bipartisan congressional commission led by Representative
Christopher Cox (R-CA) has filled a leadership void created by the
consistent unwillingness of the Clinton Administration to
acknowledge and respond to China's potential challenge to U.S.
security. The commission's 872-page report, issued on May 25,
presents a comprehensive and disturbing picture of China's efforts
to obtain military technology to build modern nuclear missiles and
other weapons that could threaten U.S. security and challenge U.S.
interests in Asia.
Clinton Administration's failure to warn Congress and the American
people of these dangers constitutes a stunning lapse of leadership.
Critics who downplay the seriousness of China's spying because
"everyone does it" miss the point: U.S. taxpayers will have to bear
the cost of new weapons to defend against new Chinese missiles
based on U.S. technology already paid for by Americans. The Cox
Report is a long-overdue wake-up call for the Clinton
Administration and U.S. allies to reassess China's intentions, to
undertake a serious counterintelligence campaign to protect against
China's espionage, and to develop effective missile defenses to
blunt China's emerging military capabilities.
The Scope and Impact of China's
Formed last June to investigate allegations that China had
obtained missile technology from U.S. companies, the Cox Commission
uncovered a much broader espionage campaign. The commission's
report concludes that China "has mounted a widespread effort to
obtain U.S. technology by any means--legal or illegal." Chinese
spies working in U.S. nuclear weapons laboratories have obtained
information on all current U.S. nuclear missile warheads, the
neutron bomb, and advanced military technology like radio-frequency
weapons and radar satellites. China also has obtained information
to improve its missile forces from U.S. satellite manufacturers and
systematically tries to obtain militarily useful technology from
civilian business ventures--involving more than 3,000 front
companies inside the United States, according to the report. The
report notes as well that China has used political donations to try
to influence the Clinton Administration's technology export
most important impact of China's espionage is its ability to
threaten the United States both directly and indirectly. The report
warns that China could use U.S. thermonuclear weapons and missile
guidance technology to build new modern intercontinental-range
ballistic missiles with multiple warheads that could cover the
United States. Stolen U.S. technology could be used to endanger
U.S. satellites and ballistic missile submarines that are critical
to the U.S. nuclear deterrent. New indirect threats will come from
anticipated proliferation by China of U.S.-based ballistic and
cruise missile or satellite technology to rogue states like Iran
and North Korea, both of which are trying to build nuclear missiles
capable of reaching the United States. The Cox Report states,
moreover, that China is stealing military technology on a vast
scale to advance its goals: to retake Taiwan and to displace the
United States as the primary power in Asia.
Needed: Policies that Defend the
The Cox Commission's warnings of China's massive scale of
espionage, the impact of its being able to apply critical U.S.
nuclear warhead and missile technology to its own missile forces,
combined with the warning of China's goal to become the main power
in Asia, should be spurring the Clinton Administration into action.
But President Bill Clinton acts as though it is business as usual.
Although he has had the full, unedited Cox Report since January,
with its voluminous testimony on the ways China exploits U.S.
satellite companies, President Clinton on May 11 personally
approved another launch on a Chinese rocket of Motorola Iridium
satellites. And on the day the Cox Report was released, the
Administration rejected the report's call for the revival of
multilateral export controls for militarily sensitive technology
that President Clinton ended in 1993. Congress and the American
people should demand better. The Administration should heed the
warning of the Cox Commission and undertake urgent initiatives to
safeguard U.S. military secrets and protect U.S. security. These
Abandoning the notion that
China is the "strategic partner" of the United States.
Since 1997, the Clinton Administration has promoted the notion that
China is a "strategic partner" of the United States. This idea now
should be publicly abandoned in wake of China's blatant effort to
undermine U.S. national security.
A crash program to improve
counterintelligence. U.S. counterintelligence has proved
itself unable to stem China's penetration of U.S. nuclear
laboratories, its exploitation of U.S. satellite companies to
obtain missile technology, or to fully counter China's use of
business, scientific and student groups to gather militarily useful
intelligence. This is unacceptable. The Clinton Administration
immediately should implement such Cox Report recommendations as
improving interagency coordination and undertake a comprehensive
counterintelligence threat assessment of China. There should be a
doubling of resources and funds devoted to foreign intelligence and
domestic counterintelligence relating to China.
high-technology export controls. It was a major strategic
blunder for the Clinton Administration to end multilateral export
controls for sensitive technology in 1993. Controls for computer,
missile, and nuclear technologies must be revived.
Accelerating the development of
missile defenses. China's use of U.S. technology to
improve its missile forces more rapidly now requires that the
Clinton Administration commit to an earliest possible deployment of
effective national and theater missile defense systems. This added
expense on new missile defenses is more necessary now because the
Administration failed to stem the flow of missile technology to
The Cox Report details the most significant transfer of
military power from an established to a rising power since the West
aided the military-technical modernization of the Soviet Union in
the early 1920s. Although China does not pose a threat like that of
the former Soviet Union, the Cox Commission provides an essential
warning of China's potential future hostile intent toward the
United States and its friends in Asia. President Clinton should
heed the report's recommendation and improve U.S.
counterintelligence and national security so as to do a better job
of deterring potential conflict with China in the future.
Richard D. Fisher, Jr., is
Director of The Asian Studies Center at The Heritage