Thursday, July 21, 2005

Los Angeles Times on China's nuclear threat

The Los Angeles Times is carrying an op-ed piece inspired by the nuclear-tipped saber rattling by Chinese Major General Zhu Chenghu of the People's Liberation Army (mentioned on Marmot's).

According to the Times, Zhu "threatened to nuke 'hundreds' of American cities if the U.S. dared to interfere with a Chinese attempt to conquerTaiwan." Serious business. Editorialist Max Boot wonders if the U.S. is prepared for the Chinese threat, at a time when China "is building a lot of sabers" to rattle.

He warned that China's $90-billion military budget is growing, adding this:
Moreover, China's spending has been increasing rapidly, and it is investing in the kind of systems — especially missiles and submarines — needed to challenge U.S. naval power in the Pacific.
Boot quotes U.S. Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld as calling China's arms buildup as an "area of concern." Boot goes even further, warning of things more insidious:
But we shouldn't get overly fixated on such traditional indices of military power as ships and bombs — not even atomic bombs. Chinese strategists, in the best tradition of Sun Tzu, are working on craftier schemes to topple the American hegemon. In 1998, an official People's Liberation Army publishing house brought out a treatise called "Unrestricted Warfare," written by two senior army colonels, Qiao Liang and Wang Xiangsui. This book, which is available in English translation, is well known to the U.S. national security establishment but remains practically unheard of among the general public.

Unrestricted Warfare" recognizes that it is practically impossible to challenge the U.S. on its own terms. No one else can afford to build mega-expensive weapons systems like the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, which will cost more than $200 billion to develop. "The way to extricate oneself from this predicament," the authors write, "is to develop a different approach." Their different approaches include financial warfare (subverting banking systems and stock markets), drug warfare (attacking the fabric of society by flooding it with illicit drugs), psychological and media warfare (manipulating perceptions to break down enemy will), international law warfare (blocking enemy actions using multinational organizations), resource warfare (seizing control of vital natural resources), even ecological warfare (creating man-made earthquakes or other natural disasters).

Cols. Qiao and Wang write approvingly of Al Qaeda, Colombian drug lords and computer hackers who operate outside the "bandwidths understood by the American military." They envision a scenario in which a "network attack against the enemy" — clearly a red, white and blue enemy — would be carried out "so that the civilian electricity network, traffic dispatching network, financial transaction network, telephone communications network and mass media network are completely paralyzed," leading to "social panic, street riots and a political crisis." Only then would conventional military force be deployed "until the enemy is forced to sign a dishonorable peace treaty."
Boot warns that this strategy is already being implemented. He sees the anti-Japanese riots in April as "psychological warfare against a major Asian rival." Ditto for the "stage-managed" riots against the U.S. Embassy in Beijing in 1999 after the U.S. inadvertently bombed the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade, Yugoslavia.

He calls the bid by state-owned China National Offshore Oil Company to buy Unocal "resource warfare." Attempts by China's spy apparatus to infiltrate U.S. high-tech terms and defense contrators are seen as "technological warfare."

China siding against the U.S. in the U.N. Security Council over the invasion of Iraq is "international law warefare" (though that might mean that many of our supposed allies are waging stealth war against us, too).

Boot claims that "once you know what to look for, the pieces fall into place with disturbing ease." He does acknowledge that there could be more benign explanations, like General Zhu being "an eccentric old coot who's seen Dr. Strangelove a few too many times."

I don't know. The evidence can be convincing, but I also know that the "yellow horde" can be easily painted into a nastier beast than it is.

But I do think caution needs to be exercised with China. Sure, they're Everybody's Economic Partner®, but they do not (yet) share our democratic values or our commitment to human rights. As I've mentioned before, they are the ones really propping up Pyongyang. In short, just because we do business with them doesn't mean they are our friends.

And considering that, how wise is it for some on the far right to goad South Korea into their corner? Do we really want to push Seoul into their sphere of influence, just because we don't like what a bunch of leftist radicals have to say about the United States or President Bush?

Some in Washington don't like to admit this (or maybe they don't realize it), but our elective war in Iraq, fought under false pretenses, has made many people around the world, including amongs our allies, question our values as a country. The ideological reason for being in a U.S.-dominated camp has taken a serious hit. Koreans are not the only ones reeling from it. Add to that a U.S. president (once) seeming hell-bent to ratchet up tensions by engaging in name-calling with Kim Jong-il. These are not reasons to join Beijing, but they do make one question the wisdom of Washington.

This is not a good thing. The United States government needs to realize that it needs to keep its current friends in order to hem in China. Japan, Mongolia, Russia, Taiwan, and South Korea. Maybe even Vietnam. As with North Korea, engagement and containment should go hand in hand.


  1. The JSF program is over $200 billion? The entire national budget of S Korea is projected to be $195 billion next year. The budget for one US fighter jet program exceeds the entire national budget of Korea. Must be a lot of pork in that barrel.

  2. re: the content of the article: two words: asymmetric strategy


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