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.