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June 16 , 2006

China's Security Interests
Former Rear Admiral Eric McVadon

Eric McVadon gave the Policymaker group a slightly different slant on U.S.-China security issues than is represented in media and other outlets. His insightful presentation focused on the ‘bigger picture’ of East Asia, the shifting dynamics of power and relationships and the question of Taiwan.

Mr. McVadon believes that Northeast Asia is moving towards a new security architecture, and the United States government must re-evaluate how they approach this new system. The framework is now made up of China and their relations with Japan and Korea. This new security arrangement is increasingly important and the U.S. has not been proactively pursuing their place in a new system.

While admittedly an optimist on China, McVadon pointed out many positive changes with China’ stance on security, especially in regards to North Korea. The six party talks demonstrate China’s willingness to cooperate on international security issues as well as demonstrating our need to work in conjunction with the Chinese. Though many Americans blame China for the talks not progressing further, McVadon provided the insight that the Chinese feel they have leverage with the North Koreans, but do not want to push too hard in fear of “breaking the lever.” Some Chinese also blame American leadership, believing that the U.S. is more interested in seeing regime change in North Korea than progressing in negotiations. It is also clear through the China’s interaction with South Korea that the Chinese leadership has already chosen the winner on the Korean Peninsula, though the Chinese remain concerned about stability in North Korea.

Mr. McVadon reminded the group that when talking with the Chinese, it is always about Taiwan. If Americans are obsessed with North Korean and nuclear arms, the Chinese are obsessed with Taiwan. However, with President Hu Jintao’s leadership, there has been a visible ‘softening’ of policy towards Taiwan. It appears Hu is working to keep the status quo rather than push for reunification. Beijing is now attempting to make China more attractive to Taiwan through economic means rather than intimidating Taiwan through force. Note that this in no way implies that China will not use force to reunite Taiwan if the leadership feels forced into a decision.

The modernization of the PLA (People’s Liberation Army) has direct consequences for the U.S. and Taiwan. China’s increasingly sophisticated military capabilities include long-term strategic thinking and layering options. China’s weakness lies in their mediocre training and lack of surveillance skills.

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