You don't need a fortune cookie to learn that China isn't playing straight with the rest of the world. The men in Beijing may be taking some of their clues from the most important page of Mao's Little Red Book: "Every Communist must grasp the truth, 'Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun.'"
We've been lulled into thinking the Chinese brand of "free markets" will move that country toward democracy. Maybe someday, eventually, it will. But free markets must be accompanied by personal freedoms and representative government, and that isn't happening. In fact, there are disturbing signs of a military build-up and deception about it at the highest levels of the Chinese government today.
Secretary of Defense Don Rumsfeld has returned from Singapore where he delivered the keynote address to a conference of defense ministers and military analysts in Asia, and noted that China's military budget ranks behind only that of the United States and Russia. "Since no nation threatens China, one must wonder," he said. "Why these continuing large and expanding arms purchases?"
This was new from an administration that until now criticized, mildly, China's human rights violations while urging China to prod North Korea back to the six-party talks about what to do about its nuclear weapons program. But it's the Chinese armory that concerns the defense secretary. "I just look at the significant rollout of ballistic missiles opposite Taiwan, and I have to ask the question: 'If everyone agrees the question of Taiwan is going to be settled in a peaceful way, why this increase in ballistic missiles opposite Taiwan?'" Newly purchased submarines, fighter jets, assault ships and missiles not only pose a threat to Taiwan, but to the United States if we honor our treaty commitments to go to the aid of our old friends there.
The Rumsfeld speech reflects the buzz of the China watchers in Washington, where the publication of a new book expands the latest thinking. "China: The Gathering Threat," by Constantine Menges, takes its title from Churchill's famous warning about the lessons of World War II: "There never was a war in all history easier to prevent by timely action . . . but no one would listen. We surely must not let that happen again."