War Not Far From Us Now

From the December 2000 Trumpet Print Edition

Relations between the U.S. and China have seemed pretty good lately. Negotiations over China’s entry into the World Trade Organization have progressed steadily, and the U.S. granted it permanent Most Favored Nation trading status in October, so that China now benefits from Permanent Normal Trade Relations legislation.

America has even softened the tone of its disapproval of China’s human rights abuses and has offered surprisingly little condemnation over recently documented evidence of Chinese spying out of U.S. nuclear secrets.

It has also appeased the Chinese temper by ensuring its support of Beijing’s “one China” policy with regards to the thorny issue of Taiwan. U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright recently assured her Chinese counterpart of U.S. support for Beijing over Taiwan, insisting only that any eventual reunification with the democratic island be peaceful.

Meeting with Chinese President Jiang Zemin for 30 minutes at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Brunei on November 16, President Clinton expressed his administration’s view of the U.S.-China relationship: “I believe we have made some real progress in developing a mature, honest and working relationship that is basically quite positive” (ChinaOnline, Nov. 16).

Sounds promising. But why, then, do we continue to read reports of Chinese activity that is dangerously hostile to the U.S.?

The International Herald Tribune recently reported on a growing change in China’s perception of the U.S. “In government pronouncements, articles in the state-run press, books and interviews, the United States is routinely portrayed as Enemy No. 1,” it reported.

“Strategists writing in the pages of China Military Science, the military’s preeminent open-source publication, grapple publicly with the possibility that the United States and China could go to war, specifically over Taiwan. ‘A new arms race has started to develop,’ wrote Liu Jiangjia, an officer in the People’s Liberation Army, in a piece in the magazine. ‘War is not far from us now’” (Nov. 16).

The United States is increasingly viewed, and openly portrayed in the Chinese state-run media, as an obstacle to China’s two primary goals—unification with Taiwan, and gaining control over the strategic shipping lanes in the South China Sea. These rumblings of growing Chinese hostility toward the U.S. become more serious in light of reports of tangible action being taken to prepare for the expected conflict.

Stratfor Systems reported on November 8 that, recognizing that it could not hope to challenge the U.S. militarily in war, “China in recent years has begun to focus—in procurement and training—on waging smart wars against computer networks.”

They are focusing on information warfare—computer network attacks (cna). Stratfor continued, “U.S. vulnerability to cnas is tremendous. The risk of exposure to an attack in the U.S. grows at a similar rate as system networks.”

Add to this the fact that the U.S. is ill-prepared to deal with this unconventional warfare. Stratfor continues, “Awareness of infrastructure vulnerability at the national level is extremely low in the United States…. While the U.S. economy drives the expansion of network interoperability, China is accelerating its cna capabilities.”

We are reminded that the computer industry has been working in recent months with the government to ease export controls on high-performance computers, making it easier for nations that are not friendly toward the U.S. to buy them.

There is a potential disaster in the making here. One would hope that the conflict between great powers that is being prepared for now by China will find its way on to the agenda for the next U.S.-China meeting.