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UPDATED: March 16, 2007 NO.12 MAR.22, 2007
Beefing Up Military Inevitable
To understand China's military power, you have to look at the environment in which China operates, you have to look at the particular situation about the United States and you have to look at the internal organization of China


Beefing Up Military Inevitable

During a March 12 event held by the Foreign Policy Research Institute, a Philadelphia-based American think tank, Beijing Review North America Bureau spoke to Jonathan Pollack, Professor of Asian and Pacific Studies and Chair of Strategic Research Department of the U.S. Naval War College, and Avery Goldstein, Professor of Political Science at the University of Pennsylvania, on issues related to China's military buildup. Their main ideas follow:

Peaceful development

Avery Goldstein: China should understand that there is no way to fully convince all of us [of its peaceful development]. There can always be some doubts because nobody is sure about what will happen 20 years from now. But I do think that what China should do is to take concrete steps to live up to being a responsible stakeholder.

Jonathan Pollack: I would say that China's fundamental interests now are obviously the opportunities to build up economically and hence to improve the life of Chinese citizens. I don't see China wanting to build up global military power that will threaten the United States or the world.

Reasons for buildup

Jonathan Pollack: China has increased its military spending. That should not surprise anyone. It does reflect that over time there will be a change in the balance of forces. The Chinese military will be more capable. This is an inevitable development.

To understand China's military power, you have to look at the environment in which China operates, you have to look at the particular situation about the United States and you have to look at the internal organization of China. Neither China nor the United States precludes the possibility that we may find ourselves in direct confrontation or conflict with each other.

I don't accept the idea (that since China faces no immediate external threat, it has no reason to enhance its military buildup). As long as the United States and other countries are still doing the planning that may lead to the opportunity of direct confrontation, of course China as a sovereign state has to consider how serious the threat is, how it should deal with it and what are the options. Its military buildup doesn't simply mean that it has led to tension and crisis.

Military capacity

Avery Goldstein: China's military capacity is far removed from that of the United States. It has neither the aggregate military power nor the defense system that the United States has. I don't agree with the idea that China poses a threat to the United States.


Avery Goldstein: I think the issue of transparency has been overstated. But there is still a reason why we should encourage China to become more transparent. Military exchanges will facilitate transparency.

Jonathan Pollack: There is still a pronounced tendency to avoid disclosure. I'd love to see the United States and China and for that matter, China and Japan, have much more truly comprehensive discussions about their deepest hopes and fears. Not just things that have been published, but things that have been understood.

I can understand in a lot of ways why less (about Chinese military power) is revealed. But that doesn't mean that we are unable to discern what China is doing militarily, what its directions are, what the presumed military purposes might be and what some of the implications would be for security.

If the People's Liberation Army of China would be smart about it, it would simply disclose what everybody knows already. Most of this information has already been disclosed. It is not a secret any more in the information age. But maybe very secret programs are exceptions. Every country has very secret programs they don't want to talk about. That shouldn't surprise anyone.

(Chen Wen reporting from New York)


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