The EP-3E Aries incident was inevitable. During
the Cold War, the United States played similar cat-and-mouse games with
the Soviets, and the Chinese have picked up where the Russians left off.
China's emergence as an aggressive and hostile nation should not be surprising.
For years, China has repeatedly threatened to take Taiwan. Hundreds of Chinese ballistic missiles are positioned just across the strait from Taiwan, and Chinese aircraft monitor Taiwanese and American flights like the one conducted by our EP-3 aircraft.
China's strategic objectives have been obvious for some time. The People's Republic of China has never honored trade agreements, routinely tramples on human rights and thirsts for greater influence. It is using its $100 billion favorable trade balance with the United States to bankroll a military modernization campaign that seriously threatens our Asian interests.
The 1999 U.S. congressional Cox Committee investigated China's alleged widespread espionage in the United States and confirmed China's insatiable thirst for technology. In 1995, a Chinese defector had provided the CIA with 13,000 pages of military documents. These documents, accord ing to an American intelligence expert, revealed "an embarrassment of riches" in the form of detailed information about American military technology illegally obtained by the Chinese.
That technology has allowed China to modernize its military rapidly. It has a growing fleet of sophisticated fighters and long-range aircraft. It continues to develop ballistic missiles and weapons of mass destruction. China has purchased sophisticated Russian-built destroyers equipped with some of the world's best anti-ship cruise missiles. The sale of more than 600 American supercomputers certainly enhanced Chinese weapons programs.
According to Chinese newspaper reports, a Russian-designed Kilo-class submarine, equipped with anti-ship weapons, recently conducted drills simulating combat with carrier-type warships. A second submarine, China's Type 093, is designed,to launch cruise missiles while submerged.
China continues to acquire technology from Russia by employing thousands of Russian scientists in its defense industry and by purchasing advanced Russian weaponry. The growing China-Russia alliance is providing mutual strength for these countries to counterbalance U.S. influence.
China is seeking to enhance its presence and influence in Central and South Asia as well as in the Middle East. It is cooperating with Iran, Turkey, Pakistan and Russia in an attempt to curb militant Sunni Muslim radicalism in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan.
But China has ambitions beyond Asia. Deng Xiaoping, a former Chinese vice premier, says China's goal "is to build up a new international political and economic order."
China has gained, through economic agreements and overt military occupation, partial control of vital sea lanes. The Chinese-controlled Hutchison-Whampoa Ltd. controls both ends of the Panama Canal and has a 50-year agreement to operate it. Last April, this company was awarded a 30-year concession to manage Egypt's Port Said, the gateway to the Suez Canal through which U.S. Navy as well as European and American commercial ships pass on their way to the Persian Gulf. China operates facilities in Singapore and Port Klang, Malaysia, that oversee the strategic Strait of Malacca. It also has established seven outposts in the South China Sea's Spratly and Paracell Islands. China's claim to rights over much of the sea drives its contention that America's EP-3E aircraft may have violated China's airspace.
Furthermore, China is openly courting leaders outside the Pacific Rim, especially in Africa. The Chinese military is involved in the civil war in Sudan. Huge investments by the China National Petroleum, Corporation there, and weapons sales to numerous other African countries, are further indications that China would like to create hostility against the United States.
The EP-3 episode is a test for President Bush and for the future of U.S.-Chinese relations. Bush is right to resist Chinese threats and demands for apologies. Our leaders must recognize that China is more than a benign source of cheap labor to produce plastic toys, shoes and electronics. It is an economic and military power that the United States must engage from a position of strength based upon firm principles.
Robert Maginnis is a retired U.S. Army lieutenant colonel and now serves as the Family Research Council's vice president for national security and foreign affairs. Readers may write to the author at the Family Research Council, 801 G Street NW, Washington, D.C. 20001.