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China's hitech was machine - The Indian Express

T.J.S. George ()
June 8, 1998

Title: China's hitech was machine
Author: T.J.S. George
Publication: The Indian Express
Date: June 8, 1998

A barely noticed aspect of the bomb saga is that China is working
towards a clearly defined goal and that Pokharan too is being
dexterously fitted into the scheme. The goal is nothing less than
upstaging the United States militarily as well as politically.

Over-ambitious? Not if you are Chinese. No country is more
relentless, more singleminded in the pursuit of its national
interest than China. It may even be said that the Chinese
political leadership is the cleverest one going, not only because
of its native shrewdness but also because it is not sidetracked
or circumscribed by nuisances like democracy.

This is the ground reality against which we must assess the fact
that a year ago China began publicly hinting that its ultimate
aim was to turn hitech militarily and be better at it than
today's hitech powers. Typically, it set out to use the US for
the purpose of doing one up on the US.

Notice the cleverness of the timing and the methodology. The
first public announcements came last year when the whole world
had congregated in Hong Kong with eyes and ears focussed on
Beijing. And the announcements were made by a cross-section of
highly placed "technical" people - Vice Chairman of the Central
Military Commission, the most influential general in the armed
forces, Liu Huaqing; a leading member of the National Defence
Commission; Vice President of the China National Electronics
Import and Export Corporation, CNEIEC. They also involved the
Commission on Science, Technology, and Industry for National
Defence and the PLA's Equipment Department.

With all the world listening, Beijing announced a massive new
initiative: The China International Defence Electronics
Exhibition in Beijing in May 1998. Said CNEIEC's Lu Jide: "The
event will be a good opportunity for foreigners to enter China's
defence market."

Here "foreigners" primarily meant Americans because (a) China had
already been furiously negotiating with Russia, Britain and
Israel without much success, and (b) it was the demonstration of
American electronics technology in the Gulf War that finally made
China decide that it should have that technology one way or

The "foreigners" came salivating because the Chinese defence
market was the biggest bait they could have. Official projections
estimated annual sales of US $ 124 billion in electronic
technology and equipment alone by the turn of the century.

China let it be known that it was looking for foreign involvement
in radar systems, navigational systems, military computers,
simulators, test equipment and microwave components. Special
emphasis was placed on advanced air borne warning and control
systems, equipment that Would allow China's air force to operate
far beyond Chinese borders.

Small wonder that Americans took the bait. The post-Tiananmen
embargo on military supplies was violated by several private US
corporations and diluted by the US establishment. Today we have a
situation where the US is openly courting China as its closest
trading and political partner in Asia. "To win without fighting
is best", said ancient military strategist Sun Tzu. As far as the
US is concerned, China has already won without fighting.

Two points emerge from this that must engage the attention of
Indians at the official and intellectual levels. First, India is
a factor in Chinese strategy only marginally: a country that must
be kept down so that it won't ever become a challenge to China.
This is easily accomplished by exploiting border tensions along
the Himalayas and, more effectively, by building up Pakistan as a
political-military counter to India. If at any time India does
raise its head defiantly, Beijing will come crushing down on it.
Hence the present drive to organise an international axis against
India and President Jiang Zemin himself saying that India's
target is China.

Secondly, the powers China considers necessary to upstage in
order to establish its world hegemony are the US in the West and
Japan in the east. Japan is right now ignorable because it is
officially non-military. And the US is being tackled in ways we
are witnessing.

With hindsight we can now see that India was naive in the '50s
when it set it self up as the only friend of a completely
ostracised 'Red China' and 'Yellow Peril'. China used India until
it won recognition in world forums and then unravelled its master
plan for South Asia.

America is naive today as it consults its former enemy against an
open society like India. It too will realise sooner rather than
later that China has only one interest China's supremacy.

There are of course Americans who are uncomfortable about China's
overall profile and about Washington's new-found love affair with
Beijing. Unreported in India, US citizens have been asking about
the 13 Chinese inter-continental missiles pointed at the US and
why India should not have a bomb if the US and China could have

As far back as 1991, a Western academic raised issues that seem
prescient now. Francis Pike said: "Early in the next century the
US will cease to be the world's largest economy, and for the
first time in more than 100 years will be overtaken by China as
the world's most powerful nation." Clinton's America helps the
process because China has smartly caught it in its grip.

On the one hand, Beijing funnelled substantial funds to his
Democratic Party coffers and is now in a position to embarrass
Clinton and his party if they don't play ball. On the other,
India's bomb has provided a convenient excuse to draw a
highfalutin America into the game.

Ironically, Francis Pike himself had brought up the relevance to
America and the West of the two other Asian powers. He spoke of
"the importance of Japan as a bulwark against Chinese power" and
of how "in India the West has a perfect candidate for
partnership." Apparently these words have not registered.

It is China's business to pursue the goal of world supremacy. No
one prevents India from aiming singlemindedly at achieving Indian
supremacy. The point is that China has been going about it
systematically and gaining its objectives one careful step at a
time. Last year it even banned scientists and researchers in
classified projects from changing jobs. There are many lessons to
learn from the Chinese way of doing things. If we learn at least
some of them the ongoing blasts in Indian politics will have been
worth it.

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