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Christian Science Monitor.com June 28, 2005

China a security threat to US?

Chinese bid for Unocal, Pentagon worries over military spending lead to fresh discussion of Chinese 'threat'.

By Matthew Clark

Since the Chinese state-owned oil company CNOOC Ltd. offered to buy oil and gas company Unocal Corp. on Thursday, various news sources have been examining whether or not the deal would threaten US national security. "Congress was building pressure on the Bush administration to carefully examine the bid by CNOOC, which is 70 percent owned by the Chinese government," reports The Associated Press.


"Chinese bid for Unocal adds fuel to fire," reads a headline from Sunday's Washington Post.

In a report on National Public Radio's Morning Edition, Republican Illinois Congressman Donald Manzullo says he worries that the Chinese bid to buy Unocal could mean that China would keep the company's vast Asian oil reserves for itself, and not put the oil on the open market, thereby giving China an economic 'leg up.'

"The Unocal issue arises at a time of record oil prices, unease over China's $160 billion trade surplus with the United States and an appetite in Congress to punish China with tariffs unless it revalues its currency," reports Reuters.

"From the dusty plains of East Africa to the shores of the Caspian Sea, China is seeking to loosen the grip of the United States on world energy resources and secure the fuel it needs to keep its economy in overdrive," reports The New York Times.

If the bid were rejected by the United States on national security grounds, as some members of Congress have publicly advocated, China could be motivated to build more ties to rogue states and step up its courtship of major oil producers in Africa and Latin America that in the past have looked mainly to the United States market.

Chinese officials have "appealed for less political wrangling" over a China's bid for Unocal, reports BBC. It should be viewed as a "normal commercial activity", a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman said.

Also, in the first part of a two-part series, The Washington Times reports that "China is building its military forces faster than US intelligence and military analysts expected, prompting fears that Beijing will attack Taiwan in the next two years, according to Pentagon officials."

A spokesman for the Taiwanese opposition Kuomintang party, Chang Jung-kung, says the assessment by US officials that China might attack Taiwan in two years is inacccurate, reports Taiwan's Central News Agency.

Chang noted that the Pentagon assessment does not take into consideration what he claimed is the latest development that the relationship between Taiwan and China has entered a new phase since KMT Chairman Lien Chan's journey of peace to China in late April and early May.
Taiwan's President Chen Shui-Bian initially opposed Mr. Lien's trip to China, warning Lien against falling into traps set by Beijing.

China's state-owned People's Daily Online reports that "the Pentagon has more than once viciously exaggerated Chinese military outlay, spreading a 'China threat theory.'"

In 2004, Pentagon offered a 54-page report with tens of thousands of words, trying its utmost for exaggeration and instigation. The report asserted luridly that China's military expenditure reached between 50-70 billion US dollars.
According to The People's Daily, "many international observers pointed out that strong political motives and huge economic interests have been driving the Pentagon to recklessly fabricate its 'China threat' theory."
First, exaggeration of China's military power can not only exacerbate Congress suspicion and hostility against China, but also dredge for benefits for all US military departments in order to obtain a bigger defence budget. The exaggeration can also enable the US to find a pretext for its opposition to the European Union's lifting of arms embargo on China and for making public opinions in order to enlarge its arms sales to Taiwan.
But Globalsecurity.org points out that in March 2005 China announced that its military budget will rise 12.6 percent, to 247.7 billion yuan ($29.9 billion). But, according to Globalsecurity.org, "most analysts estimate China's real spending on defense is at least three times as great as the publicly disclosed figure."
China's defense spending is by no means transparent. For many years, much of the reported annual increases in China's official budget was absorbed by high inflation rates. However, the largest problem in estimating defense spending arises from inadequate accounting methods by the Peoples Liberation Army (PLA). Budgeted functions are hidden under construction, administrative expenses, and under state organizations such as the Commission on Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense (COSTIND), which mix PLA and other state activities.

Japan's defense minister Yoshinori Ohno urged China on Monday to be more transparent about its military spending. "China's military expenditure has been increasing 10 percent annually for the 17th consecutive year," he said. "Japan's military spending is just 0.8 percent of its GDP. This shows how Japan is a peace-oriented country."

China also poses a growing intelligence threat to the US, according to current and former US officials cited in a Reuters report earlier this month.

With the Bush administration embroiled in Iraq and the war on terrorism, intelligence experts fear it may be ignoring a determined Chinese strategy to acquire sensitive technology with commercial and military applications through informal spy networks with potentially thousands of operatives. Such efforts could eventually erode US economic and military prominence, officials and analysts said.

"China is stepping up its overt and covert efforts to gather intelligence and technology in the United States, and the activities have boosted Beijing's plans to rapidly produce advanced-weapons systems, reports The Washington Times in part two of its two-part series on China's growing threat to US security.

China's spies use as many as 3,200 front companies -- many run by groups linked to the Chinese military -- that are set up to covertly obtain information, equipment and technology, US officials say. ...

Additionally, the Chinese use hundreds of thousands of Chinese visitors, students and other nonprofessional spies to gather valuable data, most of it considered "open source," or unclassified information.

Chinese officials deny suggestions of spying.

Copyright 2005, The Christian Science Monitor