The New York Times
June 12, 2005 Sunday
Late Edition - Final
SECTION: Section 4; Column 5; Week in Review Desk; The World; Pg. 4
LENGTH: 995 words
HEADLINE: Shaping China's Future Power
   Roger Cohen writes the Globalist column for The International Herald Tribune.
   THE second term of the Bush administration has been marked by an effort to
repair some damage of the first by reaching out to allies, listening to them,
and attempting cooperative action from Iran to Kosovo.
    This approach has reflected the realism born in Iraq, an undertaking so
costly in terms of American standing and credibility in the world that it has
complicated, and may render impracticable, any further exercise of pre-emptive
action in the war on terror.
    The shift in policy, never avowed, has also reflected the arrival at the
highest echelons of the State Department of officials whose convictions are
internationalist, including Robert Zoellick as deputy secretary of state and
Nicholas Burns as under secretary for political affairs.
    These are people who believe, as the National Security Strategy published in
September 2002 put it, that: ''There is little of lasting consequence that the
United States can accomplish in the world without the sustained cooperation of
its allies and friends in Canada and Europe.''
    But it is less apparent that such ideas have had an impact on the Pentagon,
where Donald H. Rumsfeld, the secretary of defense, continues to be
distinguished by a style often perceived as blunt and confrontational.
    Certainly this was the case with his criticism this month of China for
spending too much on its military budget and not moving fast enough toward '
'more open and representative government.'' Why, Mr. Rumsfeld asked of China, '
'these continuing large and expanding arms purchases? Why these continuing
robust deployments?''
    One answer might be that China is determined to deter Taiwan from declaring
independence, an act that it has said will lead to war. But the deeper answer is
that China has embarked on a long-term project of emerging by the middle of this
century as a full-fledged superpower.
    In pursuit of that ambition, it has only to look to Washington to see that
one characteristic of any such power is its ability to project force. The United
States accounts for upward of 45 percent of global military spending, with an
annual budget fast approaching $500 billion. The number dwarfs that of any other
state, including China, whose military budget is murky but thought to lie in the
range of $50 billion to $90 billion.
    Given China's size, economic dynamism and evident self-belief, it seems
unlikely that it can be dissuaded from the notion that its 21st-century future
involves a great-power destiny. The question then becomes: How best to shape
this process in the American interest? Through knuckle-rapping in the Rumsfeld
style? Or through engagement? Or, if both, in what respective doses?
    I called Yu Xintian, a professor at the Shanghai Institute for International
Studies, to see what her reaction was to the Rumsfeld comments. ''China's
peaceful rise is the will of the Chinese people,'' she said. ''We do not want to
take a road to confront the United States. We are not the Soviet Union, and it
is time that our American friends changed their cold-war mentality.'' The
Chinese foreign ministry was blunter, dismissing Mr. Rumsfeld's statement as '
'totally groundless'' and claiming that China did not have the ability ''to
drastically increase its military buildup.''
    The word ''drastically'' is interesting. It suggests that China is indeed
building up its military at what it views as a less-than-drastic pace. That
could be construed as inevitable in a country of such ambition with such a large
share of the world's population. Or, as Max Boot, a senior fellow at the Council
on Foreign Relations suggested, and as Mr. Rumsfeld seems to believe, it might
be viewed as a dangerous trend to be countered.
    ''There is good China-bashing and bad China-bashing,'' Mr. Boot said. ''The
bad bashing centers on complaints about Chinese goods flooding our market. The
fact is, their success shows a lack of competitiveness in our economy. But the
Rumsfeld comments are good bashing, because China's rapid arms buildup is
dangerous in a region with some of the instability of pre-1914 Europe.''
    BUT why, I asked, should the United States spend massively on arms and China
    ''Because we guarantee the security of the world, protect our allies, keep
critical sea lanes open and lead the war on terror,'' he said. ''China, by
contrast, seems to be threatening an invasion of Taiwan and could ignite an arms
race that takes Japan, South Korea and Taiwan nuclear.''
    But why should China accept the Asian status quo, with American forces
guaranteeing regional security? Why should it not embrace its own Monroe
Doctrine and seek dominance in its hemisphere? ''Because the Pax Americana in
Asia, as in Europe, has been conducive to a half-century of growth, peace and
prosperity,'' Mr. Boot said. ''Things might be different if China were
democratic. But for now a line must be drawn: An attack on Taiwan is an attack
on all democratic states in the region.''
    Interesting arguments -- and broadly consistent with that national security
doctrine of 2002, which says: ''Our forces will be strong enough to dissuade
potential adversaries from pursuing a military buildup in hopes of surpassing,
or equaling, the power of the United States.''
    But the current climate, heavily influenced by Iraq, is one of global
sensitivity to any trace of American bullying. France is not the only country
that would not be unhappy to see a power emerge one day to equal America's
might. The only such country on the horizon is China.
    In an Asia where the balance of power -- and the peace -- is fragile, Mr.
Rumsfeld wanted to warn of the dangers of China's ambition. But because a lot of
people are tired of being told, or feeling they are being told, what to do by
the United States, it appears that speeches like his may backfire. They tend to
reinforce precisely the overbearing image the State Department now seems intent
on dispelling.