Rumsfeld Encourages Transparency, Cooperation for China's Future
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
BEIJING, Oct. 19, 2005 Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld challenged China's military buildup here today, telling Communist Party members the speed and scope of the expansion "understandably leads other nations to question China's intentions."
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld addresses students and faculty at the Central Party School in Beijing Oct. 19. Photo by Donna Miles
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Rumsfeld spoke at the Central Party School, a training center for 1,600 mid-level and senior officials identified to become future leaders, as his first official stop during his first visit here as defense secretary.
He began his address by praising China for its economic progress and encouraging the country to take a larger role on the world stage against threats that require global cooperation.
Rumsfeld also offered some harsh realities to the students, warning them that China's advances on the military front are raising concerns around the world and that the country's lack of transparency will ultimately squelch its future prosperity.
The "rapid and, from our perspective at least, non-transparent nature" of the country's military expansion, plus its efforts to exclude the United States from regional institutions and activities" are leading nations around the world to wonder about China's intentions, the secretary said.
More importantly, Rumsfeld said, "it raises questions about whether China will make the right choices -- choices that will serve the world's real interests in regional peace and stability."
He challenged the students and faculty members, whose decisions he noted will shape their country's future, to look beyond their closed society, which limits speech, information and choices and, in doing so, squelches talent and potential.
There's no one model that's perfectly suited to every nation throughout its development, Rumsfeld told the audience, but he offered a clear connection between transparency and economic success.
"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," he said.
China's internal political events will play a big part on China's future prosperity and how other countries approach China, Rumsfeld told the audience. "History suggests that greater openness in the military and economic fields are related in the end to openness in the political sphere," he said.
Rumsfeld told the students it's impossible to isolate people for long, because information eventually seeps through. And when people discover that reality is far different from what they've been taught and led to believe, "the effect can be dramatic," he warned.
Noting that he's long been on the receiving end of tough questions throughout his career, Rumsfeld posed some tough questions of his own, asking students at the Central Party School what kind of future they envision for their country.
"What role will you have in helping the Chinese people achieve the political and economic benefits to which they aspire?" he asked. "What future will you help bring for China as a constructive partner in the international system?"
"And 30 years from now, when the China of tomorrow comes," he questioned, "what will you tell your children and your great grandchildren of the role you played during your lives in helping build that new China?"
Rumsfeld emphasized the value of a government system that serves the people and is based on "the fundamental notion that the people tell the government what it can do."
"Behind that notion is the concept that our government exists to allow the people to realize their full potential and the hope that people will work together to the benefit of all," he said.
During a short question-and-answer session following his address, Rumsfeld disputed a faculty member's assertion that the United States is sending mixed signals about its relationship with China.
Rumsfeld said it's China that's sending "different voices," working cooperatively with the United States on some fronts, while taking other actions that contradict them. These, the secretary said, include working to exclude the United States from regional activities and organizations to participation in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, a group of Eurasian countries consisting of China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. The organization has called for the United States to withdraw its forces from Uzbekistan.
These actions leave confusion about China's true objectives, Rumsfeld said. "We see mixed signals, and we seek clarification," he said.
In other discussion that continued after reporters were required to leave the room, Rumsfeld said the United States doesn't challenge China's military spending, just its lack of candor about it, a defense official told reporters.
"There's a very broad perception of lack of transparency," the official said, quoting Rumsfeld.
Referring to DoD's annual report to Congress on Chinese military power, issued in late July, a Chinese official dismissed it as "excessively exaggerated," the official said.
Following his visit to the Central Party School, Rumsfeld visited China's Defense Ministry and was slated to travel on to Qinghe, headquarters of China's Strategic Rocket Forces. Later in the day, he was scheduled to meet with President Hu Jintao.
Despite a request from Rumsfeld's staff, however, the Chinese government turned down a request to visit the Western Hills Command Center. The underground military command post is considered to be China's equivalent to the Pentagon.
During his flight here Oct. 17, Rumsfeld told reporters he was looking forward to learning more about Chinese leaders' vision of their country's future, particularly with regard to their military expansion and their willingness to share information.
"They have been and will be making choices as they go along and obviously, those of us in the United States and other (free) countries around the world ... hope the choices they make will be choices toward a more open ... and transparent society," he said.
"Obviously, it's up to the People's Republic of China to make its decisions about how it wants to arrange itself from a political and an economic and a security standpoint."