The Growing Chinese Threat

CIA Issues Warning on China’s Military Efforts (FT)

The director of the US Central Intelligence Agency has warned that China’s military modernisation is tilting the balance of power in the Taiwan Strait and increasing the threat to US forces in the region.

Delivering the agency’s annual assessment of worldwide threats on Wednesday, Porter Goss, a former Republican congressman who was named in September to head the CIA, dropped any mention of the co-operative elements of the US-China relationship that characterised recent CIA statements. Instead, he said China was making determined military and diplomatic efforts to “counter what it sees as US efforts to contain or encircle Chinaâ€.

Mr Goss’s statements on China were a small part of testimony that highlighted the threat Islamic terrorism poses to the US and emphasised concerns over Iran and North Korea. He has also said that he wants to refocus the agency on its traditional mission of assessing threats and avoid statements that could be interpreted as setting US policy.

But the statement on China indicated the CIA is paying growing attention to what it considers potential military threats amid China’s growing economic ties with its neighbours and the US. Mr Goss referred to US concerns over the increase in Chinese ballistic missiles deployed across the Taiwan Strait and the improvements in China’s nuclear and conventional capabilities.

The change in tone was notable given US concerns over Europe’s plan to end its embargo on arms sales to China. Experts on China said that, while warnings about China’s military capabilities were not new, the CIA had in the past underscored the co-operation between the US and China.

Here is the Goss testimony:

Global Intelligence Challenges 2005

Beijing’s military modernization and military buildup is tilting the balance of power in the Taiwan Strait. Improved Chinese capabilities threaten US forces in the region.

*In 2004, China increased its ballistic missile forces deployed across from Taiwan and rolled out several new submarines.

*China continues to develop more robust, survivable nuclear-armed missiles as well as conventional capabilities for use in a regional conflict.

Taiwan continues to promote constitutional reform and other attempts to strengthen local identity. Beijing judges these moves to be a “timeline for independence”. If Beijing decides that Taiwan is taking steps toward permanent separation that exceed Beijing’s tolerance, we believe China is prepared to respond with various levels of force.

China is increasingly confident and active on the international stage, trying to ensure it has a voice on major international issues, secure access to natural resources, and counter what it sees as US efforts to contain or encircle China.

The timing of these statements is, of course, pretty interesting, since the Bush administration has been calling on the Chinese to intensify pressure on North Korea.

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Robert Garcia Tagorda
About Robert Garcia Tagorda
Robert blogged prolifically at OTB from November 2004 to August 2005, when career demands took him in a different direction. He graduated summa cum laude from Claremont McKenna College with a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics and earned his Master in Public Policy from Harvard's Kennedy School of Government.


  1. ken says:

    With seventeen percent of every FIT dollar collected going to pay interest on the Reagan/Bush debt and with the Chinese government one of the largest buyers of US debt I wonder how much of the communist arms build up is paid for by American taxpayers.

  2. DC Loser says:

    Or the corollary, how much are we willing to piss off the Chinese since they hold so much of our debt. What will happen if the Chinese decides to dump their holdings in US Treasury bonds or move their reserve currency out of the dollar?

  3. McGehee says:

    What will happen if the Chinese decides to dump their holdings in US Treasury bonds…

    They’ll take a huge financial bath to make a short-term political statement.

    That doesn’t seem to be in character.

  4. DC Loser says:


    That will depend on how important the issue is to them. If they’re willing to risk war and their economy over Taiwan, you can bet that it will be worth it for them to do that.

  5. McGehee says:

    If they’re willing to risk war and their economy over Taiwan…

    They’re not. All that saber-rattling over Taiwan is just part of their diplomatic repertoire, designed to keep hand-wringing Western diplomats sweating and trying to placate the PRC Politburo. If it happens somehow to lead to a conclusion beneficial to them within the lifetimes of anyone alive today, so much the better in their view. But they’re not fooling themselves that any of it is moving them toward such a goal more than incrementally.

    As for war, they’ll need that economy to finance the kind of war they’re presently capable of. They’d rather use it to make themselves capable of the kind of war we can wage — and that’s a longer-term objective.

  6. DC Loser says:

    You sound very confident in that. Most people I talk to aren’t. Don’t ever underestimate what drives them, especially if nationalism gets out of hand and the people are more radical than the leaders.

  7. Zach says:

    Im not worried about the Chinese now, but look 15 to 20 years ahead. By that time the Chinese will pose a greater threat to the U.S. and our allies in Asia than Islamic extremeism.