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Duplicity of US military policy exposed

By Shen Dingli | China Daily | Updated: 2013-05-18 07:56

Every year, the United States Department of Defense issues a report on China's military, which invariably is criticized by Beijing. This practice is not at all conducive to establishing a new type of relationship between the two countries and their militaries.

The Pentagon report on China's military is indeed mischievous. But it deserves to be studied from a professional perspective to determine how it reflects the latest developments in China's military. If we go through the reports the Pentagon has issued over the years, we will see that apart from US officials' figments of imagination, they also contain some predictive judgments. For example, the US said China was planning to build aircraft carriers much before China actually got one. That prediction came true last year when Liaoning was commissioned into the Chinese navy.

Therefore, we cannot just pour scorn on the Pentagon reports. The US military is a highly professional force and has its special qualities and advanced intelligence network. In fact, the Pentagon reports gives us a good idea about the US' surveillance- and intelligence-gathering capability and the amount of information it is willing to make public.

Pentagon reports, however, can never accurately reflect China's overall military capability because the US' intelligence network has its limitations and shortcomings. So, while China criticizes the US for exaggerating its military power and playing up the "China threat" theory, it is also likely that the US is underestimating the Chinese military's true capabilities.

Nevertheless, the US is more prone to overestimate China's military power and to play up the "China threat" theory for ulterior motives. Of course, with China becoming more transparent as the modernization of its military continues, the possibility of the US overestimating it strength will decline.

The Pentagon continues to disregard the facts on the Chinese military's competitiveness to portray China as a threat so that the US can strengthen its alliance with other countries. This tactic of the US is nothing new for the international community. In fact, the US does not only regard China's military as a major potential rival, it also views China with skepticism in many other fields, because among other things it fears that Chinese companies' investments in the US undermines national security.

The US has not spared any effort to prevent China's State-owned or private enterprises from gaining a foothold or even entering the American market. The case of Huawei and ZTE, which many American officials allege are being used to spy on the US government, reveals Washington's unhealthy mentality of seeing Beijing as an enemy rather than a mere competitor. In contrast, China didn't create any obstacle for US Internet giants such as Cisco to enter its domestic market.

As the sole superpower, the US is swayed by considerations of profit and loss, but it could continue suffering losses if it goes on with its endless calculation game. The US rightly considers security a priority, but by pitting security against development it is wasting opportunities for economic benefits, which will ultimately compromise its security.

China's population is more than four times that of the US but its military expenditure is only one-fifth that of the US. The US needs such a huge defense budget to continue to intervene in other countries' internal affairs and fuel crises across the world, which will eventually sap its national strength and push it toward another economic recession. But conservative US politicians allege that China is developing into a big military power and criticize its defense policy.

Moreover, despite openly announcing the offensive mission of its "cyber army", the US accuses other countries of organizing cyberattacks. If the US really wants a stable cyberspace, it should first stop launching cyber attacks. Otherwise, it should stop asking other countries to do so.

China has little need to be bothered about the US' annual reports on its military. Until the recent past, China's military was too weak to be of any concern to the US. That the US is now paying attention to the Chinese military is proof that its modernization is progressing in the right direction. So if the Pentagon issues reports to portray China as a threat to other countries, Beijing can also publish reports to paint the US in a similar light.

Obviously, it would be easier for other countries to perceive the US as a threat and there will be little need to play it up. Its invasion of Iraq (and Afghanistan before that) reflects its aggressive intentions quite clearly.

The author is associate dean of the Institute of International Studies, Fudan University.

(China Daily 05/18/2013 page5)

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