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Rise of China
THE POWER OF NUMBERS - AND OF ARMS
China, a Growing Threat in Southeast Asia?
The appearance or reality of peace, stability and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific region in the 1990s may be drawn from the popular compliance of the countries to the provisions of an agreement (Shuja 1999). This was the Non-Proliferation Treaty or NPT, signed in 1968 and becoming effective in 1970, by the countries or States. Their number increased to 176. They agreed to give up the use of nuclear power for military purposes. Africa, Argentina, Brazil, Romania and Algeria were examples of such countries. But this image of peace and unity in the region was shattered and vanished when India and Pakistan conducted nuclear tests in May 1998. India and Pakistan had a long-time feud and the tests sent the message to the rest in the region that the protagonists could be preparing for a nuclear collision. A Nuclear Weapons Convention could be the appropriate and timely measure to stop the disaster, but it seemed that the UN Security Council did not seem inclined to dismantle the nuclear weapons. There soon surfaced a need to re-examine the issue of nuclear proliferation in South Asia within the context of international security (Shuja).
Although almost all States in the world signed the NPT, the world remained insecure and at the brink of nuclear proliferation and disaster (Shuja 1999). Observers and critics believe that preventing this would require States with nuclear capabilities to reconsider their stand on a higher moral standpoint and discard their nuclear modernization programs. Israel, India, Pakistan and North Korea, for example, needed to terminate their respective programs and agendas, using nuclear weapons. The West or industrialized North could adopt a new strategy, which would control arms spending and arms control to countries breaching the NPT. On the whole, the nuclear balance of terror needed to be confined to a low level in the region by convincing these States that weapons could produce peace or assure national security. Many believe that all States and peoples should share the common vision of a world eventually free of weapons of mass destruction (Shujah).
Washington admitted its worries over China's growing military power and its "dictatorial" pose in Asian affairs, both of which were perceived as threats to U.S. interests (Bremmer 2005). Central Intelligence Agency Director Porter Goss cautioned that China's increasing military might would not only disturb the balance of power in the Taiwan Strait but also U.S. forces everywhere else in East Asia. Hand-in-hand with this unsettling observation is the greater and ironic reality of a symbiotic relationship between the economies of the U.S. And China. American prosperity depended on the mammoth demand of China's 1.3 billion people. And China must sustain its growth in American markets. Records said that the Chinese government owned roughly $180 billion in U.S. treasuries, so that a quick sale of U.S. securities could raise U.S. interest rates. This would undermine America's productivity, as a result. U.S. current account deficit was dictated by trade with China, so that poor ratings in Wall Street would affect China alike. Inclining U.S. lawmakers to visualize and treat China as a potential and strategic partner in the world economy would be unlikely. China's troubles with its neighboring countries compromised U.S. diplomatic and security efforts and intents in countries, like Iran and Venezuela. Both Washington and Beijing must consider making difficult tradeoffs to fend off greater conflicts. Even then, there would be no guarantee that the political will in either country would sustain the tradeoffs. One could obtain only brief domestic political advantage in refuting and denouncing the actions of the other. The rivalry could hardly be viewed as potentially resulting in a viable and sustainable political and economic partnership (Bremmer), which would, in fact, enhance the survival, growth and global leadership of both.
China has undeniably recovered its larger economic, political and military stature in East Asia to its way as a major power in the world (Bernier and Gold 2003). This renewed gigantic vigor likewise meant the return of Taiwan to its fold, which most mainlanders viewed was necessary to fulfill China's destiny. Many observers believed that Taiwan belonged to China and that with China's continued increase in size and strength in Asia-Pacific, Taiwan's only option was to return to the fold. They considered the constant steady military build-up of the People's Republic of China as capable of driving or pressuring Taipei back to the mainland in a decade or two from the present time. That would be the time when China's military and economic might would have exceeded all of its neighboring countries in the region, possibly including Japan (Bernier and Gold).
This was an ominous development of supreme concern and interest to the United States. The U.S. would need to strengthen and intensify its Pacific presence, short of intervening in the Beijing-Taiwan crisis (Bernier and Gold 2003). But enhancing Taiwanese security might not entirely be in the form of deploying more regional air bases and naval forces, expanding relationships with neighboring countries like Vietnam and the Philippines. It might be in non-military forms like tighter dual-use export controls or prohibiting or restraining military sales to Beijing from Russia, Israel, Germany and France. Both military and non-military initiatives may discourage Beijing from applying force in pursuing its perceived vision and destiny. Advisers, critics and other observers could insist that peace in Taiwan was not inevitable. They could emphasize that it was high time U.S. civilian and military leaders reject the wrong assumption that time stood on the side of China in surmounting the Strait. They should instead consider that PRC could attack Taiwan in this decade and not in the next. If they did, Washington and Taiwan could act according to a shorter-term but realistic timeline of action (Bernier and Gold).
China expressed apprehension towards Japan's agreement to link up with the United States on a theater missile defense or TMD system and to launch spy satellites (Kyodo News 1999). China felt that the Japan's decision would disturb or injure regional and global security and lead to a new arms race. China's Foreign Minister Sun Yuzi urged Japan to instead develop a "defensive defense policy" and assume a peaceful development role. The TMD system was designed to detect incoming ballistic missiles within a 3,000-kilometer radius with satellites and programmed to shoot them down with missiles or some other means. The Japanese government also launched four information-gathering satellites intended to improve and increase the country's reconnaissance capability. It also said that the plan was in response to North Korea's firing of a rocket in August 1999, part of which crossed over Japan and into the Pacific. Foreign Minister Sun also emphasized that Taiwan's participation in the TMD would constitute a violation of international law and a breach to China-U.S. relations. Taiwan was reported to study the feasibility of joining the TMD system. The Foreign Minister appealed to the U.S. not to transfer TMD or similar equipment to Taiwan as the action would be detrimental to the interests of Taiwan if not the collective interests of the Asia-Pacific region (Kyodo News).
North Korea's nuclear test drew severe reactions from Beijing. Chinese banks stopped financial transfers under government orders as part of sanctions (Gearan 2006). China was North Korea's main trading partner and aid donor. It was reluctant to impose economic pressure on North Korea for a long time so as to prevent the collapse of the government of Kim Jong Il. But as a consequence of the nuclear test, Chinas began inspecting North Korean trucks along the nation's border. It also warned North Korea against conducting another test and urged it to return to the arms talks. For its part, the United Nations Security Council imposed sanctions on Pyongyang, the first time in its 30-year nuclear history. North Korea's Kim was quoted by a newspaper as saying that the North would resume arms talks if Washington dropped financial sanctions. He said the North would make concessions in the same degree of the concessions made by the U.S., whether in bilateral or six-party talks (Gearan).
The Non-Proliferation Treaty was signed by 188 States, yet the world continued to teeter on the brink of nuclear proliferation and devastation (Shuja 2002). Nuclear tests undertaken by India and Pakistan pointed to the persistent presence and the desirability of nuclear weapons. India exploded its first nuclear device in 1974 and then observed nuclear restraint since then. Nonetheless, it was engaged in open debate on whether to build nuclear weapons or not. India believed that either the world should opt for complete nuclear disarmament or each State should arm itself and improve its nuclear capability. The lack of global disarmament then gave India the right to security measures enjoyed by States, which already possessed nuclear arsenals and those in nuclear alliances. India was not a signatory to the NPT on account of inherent discrimination and a lack of success in alleviating the current nuclear risk. In India's view, the…[continue]
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