Rumsfeld lectures China on political openness, questions military spending

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

BEIJING -- China is raising global suspicion about its military intentions by failing to acknowledge the true size of recent increases in its defense spending, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said.

On his first trip to China as President Bush's Pentagon chief, Rumsfeld is meeting with government officials and senior military leaders in advance of Bush's planned visit next month. A Chinese spokesman said he hoped Rumsfeld's visit "would increase his understanding" of China's policy.

In his first scheduled event of the three-day trip -- a speech at a top Communist Party top training center -- Rumsfeld lectured China on the lessons of democracy. He urged more political openness and cautioned against the fast pace and secretive nature of China's military expansion.

"While there is no one model that is perfect for every nation at every time in its development, a look across the globe suggests that societies that tend to encourage more open markets and freer systems are societies where the people are enjoying the greatest opportunities," Rumsfeld said in a speech today at the Central Party School, the party's top training center for mid-career members and its main ideological think tank.

"Most of the nations in Asia understand that," he added, implying that China does not.

Later, Rumsfeld was meeting with President Hu Jintao and his defense minister, Gen. Cao Gangchuan.

In his remarks at the Central Party School, Rumsfeld advised vigilance against "another Great Wall" -- a barrier limiting speech, information and choices. People cannot be isolated for long, he said.

The speech applauded China's recent dramatic economic growth and said the United States would welcome a peaceful and prosperous China.

"We also approach our relationship realistically," Rumsfeld added.

"Many countries, for example, have questions about the pace and scope of China's military expansion," he said. "A growth in China's power projection understandably leads other nations to question intentions and to adjust their behavior in some fashion."

Rumsfeld cited the U.S. Constitution's phrase, "We the People," and said it expresses the basic idea that "it is the people who tell our government what it can do."

During a question and answer session with students and faculty after his speech, a professor said China hears "different voices" from the United States about future relations with China

"I hadn't noticed that," Rumsfeld said in response.

He said that it's really quite the opposite -- that some in China seem interested in excluding the United States from regional organizations. "So we see mixed signals," Rumsfeld said.

He urged China to be more transparent about its military buildup and said history suggests that greater openness in the military and economic fields is eventually tied to openness in the political sphere.

It was the second time Rumsfeld had raised the issue of Chinese defense spending since embarking on the trip.

In an interview with reporters accompanying him from Washington on Tuesday, Rumsfeld said the United States and other countries would like to know why the Chinese government has understated its defense spending.

He mentioned no budget figures, but the Pentagon said last summer that China may be spending $90 billion on defense this year -- three times the announced total.

"I think it's interesting that other countries wonder why they would be increasing their defense effort at the pace they are and yet not acknowledging it," Rumsfeld said. "That is as interesting as the fact that it's increasing at the pace it is."

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Kong Quan, when asked about Rumsfeld's remark Tuesday, told reporters that China has published defense reports in recent years to elaborate on its policy objectives and defense expenditures.

"In fact, through these measures the outside has been able to have an enlarged and more in-depth understanding of China's defense situation," he said, adding that he hoped Rumsfeld's visit would "increase his understanding of China's policy of firmly taking a peaceful road."

China agreed to allow Rumsfeld to visit the headquarters of the strategic rocket forces at Qinghe, making him the first U.S. official ever to see the Second Artillery complex, according to Pentagon officials.

The Chinese, however, denied Rumsfeld's request to visit the Western Hills command center, an underground facility that serves as a national military command post. No foreigner is believed to have been inside Western Hills.

Among the other topics expected to arise during Rumsfeld's visit: tensions over Taiwan, the self-governing island that China insists on reuniting with the mainland, and U.S. encouragement for China to use its influence with North Korea in six-party negotiations to end North Korea's nuclear ambitions.

Rumsfeld's visit is only the third by a U.S. defense secretary in the past decade and the first since July 2000. He first visited in 1974 when he was chief of staff to President Ford.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: