The bipartisan U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission is warning Congress that current trends in the U.S. relationship with China will lead to long-term threats for U.S. economic and national security interests. The commission's annual report was released in Washington.
The past year has been busy for the commission, which was established by Congress in 2000 to analyze and report on the economic and national security implications of the U.S.-China relationship. The group held 11 hearings, heard testimony from 130 witnesses, and made nearly 40 recommendations to Congress in its report.
Commission Chairman Roger Robinson said the most urgent issue in the bilateral relationship is a trade deficit that is lopsided in China's favor.
"The U.S.-China economic relationship is heavily imbalanced, and undermining our long-term economic health," he said. "The U.S. trade deficit with China reached $124-billion in 2003, with Chinese imports into the United States outpacing U.S. exports to China by more than five to one."
Mr. Robinson said China is engaged in what he called a diplomatic offensive in the Asia-Pacific region to buy space and time for its economic development. He warned, though, that this robust development is translating into rapid military modernization.
"The pace of China's development as a platform for high-technology manufacturing and R&D [research and development], fueled by foreign investment and technological cooperation, has exceeded many outside observers' expectations," she said. "The extent to which China uses its enhanced technology capabilities to accelerate its military modernization program is of direct national security concern to the United States. The extent to which these advances allow China to challenge U.S. competitiveness in technological development is a vital matter for U.S. economic security."
Mr. Robinson expressed concern with what he sees as China's efforts to limit democracy in Hong Kong. He also denounced Chinese military threats against Taiwan, an independently-governed island that Beijing considers part of Chinese territory.
The commission chairman added that an important test of the U.S.-China relationship will be ongoing efforts to resolve the North Korean nuclear crisis, an issue he believes Beijing can greatly influence.
"It will involve China's willingness or unwillingness to use its extensive economic and political leverage to persuade Pyongyang to dismantle, irreversibly, its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs in the near term, she said. "Time is decidedly not on our side on this crisis."
Meanwhile, Commission Vice-Chair Richard D'Amato stressed that U.S.-China ties, overall, may be Washington's most important bilateral relationship. But he adds that he feels the relationship has not been handled well by the United States.
"We have not seemed to have an adequate idea of where the relationship should go, what we expect for China on many issues, which issues need urgent attention," he said. "The relationship has not been well thought through and has not been well-managed. And this, across the board, both in the economic and the strategic areas."
Mr. D'Amato said Washington has what he called substantial leverage on China, but that the use of U.S. influence has not met the gravity of the challenges. He urged Congress to pressure the U.S. government to use that leverage more effectively.