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GlobalSecurity.org In the News

CNSNews.com January 28, 2002

Dual Use Technology Exports to China Continue Unabated, Experts Say

By Lawrence Morahan

Despite official U.S. monitoring of the export of sensitive electronic equipment to China, the communist regime in Beijing still manages to acquire as much American technology as it needs to modernize its armed forces, which pose an increasing threat to the United States and its allies, China experts said. "I find this analogous to the terrorism situation," said Gene Poteat, president of the Association of Former Intelligence Officers.

"Nobody believed in terrorism and what would happen," added Poteat, a retired CIA scientific intelligence officer and an expert in China's threat capability. "We're sort of doing it to ourselves again by subsidizing these technology sales through our commercial purchases [from China]," he said.

Media attention to the export to China of dual use technology - a term that refers to equipment that has both military and civilian applications - has been eclipsed by the events of Sept. 11 and Beijing's pledge of support for the U.S-led war on terrorism, China observers said.

But China has not changed its fundamentally hostile stance toward the United States, or slowed in its efforts to expand and modernize its armed forces, experts said. Beijing continues to build and aim missiles at the United States, and harbors ambitions to become a regional superpower, threatening U.S. allies.

The United States assists these efforts indirectly by building factories and research centers in China, and by training Chinese engineers and scientists, analysts said. "It's not that we're exporting to China, we're investing in China," said William Hawkins, a senior fellow with the U.S. Business and Industry Council in Washington, and an expert on U.S trade with China.

Boeing is training Chinese engineers in the manufacture of parts for U.S. planes at facilities in China where the Chinese are building military aircraft, Hawkins said. Honeywell and other high-tech companies bring Chinese engineers to the United States to train them in the manufacture of electronics and aircraft parts, he said.

China also acquires U.S. technology through more than 800 companies in the United States, which Beijing maintains as front organizations. In early 1999, a U.S. House committee led by California Republican Christopher Cox concluded that the Chinese had stolen enough weapons information from the United States to allow them to improve their nuclear capabilities by several decades.

China Seeks U.S. Supercomputers

China is the main reason for export restrictions on supercomputers, whose primary use is in design work for aerospace applications, weapons' manufacture and nuclear modeling. "At the high end, there isn't a lot of purely commercial use for computers of that capacity," Hawkins said. "You don't need them to design the next VCR."

The United States is not the only Western country helping the communists. Japan is modernizing China's shipbuilding capability and Israel is supplying Beijing with the latest missile technology, Poteat said. Israel also is helping the communists update their conventional forces by installing new electronic sensors and more powerful guns in Soviet equipment used by the People's Liberation Army.

"Israel has found a niche market for its defense industry in going around and upgrading all the old Soviet equipment around the world," Hawkins said. "They have a good idea of how that stuff works, they captured so much of it from the Arabs."

China spends hard currency it earns through the sale of consumer goods to the West on the latest in modern weapons from Russia, including destroyers that have SSN-22 cruise missiles, which pose a serious threat to U.S. Naval forces in the Pacific, Poteat said. "These missiles, properly armed, could sink an aircraft carrier," he said.

China, in turn, supplies missile technology to countries inimical to the United States, specifically Pakistan, Iraq, Iran, and North Korea, Poteat said. "We are providing them an enormous amount of money through the trade deficit. They're building up their military and also exporting it and buying from other nations," he said.

John Pike, director of Globalsecurity.com, a defense think tank, said Americans have been lulled into a false sense of security through the election of George Bush to the White House. "The main reason you haven't heard anything about this as a public policy controversy for at least a year is because most of the controversy prior to that was just partisan politicking," Pike said.

The Bush administration has not noticeably changed the policies of the previous administration, he said. Most of the goods that go between the United States and China are screened for possible violations of trade and tariff regulations, such as anti-dumping regulations or violations of U.S. laws on the import of prison labor.

U.S-China Commission Report Due in June

U.S. officials who spoke at a U.S-China Commission hearing in Washington last week said, however, the United States closely monitors high-tech exports to China. Most export license requests are approved, but contain strict conditions, such as requiring follow-up inspections to make sure the equipment is being used for the approved purpose, they said.

The People's Republic of China accounts for 12 percent of all the export licenses handled by the Commerce Department. Officials were divided about how concerned the United States should be about exports of high-tech equipment to China. The commission is expected to make its first report to Congress in June.

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