Politics

IS CHINA A MILITARY THREAT TO THE UNITED STATES?

The Congressional report released on May 25 charged that China had acquired secrets related to United States weapons technology since the late 1970s.

While the Chinese government has denied all charges, it is reasonable to assume that - like all great powers - China has sought to obtain the best technology through monitoring public unclassified materials and academic research, buying the best products and spying for the latest information. This should come as no surprise to Americans because our Central Intelligence Agency spends about $30 billion each year on similar activities - an enormous sum. It is more than all the other countries in the world combined spend on intelligence. If the CIA does not know what other nations possess and are developing, it should return its budget to the U.S. Treasury or give the money to another agency to do the job.

It is a matter of public record that some of our closest allies spy on us, and we on them. Israel was caught red handed when U.S. defense official Jonathan Pollard gave them many of our closest secrets. We support the Russian government in various ways but that did not prevent them from paying spies for classified documents. Just last year, our own government admitted that it had infiltrated the United Nations Special Commission, in order to ferret out Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. We then used the information for our attacks on Iraq.

In none of these cases did we go to war or threaten to fight. We did not even think that our security was seriously impaired. However, the revelations about China are being used by some politicians to prove that China is the next great threat to U.S. national security. A number of Members of Congress have been hyping the "Chinese threat" ever since the Soviet Union disintegrated and the "Soviet menace" disappeared.

In fact, while the Chinese have probably learned some U.S. nuclear secrets, they lag far behind our country in nuclear weapons and the technology to build them, as well as in most measures of military power. For example, while the United States has 7,200 fueled and accurate nuclear weapons capable of hitting China, the Chinese have only about 20 nuclear weapons capable of hitting the United States. Moreover, those 20 Chinese missiles are unfueled, without their warheads mated, and they are not very accurate.

American advanced technology and training provide an added advantage that cannot be easily overcome. And when it comes to projecting military power, the United States can send hundreds of thousands of forces overseas in a relatively short time; the Chinese have no such capability. At this very moment, U.S. troops garrison South Korea and Japan, right on China's doorstep. U.S. battleships and submarines bearing nuclear weapons patrol the Pacific protecting Taiwan, a renegade province of China. Chinese military vessels do not cruise the California coast or the Atlantic Ocean!

Here are the detailed numerical comparisons:

U.S. strategic nuclear weapons capable of hitting China: 7,200
Chinese strategic nuclear weapons capable of hitting U.S.: 20

Total U.S. nuclear weapons deployed, in reserve, or awaiting dismantlement: 12,070
Total Chinese nuclear weapons: 400

U.S. intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs): 550
Chinese ICBMs: between 18 - 24

U.S. long-range strategic bombers: 174
Chinese long-range strategic bombers: 0

U.S. ballistic missile submarines: 18
Chinese ballistic missile submarines: 1

U.S. Gross Domestic Product (GDP): $8.1 trillion
Chinese GDP: 639 billion

U.S. military budget: 270 billion
Chinese military budget: $36.6 billion

U.S. aircraft carriers: 11 (plus 1 being refitted)
Chinese aircraft carriers: 0

To be sure, China is modernizing economically, politically, and militarily. How it develops its military forces will be shaped greatly by its security relationship with the United States. "If China is treated like an enemy," former Secretary of Defense William Perry said recently, "it will become one." Even if China had the know-how and the surplus funds and decided to build up its forces, it would not represent a serious military threat to the United States for at least 20 years.

But the Chinese show no evidence of a military buildup - and our CIA is watching. They want to be our trading partner so that they can raise their abysmal standard of living. The leaders and the people of China want to make money. The egalitarian slogans of Mao have been replaced by one simple statement, constantly repeated by the controlled media: "It is glorious to be rich." Let's encourage them in this direction. Let's not make an enemy of China.

(Reprint, Council For A Livable World, (202) 543-4100, July 1999 newsletter)


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