The Bush administration wants to give the Chinese government an advance look at plans for testing its proposed missile defense shield. It hopes to persuade Beijing we mean them no harm. To "sweeten the pot," the administration is also prepared not to object if China wishes to resume underground nuclear testing in order to "modernize" its weapons stockpiles and keep them current.
The rationale is that they're going to modernize anyway, so why not try to earn their trust?
Have we so soon forgotten last spring's spy plane incident during which Beijing extracted the maximum amount of propaganda and humiliation from the United States and cared not a whit about trust, friendship, trade or even the Olympics, which it won anyway?
This is the point: Chinese Communists will do what they want. Our students may not study Vladimir Lenin in school in the "post-communist" era, but I'll bet Chinese students are familiar with this quote taken from "Lenin: Selected Works": "We practice co-existence with other nations until we are strong enough to take over by world revolution. ...We are not pacifists. Conflict is inevitable. Great political questions can only be solved by violence. ... It is inconceivable that Communism and Democracy can exist side by side in the world. Inevitably, one must perish."
While few believe that communism has any hope of dominating the world, the Chinese brand can wreak a considerable amount of havoc in Asia, threatening U.S. interests there and possibly U.S. soil here. Last spring, China announced it was boosting defense spending by nearly 18 percent. At the time, Secretary of State Colin Powell said he did not view China "as an enemy" but as a "trading partner, as a regional competitor." Unclassified documents released more than two years ago indicated China had more than 29 ICBMs capable of reaching the U.S. West Coast. More are thought to be under development.
Trading partners and regional competitors don't behave like this. Enemies do.
Russia and Iran are still negotiating an agreement on technical and military cooperation. Iran is one of the rogue nations to which China has been providing military assistance. If the United States shares its missile defense technology with China and Russia, what's to prevent that information from finding its way to Iran and even North Korea?
These are among the nations against which a missile shield is supposed to defend America. If those states learn how we will shoot down their missiles, is not the very purpose of a missile shield defeated?
While China is not the old Soviet Union and the threats to the United States now take many forms -- including attacks in cyberspace -- providing information about our missile defense technology to a potential or actual enemy is neither good defense nor good political strategy. China, like Israel's enemies, has repeatedly demonstrated that it will not change its objectives based on what free nations do or do not do. China's top priority, according to 1994 remarks by Gen. Zhang Wannian, Vice Chairman of the Central Military Commission, is not to repeat the "tragedy" of the Soviet Union's breakup. General Zhang said there was "a real danger of a breakup of our territory. We must pay attention to Taiwan. Compared to Tibet (whose uprising China crushed in 1959), Taiwan is far more dangerous."
Kenneth Adelman, who was President Reagan's arms control director, is correct when he tells The Washington Post of his disagreement with the notion that "if you act very sweetly toward the Chinese, the Chinese will reciprocate."
Lenin's quotation might be updated. He said the West is so corrupt that it could be counted on to sell communists the rope they would use to hang us. Substitute "missile shield" for "rope" and you do no damage to Lenin's principle.
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld recently announced plans to shift some troops and equipment from Europe to Asia because of what he perceives to be new challenges by China. He is right to do so. Trying to play nice with the Chinese communists is a bad idea that will benefit them but make U.S. interests and U.S. territory more vulnerable.
Cal Thomas writes for Tribune Media Services.
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