The Washington Times: "Confessions of a panda hugger"

December 01, 2014


[by Bill Gertz | November 26, 2014 | Washington Times]

William A. Reinsch, former undersecretary of commerce for export administration under President Bill Clinton, offered a surprising mea culpa in the latest annual report by the U.S.- China Economic and Security Review Commission made public earlier this month.

Once among the more dovish U.S. officials toward China, Mr. Reinsch, the commission’s vice chairman, has described China as “dangerous.”

“It is a real disappointment for me to write these things,” Mr. Reinsch stated in an “Additional Views” section. “I have always been an optimist about the relationship, but that view is becoming increasingly untenable, as China asserts itself in ways that are inevitably going to bump up against our interests in the region and in multilateral fora.”

Mr. Reinsch said he remains committed to keeping people out of power in the United States who view China as an existential threat. But that appears not to be happening in China, a country that has become increasingly bellicose in both its rhetoric and policies toward the United States.

This year’s annual report is “less nuanced and less temperate” in outlining the threat posed by China’s military, and Mr. Reinsch said the tone was changed deliberately.

“It appears the Chinese have embarked on a path intended to push the U.S. to choose between confronting them militarily or abandoning our friends and allies in the region, gambling that we will choose the latter,” he stated. “That is a dangerous path, and the commission is right to note it.”

He lamented that the 599-page report was filled with “unrelenting bad news” about China. The latest report includes unusually stark assessments of China’s development as both a threatening military and economic power.

“Business, labor, numerous nongovernmental organizations and the U.S. government itself are all dissatisfied with aspects of the bilateral relationship — economic, military and political,” he stated.

China’s current leaders have not produced hoped-for reforms that would improve relations: “At this point not only is that prospect unrealized, but the new regime is proving itself far more aggressive against its neighbors, less cooperative in multilateral fora, and much quicker to suppress alternative voices inside China than its predecessors.”

Businesses investing in China are recalculating whether to continue doing business there and likely will seek future investments elsewhere, he said, noting that the Chinese government this year blocked commissioners for visiting the country.

Mr. Reinsch was the senior Commerce Department export control official during the Clinton administration when waivers of sensitive satellite and rocket technology transfers were approved to China. The U.S. dual-use technology ended up being diverted by the Chinese and resulted in improved reliability of China’s strategic nuclear missile forces. In one case, U.S. technology for placing multiple satellites in orbit was diverted and is now believed to be the basis for China’s multiple, independently targetable re-entry vehicles (MIRVs) that are starting to come online.

Asked about the past technology transfers and his current views, Mr. Reinsch said: “I think it’s a bit of a stretch.”

“The point of my additional views was to draw a distinction between the current government in China and its predecessors,” he said in an email. “So, if you want to accuse me of changing my mind, go ahead. But I would say it’s because the Chinese changed theirs.”

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