The China Threat: How the People's Republic of China Targets America
By Bill Gertz
Regnery Publishing, Inc.
280 pgs. US$27.95

Dark and impenetrable plans

By Steven Martinovich
web posted December 18, 2000

The China Threat: How the People's Republic of China Targets AmericaTo hear doves tell of it, anyone concerned by the growing political and military threat emanating out of Beijing is someone who misses the "stability" of having a Cold War and the Soviet Union to work against. If Bill Gertz is to be believed, the danger is real and we are only a few years away from a China that will be able to impose its will over large parts of the world.

The China Threat: How the People's Republic of China Targets America attempts to link a passive approach to Sino-American politics by the Clinton Administration to a massive buildup and modernization of the Chinese military and espionage directed at the United States. The ultimate aim, argues Gertz, is to force the United States out of the Pacific theatre, restore Taiwan to China and bring to an end American hegemony across the world. By Gertz's account, China's plan is succeeding admirably.

It was Sun Tzu who counseled his political masters to "Let your plans be dark and impenetrable as night, and when you move, fall like a thunderbolt." Taking that advice to heart, China operates and plans in a manner that few outsiders can understand. Their goals are revealed by the technologies they covet and the territory they are occupying - both economically and militarily. Gertz argues that because China believes the United States to be a barrier to its greatness, it is America that must be neutralized. To do that, China is moving in multiple directions, all of which can be explained as the growing pains of a nation striving to modernize itself or part of a deeper plot to become the world's dominant power.

Those multiple directions include an attempt to influence American politics - primarily the Democratic Party -- through money and extensive spying on sensitive facilities, a rapid upgrading of short, medium and long-range warfare capabilities, economic warfare which includes the administration of the economically and militarily sensitive Panama Canal, and through diplomacy.

To prove his case, Gertz marshals an impressive array of documentation and first person interviews. Evidence that shows China is willing to use nuclear weapons and hit American assets in the Pacific theatre to prevent it from coming to the aid of Taiwan, has obtained plans to various advanced nuclear warhead designs, and is continuing an extensive program of destabilizing the global order in a bid to take America's focus away from the Pacific.

China couldn't do it alone. Gertz's case rests on the actions of those in the Clinton administration. Gertz claims that in their drive to maintain friendly relations with China and modernize it, the administration has turned a blind eye to its actions with the result of weakening America's position. The final legacy of the Clinton administration may be not the Monica Lewinsky scandal or Al Gore's narrow loss in 2000, but the danger to America's national security or as Gertz puts it "Fundamentally, the Clinton-Gore administration treated China the way Chamberlain treated Hitler - except worse."

A Sino-American Cold War is possible but it is not inevitable. As Ralph A. Cossa wrote earlier this year, "A true strategic partnership also seems unlikely, given differing world views and long-term objectives. Perhaps the best that can be hoped for is 'apprehensive engagement' cooperation in areas where objectives clearly overlap and a commitment to talk about and manage the many differences and lingering suspicions that continue to challenge the relationship."

Cossa may be right and that it may just come down to an arrangement where the two giants stay out of each other's way on most issues. Whether this is the approach that is taken may depend on the incoming Bush administration, if that's what China's plans could be made to include. That, however, doesn't appear to be the case.

If it isn't, Gertz argues that the United States must immediately undertake to launch an intelligence blitz against China, develop a strategic plan that deals with China in a short- and long-term manner, promote democracy, and strengthen alliances in Asia - alliances which openly recognize China as a threat to regional security. To underscore its new attitude, Gertz also believes that America must begin increasing its military commitments with troops and a national missile defense system.

Is Gertz overreacting to those dark and impenetrable plans of the Chinese? Plans that could be benign along with than malignant? The hawks have been right before and it pays to remember that Sun Tzu also taught that "All warfare is based on deception."

Steve Martinovich is a freelance writer in Sudbury, Ontario.

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