BIG TROUBLE OVER A LITTLE CHINA REPORTBill Gertz
reports intra-IC wrangling over the Pentagon's annual report on Chinese military power
between China softliners and those painting a more dire picture of Chinese capabilities.
"The draft report had included tough assessments of China's arms buildup and a stark conclusion that the military balance of power across the Taiwan Strait was shifting in Beijing's favor. The shift is because of a sharp increase in China's arms purchases and deployments, that include new missiles, warships, aircraft and communications gear. ...Among those who do not regard China as a near-term threat are Thomas Fingar, the former State Department intelligence analyst who is now the U.S. intelligence community's top analyst under Director of National Intelligence John D. Negroponte. Mr. Fingar recently hired former Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) analyst Lonnie Henley, who during his career at DIA developed a reputation as someone who played down China's military developments.
The hardliners and skeptics here would include Naval intelligence, PACOM, the submarine community, current and former NSC and DoD political appointees of a neocon orientation who developed the idea of deterring the emergence of a " peer-competitor" in the National Security Strategy of the United States .
What the hardliners have in their favor is that official Chinese statistics are, quite simply, bilge. Like the former Soviet Union, China attempts to conceal their actual military budget by dispersion through a range of military, economic, scientific and state security agencies and a bewildering array of PLA-connected companies. Estimating actual Chinese expenditures is at best an educated guess from what we know the Chinese to have actually produced or are in the stages of designing and testing.
The softliners can point to the fact that paper capabilities mean a lot less than what a military force can logistically bring to bear and sustain for a significant length of time in the field. China is not in America's class. In fact, China is not in PACOM's class, even given the assumption that PACOM is operating in China's theater and conceding " home field advantage", much less PACOM plus Taiwan.
The short and medium term danger is that China is gaining ground on Taiwan and closing the qualitative gap that is the bedrock of Taiwan's security, increasing the incentives for Chinese generals and Politburo officials to play at brinksmanship. This is best remediated by the Taiwanese to increase their own anemic defense spending
to keep the transaction costs of a Chinese attack on Taipei as high as possible. Going the " free rider" route of the Europeans in the post-Soviet NATO 1990's is a luxury Taiwan cannot afford, particularly when coupled with periodic bursts of Taiwanese nationalist rhetoric calculated to give Beijing fits.
To paraphrase Brooks Adams, to be disarmed and aggressive is a particularly stupid policy and one that endangers American national interests. The purpose of Taiwan Relations Act
is to commit America to defend Taiwan from Chinese aggression, a pact that helps stabilize East Asia and keep the peace.
What is not, is a blank check to encourage Taipei to indulge in European-style geopolitical immaturity.