese troops march between rows of short-range
DF-15 missiles

Richard Fisher, a senior fellow at the Jamestown Foundation and author of the think tank’s weekly “China Brief,” said China’s military preparedness campaign is a long-term endeavor.

“This is a sort of medium- to long-term goal that will be fulfilled before the end of the decade or shortly thereafter,” he told WorldNetDaily. “I haven’t seen any indication that China is preparing to achieve unification [with Taiwan]” over the next couple of months.

However, he said, “there are several reports” that China will use “the opportunity” of current and future military exercises “to demonstrate its displeasure with [Taiwan] President Chen Shiu-bian’s recent statements.”

Taiwan independence?

Earlier this week, Chen declared that Taiwan is “an independent, sovereign country” distinct from the communist Chinese mainland, drawing praise from his countrymen but ire from the United States, which officially has a “one-China policy,” recognizing only mainland China.

“Our country cannot be bullied, dwarfed or marginalized, and we are not a part or a province of another country,” Chen said via video-link to a gathering of pro-independence Taiwanese campaigners in Japan. “We cannot become the second Hong Kong or Macau because we are an independent sovereign country.”

“The U.S. has a one-China policy and we do not support Taiwan independence,” National Security Council spokesman Sean McCormack told this week.

Fisher said judging by Beijing’s pace of military modernization, in the coming years China is likely to become more powerful than Taiwan, making a declaration of independence infinitely more dangerous. On the other hand, he said, declaring it now would also most assuredly bring war with the mainland, though militarily, experts believe Taipei still has the upper hand for now.

Chinese T-63A amphibious tanks would likely be used
in any direct invasion of Taiwan

“Ten years from now the People’s Liberation Army will be far stronger and better able to enforce Beijing’s will on Taipei,” Fisher said, adding that there was no guarantee the Taiwanese people would even vote to declare independence from China.

Chinese unrest helps PLA

Another factor to consider, experts believe, is growing unrest in China – particularly among labor movements. How the communist Chinese leadership ultimately responds to such unrest could determine the fate of Beijing’s military modernization effort. If it responds predictably, some say that bodes well for the PLA.

“Almost every week in Hong Kong and mainland China, newspapers bring reports of some kind of labor action: a demonstration demanding pensions; a railway line being blocked by angry, unpaid workers; or collective legal action against illegal employer behavior such as body searches or forced overtime,” said labor researcher Tim Pringle in a feature published by China Labor Bulletin in Hong Kong.

“The mere fact that the Chinese media is reporting selected cases of worker action is testament to how widespread the phenomenon has become,” Pringle said.

Fisher said the Chinese publish annually “unauthorized demonstration” figures, and that in recent years they have increased and are now numbering in the thousands. However, rather than stall Chinese military modernization, Fisher believes such unrest will boost the value of the PLA.

“I think that for reasons that are mainly directed at internal politics and calculations for what it will take to maintain total control, China will continue to pour increasing amounts of resources into the military,” said Fisher, “even if there was a widespread economic crisis.”

A recent Pentagon report said China currently spends nearly $65 billion a year on its military, the second-largest military expenditure in the world. Officially, China says it only spends about $20 billion. While nowhere near the $300 billion figure spent by the U.S., China’s defense expenditures have been deemed high for Asia.

The PLA “is the major pillar of support for keeping the communist party in power and the stick it uses to beat down any opposition or unrest,” he said. “Increasing unrest will only increase the value of the military to Beijing’s leadership.”

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