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US official says China's future crucial
Updated: 2005-02-18 14:06

China's future course in the world is among the four most important issues the Bush administration is considering as it develops a new national security strategy, a top Pentagon official said Thursday.

Douglas Feith, the undersecretary of defense for policy, singled out China as among "important powers in the world," whose strategic choices will influence U.S. national security.

The three other key issues the administration is assessing are the spread of weapons of mass destruction, "terrorist extremism" and the risks posed by failed or failing nation states, Feith said in a speech to members of the Council on Foreign Relations, a private think tank.

The Pentagon under Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld has not focused much publicly on China during the past four years, other than during a period of severely strained relations in 2001 following the collision of a U.S. Navy spy plane with a Chinese fighter off China's coast.

Rumsfeld has not visited China during his four years as defense secretary, although his aides have said he is considering going to Beijing this year.

"Of the new powers that are rising ... the country that can be expected to have the greatest effect on international relations is China," Feith said.

"For a country like China, the fundamental choice is whether it wishes to join the group of advanced economies whose relationships are governed by the `rules of the road' of the international state system," he added.

China has managed in recent years to gain the confidence of international investors.

"If it wants to continue to prosper, it will choose a benign path that will allow the world to accommodate its rise peacefully," Feith said.

"The question is: Do its leaders see that China's long-term interests — including its opportunities to profit from foreign investment and trade — hinge on its becoming a respected and responsible member of an international community? And that this will in turn require that it forgo the threat or use of force to pursue reunification" with Taiwan.

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