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Cheney's Suspicion of China Threat Reinforced

Pakistan Daily Times | April 20 2004

Comment: Cheney calls China a threat while at the same time selling them nukes.

WASHINGTON: US Vice-President Dick Cheney’s long-held suspicion that China is a key strategic threat to the United States may have been reinforced by his first official visit to that country last week, experts say.

When Cheney entered office more than three years ago, he viewed the problem of managing China’s rapid rise as the single most important US foreign policy challenge in the 21st century.

It was clear from the subtext of his speeches that he was not conciliatory on the Taiwan issue, was reserved on praise for China’s recent legislation on counter-proliferation regulations and less than impressed by China’s reaction to US evidence about North Korea’s growing nuclear arsenal, said John Tkacik, a China expert at the Washington-based Heritage Foundation. “My feeling is that Cheney returned from China with his sense of frustration with China still fresh,” said Tkacik, a former 23-year veteran of the US State Department.

He said he was “struck” that Cheney was not as effusive in his praise of China’s cooperation in either the war on terror or resolving the North Korean nuclear turmoil as perhaps previous administration figures had been.

“My sense is that he continues to see China as a major challenge,” Tkacik said. “But again there is no percentage in raising tensions with the Chinese when we still have a number of other issues which are more pressing right now.”

Tkacik believes that Cheney’s trip might prod the Bush administration to begin a “whole reappraisal” of its China strategy.

“The real challenge for the United States is how do we deal with an East Asia which is coming increasingly under China’s political sway,” said Tkacik.

Derek Mitchell, an Asian affairs expert at the US Centre for Strategic and International Studies, said Cheney’s fundamental assessment that China would be a rival and competitor with the United States in the future could not have changed after his trip.

Mitchell said US focus on China was diverted after the September 11, 2001 deadly terror attacks in the United States, which led to a Washington-led global war on terrorism and wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. But the Bush administration did not believe China is going to be a friend or partner forever, he added.

“We went from viewing China before 9/11 as being a prime part of the problem and into becoming after 9/11 an important part of the solution to international problems,” he added.

Mitchell said Taiwan could top any review of Washington’s China policy following Cheney’s return at the weekend.

“I think they are looking at how to deal with China in the context of Taiwan and how to get China to be more flexible and more creative to create better conditions for stability across the strait,” he said.