TAIWAN TENSIONS BLOCK CHINAS HI-TECH BUYING HOPES


2003-12-17
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U.S. unlikely to lift restrictions on dual-use technology soon

China's bid to persuade the United States that it is a responsible global citizen to be trusted with cutting-edge technology exports will carry little weight in Washington at a time of increased tension across the Taiwan Strait, RFA reports.

During his visit to the United States earlier this month, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao called on Washington to loosen curbs on the types of technology that can be sold to China.

"I ardently hope that the relevant U.S. departments will make a clean break with those obsolete concepts and anachronistic practices and throw them into the Pacific Ocean," Wen said.

He later told an audience at the Harvard Business School that increasing hi-tech exports to China was the best way of reducing the large trade deficit between the two trading partners. The easing of export restrictions was also part of a five-point proposal Wen presented to U.S. President George W. Bush during their meeting at the White House.

But experts cite continuing fears that many hi-tech products, especially advanced semi-conductors that can be used in missile guidance systems, may have a military, as well as a civilian, use.

Apart from U.S. accusations that China has helped spread weapons of mass destruction to other countries, including Pakistan and Iran, renewed tensions with Taiwan also pose a problem.

"My assessment is that we're not going to see any rapid change in the U.S. attitude about the easing of export controls of high-tech equipment relating to weapons to China any time soon," Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association, a non-partisan group in Washington, said in an interview.

While China has worked hard in recent years to improve its reputation as a responsible global citizen with its own set of export controls, there are still concerns over the ability of the government to enforce its own rules, analysts say.

There are also concerns at the number of missiles leveled at Taiwan on the Chinese mainland, a concern that's been strongly voiced by Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian as the island moves into campaigning for the March 2004 presidential election.

In a move Beijing has called an "immoral" gamble on the island's future, Chen has pledged the first island-wide referendum in March 2004, which will call on Beijing to stop pointing missiles at the island. While the United States opposes any moves to formalize Taiwan's de facto independence, it has also warned Beijing not to make any move to destabilize the situation.

"What we are concerned about is that they will take dual-use technologies, say that they're buying it for civilian purpose but actually use it for a military purpose and thereby increase Chinese capabilities that might threaten Taiwan or ultimately the United States," Richard Bush, director of Northeast Asian policy studies at the Brookings Institution in Washington, told RFA.

"That, I think, is the more profound concern. And on that, U.S. experts will, I think, make the final judgment whether it is in the U.S. national security interest to relax controls," Bush said.

Adam Segal, senior fellow in China studies at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, says China has already purchased a number of advanced weapons systems from the Russians--the Kilo-class submarine, Sovremenny destroyer, and the SU-27 fighter, for example. Increased capability that would enable China's armed forces to further integrate weapons systems it already possesses makes U.S. analysts very uneasy, he told RFA special correspondent Michael Lelyveld.

"The Taiwan situation is the most immediate possibility of conflict between the U.S. and China, and it's sort of a larger reflection that China is a diplomatic partner but it's not an ally," Segal said.

"Until these situations are resolved, then it's very unlikely that the highest levels of technologies are going to be freely traded with China," he said.#####

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