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Eyes on China: Warnings From Several Sources

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On January 11, 2007, China launched a land-based rocket that intercepted and destroyed an old Chinese satellite. This one act indicated that China may have the early stages of a "space denial" weapon system for use against the U.S. in a crisis or war.

This past weekend Senator John McCain said this satellite killing test showed again that China is taking steps toward super-power status. But he said "China needs to act like a super-power" and take on global responsibilities. He added "some of us are disappointed by its lack of maturity."

McCain also indicated that American interest in trade and economic expansion with China has frequently blinded the United States to many other factors that should be taken into account in our dealings with China.

I like the fact that Senator McCain referred to China as immature. In many ways, China is a blatant bully struggling to cope with the more, shall we say, suave forms of international diplomacy and conduct.

On January 29, Senator Jon Kyl, an important missile defense advocate said, "Key policy makers seem oblivious to the nature and the urgency of the threat. It's time to start speaking out about this."

Kyl said the "muted response" in the United States has been due in part to the fierce congressional debate about the war in Iraq, which has drawn attention away from other foreign policy issues.

Kyl also linked the administration's silence to a "complicated relationship with China, which is difficult to manage under the best of circumstances. There is so much we want to engage with China."

O n January 28, 2007, well known U.S. missile and defense analyst Mr. James Hackett wrote in The Washington Times about China's missile test: "China's test was conducted the day Undersecretary of State Robert Joseph was explaining the president's new National Space Policy at a forum in Colorado Springs. Mr. Joseph presciently predicted, 'Others will take advantage of our dependence on and vulnerability in space to seek asymmetrical advantages.'"

Mr. Hackett continued: "He [Mr. Joseph] added that even as our opponents develop such weapons they propose a ban on "space weapons" that would impede our ability to defend ourselves. This is nothing new. For years Moscow and Beijing have called for an ASAT ban, which is echoed in the United Nations, by the arms control lobby and by liberal Democrats. Arms control activists already are screaming we must negotiate a ban on ASATs."

Criticism of China came from a very unsuspecting region this weekend. A conference in India designed to remind people of China's abusive conduct toward Tibet seemed to strike a chord with many.

In 1965 Beijing formally ousted Tibet's ruler, the Dalai Lama in a kind of coup. China set up an Autonomous Tibetan Region, an entity the Dalai Lama has dismissed as having no real autonomy from the central government.

China has claimed that its decades-long occupation of Tibet represents liberation for the Tibetan people, that it saved Tibet from a backward, feudal, oppressed system.

But the system was a freely chosen system of the Tibetans. And Buddhists are not known usually for their violent behavior and sedition. In fact, the hard core Buddhists are usually vegetarians that refuse to kill any other living creature.

Beijing, after appointing its own new Panchen Lama (the second most important office in Buddhism) and seizing the legitimate one, announced in July 2005 that the local government in Tibet would recognize the new Dalai Lama.

In a conference called "2007:Year of intensive support for Tibet" held in New Delhi, India, this last weekend, the organizers pleaded for people to keep aware of the Tibet-China issue. Professor Brahma Challaney, an Indian strategic expert and defense analyst with the Center for Policy Research, said that China had failed to win over Tibetans and Tibet very much remains an alive issue.

China's major efforts to colonize Tibet with the recent completion of railway projects, has provoked anger in Tibet, India and elsewhere. But by flooding Tibet with Chinese workers, it is uncertain that the "old Tibet" can ever again be recreated.

In fact, after China opened its major rail link to the Tibetan capital of Lhasa in 2006, many analysts said paving the flood of Chinese investment in the poor, remote region could endanger the plateau's fragile environment and undermine Tibetan culture.

Now it turns out a major factor in the building of the railway by China may have been motivated by something "deeper" than the effort to push Tibet around. Chinese geologists revealed on January 29, 2007 that China has made a huge geologic discovery in Tibet.

The official Chinese news agency Xinhua reported that Meng Xiani, director of the China Geological Survey (CGS), has revealed that 16 large copper, lead, zinc, iron iron and crude oil deposits along the railway are expected to yield 18 million tons of copper, and 10 million tons of lead and zinc. One copper deposit on Qulong has a proven reserve of 7.89 million tons, second only to the country's largest copper mine in Dexing in China's Jiangxi Province. The CGS believes the copper reserves in Quolong could reach 18 million tons, making it the largest copper deposit in the country.

Meng said China's economic security would ultimately be endangered if the nation continued to rely on imports of major mineral resources in the long term. He added that the results of the geological survey along the railroad proved it was possible to improve China's natural resources security.

So China's decades long abuse of Tibet may have been all about plundering mineral reserves.

In another military incident from China, last October a Chinese Song Class diesel electric submarine crept covertly to within five nautical miles of the USS Kitty Hawk, a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier.

This was hardly seen as a suave diplomatic move. Many Navy people saw this act as a blatant provocation just short of an act of war. The U.S. Navy asked China for an explanation.

This one act said to many naval observers two things: That China intends to patrol further than ever from its shores and that China now can effectively evade U.S. Navy anti-submarine warfare systems and place warships in a position to quickly eliminate the U.S. Navy's capital ships.

Finally, economist Paul Craig Roberts wrote in August 2005, that "China already is a world power. China holds enough U.S. government debt to have the dollar and U.S. interest rates in its hand."

Since Mr. Roberts made this dire prediction, the amount of U.S. debt "owned" has been rapidly expanding.

This according to William Schneider in The National Journal: "The U.S. budget deficit is financed by borrowing. More and more of that money comes from China, now the United States' second-largest lender, after Japan. China's investment in U.S. government debt has more than tripled in the past five years, from $71 billion in 2000 to $242 billion in 2005."

The country holding by far the most U.S. debt is Japan which held $644.2 billion at the end of August 2006. China now holds over $1 Trillion in total foreign reserves, of which about $339 billion (as of late last year) are US Treasuries.

These numbers continue to grow.

Some economists are stirring on this issue already but far too few. And I am not economist enough to know for sure that this is a problem - but it sure looks like future trouble to me.

We expect to begin to watch China more closely. We're glad Senator McCain and others are already speaking out.

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John E. Carey is the former president of International Defense Consultants, Inc.
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