China: A Multi-faceted Threat to US National Security
July 16th, 2009
TABLE OF CONTENTS
2. Chinese Military: Growing Threat to US National Security.
Tabitha Hodges. Pg. 3
3. Human Rights Violation in China.
Jeffrey Clark. Pg. 7
4. China’s Media Censorship: A Threat to the United States
Christopher Basha. Pg. 13
5. China’s Growing Economic Power and its Threat to US National Security
Thawng Lian. Pg. 16
6. Chinese Industrialization: A Threat to Global Environment
Joan Nguyen. Pg. 19
8. Works Cited
The US is the leader in the international community in power and widespread
influence. This power is maintained through a vast and strong military, an expanding and
relatively stable economy, and asserting itself as a model example of human rights advocate
and taking on a newly growing responsibility for environmental conservation and sustainable
development. Although these elements combined help secure US power and influence, they
are threatened to become destabilized by another growing super power: China. China has
been growing in multiple ways as it is making itself recognized as a significant world player
on the international stage. It has grown economically and militarily—both of which may be
utilized to further develop influence and power within its region past the two aforementioned
categories. In order for the US to maintain its position of power and stability, the factors that
threaten US national security by China must be addressed on multiple levels: The military,
human rights violations, censorship and ideology, economy, and environmentally harmful
China's growing military capability has attracted a great deal of attention, but details
about the current and likely near-future state of China's military power have been in short
supply. While it is true that China is modernizing its forces and increasing defense spending,
the prospective improvements in overall military capability need to be set against the very
low-technology starting point of China's armed forces.
The 1982 Chinese constitution vests supreme command of the armed forces in the
Central Military Commission. The country‘s military force is the People‘s Liberation Army
(PLA), so named in 1946; the army, navy, and air force are all components of the PLA. In the
early 1990s the PLA was approximately 3 million strong and as such was the world‘s largest
military force. However, it is not considered a highly sophisticated armed force. Of this
number, the navy had 240,000 members, including about 25,000 in the naval air force and
another 6000 in the marines; the air force had 470,000 members, including 220,000 in air
defense. The army was supported by a national militia of some 12 million and by a security
force of more than 1.8 million. The navy had more than 1700 vessels, including more than 90
submarines, one of them armed with nuclear missiles. The air force had an estimated 5000
combat aircraft. China has made significant progress in the development of nuclear weapons,
but in comparison with those of the U.S. or Russia, its arsenal is small. The PLA also plays a
significant role in economic production and in major construction efforts such as dams,
irrigation projects, and land reclamation schemes. The PLA virtually ran the nation during the
most chaotic years of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution (1966–69) and suppressed
prodemocracy demonstrations in Beijing in June 1989.
When viewed through the lens on a security dilemma, China‘s modernization may
cause much instability. The dilemma exists because one state‘s efforts to increase its own
security usually decrease the security of another state. Signs of mistrust and suspicion
consistent with the presence of a security dilemma are not hard to find within the United
States and Chinese militaries. One Chinese source notes that ―the United States resolutely
believes that China will become its global strategic opponent around 2015.‖
According to the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists and the SIPRI Yearbook 1999, the
size of the Chinese nuclear arsenal is about 400 warheads. The Bulletin estimates that 20
nuclear-armed missiles are deployed in the intercontinental role, and another 230 nuclear
weapons on deployed (or can be deployed) on aircraft, missiles, and submarines with regional
capabilities. The 150 remaining nuclear warheads are believed to be reserved for "tactical"
uses (short-range missiles, low yield aircraft-dropped bombs, and possibly artillery shells or
For the United States, China‘s evolving maritime denial capability could be seen as
challenging its command of the seas. Although China has only conducted a few submarine
patrols in recent years, mostly in the coastal water, the number has increased to seven in 2007.
Chinese submarines have become more visible, transiting unannounced through Japanese
territorial waters in November 2004 and surfacing unexpectedly near a U.S carrier in October
2006. China‘s naval modernization is also likely to appear threatening to other states in the
region, especially those involved in disputes with China over maritime sovereignty.
China says it pursues a national defense policy solely aimed at protecting its territory
and people, and in keeping with its concept of "peaceful development." The government's
latest white paper on national defense says it will "by and large reach the goal of
modernization of national defense and armed forces by the mid-21st century." The paper
stresses China's hopes to create a more technologically advanced, capable military that will
allow it to conduct and sustain operations at a greater distance from its border and says the
country will make much progress toward that goal by 2020.
There are many reasons as to why China has accelerated their military build-up. It is
not difficult to identify the stimuli which have prompted China to go in for an accelerated
military build-up in the last decade or so.
United States victory in the Cold War and loss of the Cold War‘s predictable global strategic
templates which China adroitly exploited to her strategic advantage was disconcerting for
The disintegration of the Former Soviet Union as a Communist superpower and the
emergence of the United States as the sole superpower were strategically traumatic for China.
United States military intervention in Iraq (Gulf War I in 1991-92) and the hi-tech ‗shock and
awe‘ blitzkrieg military campaign was militarily traumatic for China.
United States military interventions in former Yugoslavia on humanitarian grounds in the
mid-1990s rattled China fearing that the same principles could be used by United States for
military interventions in Tibet and Xinjiang. Further, it was militarily traumatic that another
Communist state stood disintegrated by American policies.
The ease with which Taliban Afghanistan was subjugated in 2002 by awesome use of
American military power and that too on China‘s immediate periphery further reinforced
China‘s military fears arising from USA.
Whatever Chinese doubts of American military power that may have lingered stood shattered
by Gulf War II in Iraq where once again US hi-tech integrated military power sliced through
Iraq in days.
The strategic hemming-in of China both in the East and the West by United States strategic
initiatives have kept China worried.
China announced a nearly 15 percent rise in military spending on 04 March 2009 — a
smaller boost than in previous years — as the national legislature prepared to open its annual
session with a focus firmly on overcoming the country's brewing economic crisis. The 14.9
percent increase in defense spending is the lowest in three years, a possible reflection of
shifting priorities. The 480.68 billion yuan (US$70.27 billion) military budget follows a 17.6
percent increase last year and 17.8 percent in 2007 — the biggest jump in more than a decade.
It also was the 19th double-digit percentage increase in the past two decades.
While economic and trade relations between the United States and China have been
growing, military to military relations remain relatively underdeveloped. Military conflict
between the two is highly unlikely, but "not impossible" according to CFR
Senior Fellow Adam Segal. Some experts see little prospect of a closer military
relationship between the two countries in the near future. Admiral Timothy J. Keating,
commander of U.S. Pacific Command, told CFR.org it would be a "giant leap of faith" to
believe the United States and China could develop a close military partnership any time
soon. To improve the relationship, Keating says, will require "more transparency, a better
understanding of intention on our part of the Chinese, and to get there we would need more
active cooperation with the Chinese." How U.S. defense planners will respond to China's
military buildup going forward is also dependent on the ongoing debate over the biggest threats
to U.S. national security.
Human Rights Violations in China
The Declaration of Human Rights, which was written due to the horrific events in the
death camps of Nazi Germany, and was adopted on December 10, 1948 at Palais de Chaillot,
Paris, demands that all people have certain inalienable rights that can not be circumvented by
governmental power. Specifically, article 5 of this document clearly states, ―No person shall be
subject to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment‖. These sediments
have echoed in the conscience of textual writers who were willing to reassert the will of
international concerns toward human life at the International Convention against Torture on
December 9, 1975, and the International Convention on Political and Civil rights in 1966. Even
the United States Congress used these conventions as building blocks to implement a legal basis
at the national level by adding, ―No assistance may be provided under this part of the
government of any country which engages in consistent patterns of gross violations of
internationally recognized human rights, including torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading
treatment or punishment.‖ Today, we will uncover massive human rights violation in China. We
will look at the type of atrocity that Chinese citizens are subject too. Next, we will discover the
kind of agreements that are needed in order to stop human rights violations, and if American and
China‘s relationship fit into that model. Finally, we will connection the lines between human
right violations in China as being a threat to America‘s national security interests.
From the outset, Chinese history has been rattled with governmental atrocities against its
citizens. Since the days of the Warring States period (476 BCE-221 BCE) the Chinese
government has demonstrated the need for violence to rule the country. After the First Emperor
united all the different families under a single ruler (221 BCE- 210 BCE) legalism was
implemented, and this form of government was extremely brutal. Legalism assigned collective
punishment for all in the hierarchy below the offender, and systematic execution at the whims of
government officials. Torture was a valued purpose, and no one in the hierarchy, save the
emperor, was safe from its practice. Today China is not much different. Albeit the torture and
humiliation of its citizens are mostly done in secret, the citizens are still subject to torture,
humiliation, and cruel punishment copiously by the Chinese government.
For example, the Falun-Gong movement started in China around 1992. It is a religious
practice which swept the country with practitioners reaching 70 million. In 1999, the Chinese
Communist Party in Beijing, under leading party member Jiang Zemin, declared that the practice
of Falun-Gong was illegal, and he gave complete autonomy to the Peoples Liberation Army and
the local police to stop the practice of Falun- Gong inside China. Immediately following the
orders of Jiang Zemin, the Peoples Liberation Army began wide spread systematic brutality
against anyone demonstrating the practice of Fulan-Gong. In public view police were witnessed
to beating Fulan-Gong pacifists with iron rods; tie them to chairs, and burning them with cattle
prods and hot pokers. In private, the circumstances to these persecutions were much worse.
So how does human right violation in China affect American national security
interests? Well, first we have to examine some leading theories about human right agreements
and preferential trade agreements. According to Neil J. Mitchell and James M. McCormick, ―the
U.S. sets the pace as sponsors and suppliers on a global scale, having to do with economic
interest, and other capitalist countries, to maintain favorable condition for investments into those
countries. The idea is the greater the involvement with United States and its aid, the greater the
promotion of human rights.‖ Basically, they assert that economic modernization leads to
political stability and respect for human rights. By allowing human rights violation to continue
while doing business with the Chinese government, America is allowing China to set the pace at
the international level. This make America look like followers instead of leaders, and
Democracy, not Communism, is what needs to be assimilated internationally. Ostensibly, by
letting China continue down this course threatens American national security by making
Democracy look weaker then Communism.
Most research available on the subject of behavior changes in regionally established
government have been conducted from the perspective of America giving aid to other countries
to influence that countries behavior. ―While human rights agreements are designed to
substantiate how a government treats people, they are still only soft law, which do not have the
. Neil J. Mitchell & James M. McCormick. ‗Economics and political Explanation of human rights violations”. World Politics. Vol. 40,
No. 4(1988), Pp. 479
full binding force of international law‖.2 On the other hand, preferential trade agreements are
designed to enforce voluntary commitment to coordinate market policies at the international
level, and they can be used to support human rights at a more effective rate then human right
agreements. Basically, these factors force governments to change their behavior in order to
obtain valued economic packages from the U.S. In theory, through preferential trade agreements,
actors can be coerced to comply with human rights standards.
But what if the roles of economic interest are reversed? What if those who are prospering
more from the relationship have little incentive to demand the stop of human rights violation
with the country that it is dealing with? What if the country that is holding the incentive cards are
the governments that are perpetrating human rights violations? This seems to be the case
between America and China‘s ongoing relationship. According to Thomas J. Christensen,
―between 1970-1978, the value of trade moving between China and America grew more than
two orders of magnitude from 1 billion U.S. dollars to 100 billion U.S. dollars annually, and by
2004, the trade was 245 billion U.S. dollars annually.‖3 According to reports by USA today, in
2008, ―China‘s portfolio in U.S. securities is 1.2 trillion in budget deficit and 3 trillion in trade
deficit‖. That is a lot of incentives for American interests to circumvent national and
international laws and treaties on basic human rights. This has got to stop in the interest of
American national security. With ever dollar that is used to make China stronger, America gets
weaker on the world stage. Ever dollar gained by the Chinese Communist Party gives more
. Thomas Christensen. ―Fostering stability or creating a monster? The rise of china and U.S. policy toward East Asia”. International
security, Vol. 31, No. 1 (2006),Pp. 98.
3. Aaron L. Friedberg. ―The future of U.S. & china relations: is conflict inevitable‖? International security, Vol. 30, No. 2
4. “Tolerating Chinas game; Cal and Bob agree that American political & business leaders have turned a blind eye to a Beijing regime
that pose great risk to American interest”. USA Today news; (Aug 7, 2008) Pp. 11A.
credential to them to swing the voting power in their favor internationally. We, as Americans, do
not want the Chinese Communist Party to have more power then American do in the
international arena. This would be a clear threat to American National security.
There are thousands of eye witness accounts of Fulan-Gong followers being subject to
torture inside of Chinese labor camps. These events range from individuals being placed in to
water dungeons, on tiger benches, and have forced feedings projected on them. It is not
uncommon for authorities to push bamboo shoots under the victims finger nails while under
going these processes. These atrocities are not the worst that can happen to individual that are
subject to human right violations by the Chinese government. There is documented evidence of
systematic organ harvesting going on in labor camps, and forced sterilization have been on the
Chinese agenda. Are American representative fully aware of the tactic being deployed against
the Falun-Gong prisoners? You bet your ass they are, but capital gains have made it easy for
them to look in the other direction. It seems that the pragmatism of U.S. officials have been lost
in capital flows and economic viability. This process has weakened American‘s national spirit of
liberty and justice, and that should be the number one consideration when talking about
American national security interest. As Americans, we should fear nationally that the world will
one day be the same way as Communist China is today.
Furthermore, allowing the Chinese Communist Party to get away with Human rights
violations America is reinforcing the assumption, in the China‘s mind, that it is alright to torture
human beings. We are sending a clear message to the Chinese that there are no repercussions for
acting inhumanly toward individuals within Chinese territory, and that the Chinese do not have
to fear America, because America, which Mao had asserted in one of his speeches, is nothing but
a paper tiger. By not acting consistently in our policy toward human rights violation, we are
showing the world that America is not serious about democracy, freedom, and our basic national
identity. As a democratic nation, the spread of democracy should be our number one national
Finally, with America continually running a trade deficit with China, this gives the
Chinese power to flaunt its barbarism in the face of America on a global scale. The Chinese
already have Korea and Vietnam to bolster national pride for their country against American
dignity. Using monetary means to concomitantly violate Human right at the expense of
American identity weakens our national persona and gives cause to our enemies to attack us in
our current abashment due to 911 and the Iraq War. In short, by allowing China to continue with
its policy of disregard for human life, America national security interest is weakened in the face
of our enemies at home and abroad.
In conclusion, letting the Chinese Communist Party slide from their international
commitment to adhere to human rights treaties is a threat to American national security strategy.
Countries that exhibit human right violations are automatically against the principles of our
democratic society, and to continue to let those countries practice human rights violation while
being in business with us weakens out national and international image on the world stage. .
Today, we have uncovered massive human rights violation in China. We have looked at the type
of atrocity Chinese citizens are subject too. Next, we discovered what kind of agreements are
needed in order to stop human rights violations, and if American and China‘s relationship fit into
that model. Finally, we have connected the lines between human right violations in China as
being a threat to America‘s national security interests.
China’s Media Censorship: A Threat to the United States
June 4, 2009 is the 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre in China. The
incident involved demonstrations around the Tiananmen Square area by intellectuals and
students against the People‘s Republic of China (PRC). The group of protestors called for a
series of economic and democratic reforms and expressed a general disapproval of the
government‘s authoritarian ways. In order to stop the protests which had lasted for nearly two
weeks, the government ordered the People‘s Liberation Army to quell the protestors by opening
fire on the square. After two days of military involvement the Red Cross estimated that 2,600
people had been killed and nearly 7,000 to 10,000 wounded (Kristof). Now, 20 years after the
event occurred, the Chinese government continues to flex its authoritarian might by taking a
number of precautionary steps to keep discussion of the event and the anniversary non existent.
One such effort was the complete and total censorship of any internet discussion of the
massacre taking place. So much pressure was put on Chinese internet services that many just
completely shut down comment boards stating the day was Chinese Internet Maintenance Day.
Furthermore, Twitter, human rights‘ groups websites, and blogging services hosted outside of
China were also blocked to keep information about the event at a minimum (Singel). This
blatant denial of information to the citizens of China may at first appear to be a domestic issue;
however, its consequences are much more widespread. Actions such as this present a serious
and possibly dangerous threat to the United States and its national security interests. This threat
manifests itself in two primary ways. First, the Chinese government is causing harm to free trade
interests of United States companies. Second, by engaging in censorship of incoming
information and world events, Chinese citizens are not presented with full information regarding
American policy and opinions.
The strict censorship of the Internet by Chinese authorities has increasingly caused
damage to United States companies and their ability to engage in free trade. The blocking of
information across the World Wide Web has affected technology companies such as Microsoft,
Google, and Yahoo; this trade restriction by our largest trading partner only stands to hurt the
already struggling American economy, which in turn hinders our global security (Santoro and
Goldberg). For example, United States based company Google has since 2002, lost a
considerable amount of the Chinese market to an inferior search engine, Baidu. This was caused
by the Chinese government forcing Google to deliver an inferior product in order to comply with
the numerous censorship laws and regulations. Chinese companies such as Baidu do not need to
create the best product; they only need to make sure that they are fully in compliance with
Chinese laws (Santoro and Goldberg).
The concessions that these American technology firms have made in order to comply
with Chinese mandates has also brought unwanted flack to the industries themselves. These
corporations have been accused by Congress, the United States public, and human rights groups
of supporting the construction of the ―Great Firewall of China‖ (Feuerberg). This type of
portrayal of American firms as assisting the repressive tendencies of the PRC is yet another set-
back in regards to our national interests. Thus, internet censorship in China has had a bad impact
on free trade as well as public perception of our own corporations and their ethical standards. It
is in the United States national security interests to allow its domestic firms to expand across the
globe, especially in countries such as China where the free flow of information and services
stands to bring traditionally distinct groups of people closer together.
The second way in which Chinese policies regarding the media harms United States
national security interests is through the censoring of what our elected officials say. Due to the
highly regulated nature of all media institutions within China, there is the possibility that what
our politicians say in America does not reach the Chinese people the same way it was originally
intended. In other words, this censorship stops important information that would hopefully
inspire beneficial political and social change from ever reaching the intended audience. While
the Chinese constitution officially recognizes freedom of speech and press, there is also vague
language that states that citizens must defend the country‘s ―security, honor, and interests of the
An example of this type of scenario occurred when China altered its translation of
President Barack Obama‘s inauguration speech. Removed from the speech were references to
communism and free speech as well as stopping the broadcast of the feed when Cold War
animosities were mentioned. Those who engaged in the censorship of the speech said that they
did so because they were ―duty bound to protect the country‘s interests‖ (Chang). In regards to
this incident, Rebecca MacKinnon, a journalism professor at the University of Hong Kong said
―this is standard practice‖ of the Chinese government to censor translations of political speeches.
A similar incident occurred in a speech delivered in 2004 in Shanghai by former Vice President
Dick Cheney (Chang). This type of censorship is extremely harmful because it does not allow
the majority of Chinese citizens to see that the United States politicians are aware and
unsupportive of the vast political deficiencies which exist in their country. It creates an
intellectual gap between our elected policy makers and their efforts to denounce particular
government practices. It is in the United States national interest to have the citizens of China
receive the exact message we are trying to send rather than one that is altered to fit the PRC‘s
standards. When this does not occur, the United States faces a security dilemma in that there is a
disconnect from the information we send out and the message that is eventually received.
The disruption of free trade and the tampering with political messages by American
policymakers are two major obstacles to our national security interests. China‘s strict adherence
to such authoritarian censorship has also caused numerous other consequences which further
confound the problem. While this security threat may not be the most striking nor salient, it does
pose a real problem for the United States and is one which deserves to be dealt with. Because of
the already controversial nature of the Chinese tradition of heavy handed censorship and
filtering, this may be an area which the United States can realize its security interests by tackling
the issue as one of human rights and freedom for the people of China. Washington would
benefit in numerous ways from persuading Beijing to take a critical look at its censorship
policies and instead adopt methods, which promote the spread of unhampered information to its
China’s Growing Economic Power and its Threat to US National Security
China is the main Asian power and its economic, political, and security interests are
mainly focused on economic prosperity and political stability. Normalizing relations between the
U.S. and China has faced many obstacles, and it is very complex. Different presidential
administrations approached China in their own ways that allowed maintaining a normalized
steady relationship. The relationship between China and the U.S has been ―love-hate‖ based on
their interests and influences by the decision makers (Garrison 1). The policies and politics
allow economics and power races between the two countries (Garrison 14). The Central
Intelligence Agency reports that China is the second largest economy in the world, and China,
therefore, enjoys economic development. Former President George W. Bush‘s top advisors
Condoleezza Rice and John Negroponte suggest that China ―may become a peer competitor‖ to
the United States because of the economic growth and its military powers (Tkacik 1). China‘s
economic growth is a national security threat to the United States because the economic growth
has permitted military build up, hunt for natural resources, and strong trade partnerships with
China‘s economic growth is a serious concern to the U.S. national security because the
economic growth has permitted expending its military and technology advancement. According
to Tkacik, the Chinese defense spending has increased every year in a ―double-digit‖ tailing the
United States and Russia (Tkacik 2). China‘s military build up in more than enough to defend
and protect the country. Therefore, it is clear that the military build up sends a strong signal to
the world that China is capable of protecting its interests around the world and against the U.S.
Modernizing military technologies require billions of dollars, and strong economy growth is the
main factor making China enable to increase it military size and equipping with modern
technologies. Economic growth that allows military build up is a big concern for the future U.S.
Due to the fact that natural resources and raw materials are needed to support and sustain
China‘s economic growth, China and the United States have the common problem: energy.
Energy plays a major role in China‘s economic development. Therefore, the U.S. faces energy
challenges over China because China needs to buy more oil and other natural resources for
making possible to keep running the economy. The growing economy consumes millions of
barrels oil, and the Chinese government can domestically produce only half of what it needs.
Therefore, China needs to import more oil from other countries, and this may force to ―pursue an
expansionist policy to support its economy‖ (Mellman 10). Mellman also suggests that this
―policy would conflict‖ with the American energy security policy and it interests around the
world ( 7). Many people believe China and the U.S. share the same interests of energy security
and securing sea-lane, and China, therefore, is not a threat to the U.S. national security (Zweig
and Jianhai 37). However, it is my belief that China and the U.S. need the same resources from
the same region, and China will protect its national interest whatever it costs.
The economic growth forces expansion in global partnership that could become global
trade partnership competitions. China has expanded its global interests and economic
partnerships in many regions against the U.S. interests. The need for global alliance is very
important for marketing their products and security. Therefore, China is expanding its
partnership with African countries, Central and South Asia, Middle East, and South America to
find raw materials. China is willing to negotiate with hostile countries like Venezuela, Iran,
North Korea, and Myanmar, which strongly oppose the U.S. interests and policies toward the
world. Expanding China‘s global partnerships should not be a big concern for the U.S., but the
willingness against the U.S .interests and political stability are threats to the U.S. national
security. Therefore, the competition trade partnership with hostile countries could become the
major concern for both the United States and China, and it could lead to military confrontation,
as was the case for the World Wars.
From President Nixon to the second President Bush, all presidents have faced different
kind of obstacles normalization with China, and it still will face in the future. After the
Communism collapsed in Soviet Union, the U.S. and China relationship has improved in many
areas. But, China‘s economic growth bring political influence and a stronger military power in
international communities that could challenge the U.S. interests in the globe (Zweig and Jainhai
26). Seeking political influences, hunting natural resources, and competing military powers could
bring tension between the U.S. and China. It is almost impossible to predict China‘s future, so
the U.S. must raise its national security concern for the possible negative consequences. This is a
legitimate concern for the United States because China is governed by Communist Party leaders,
not democratic elected officials, and it is possible that in the future China economic power
become a threat to the U.S. national security.
In sum, China‘s massive economic growth is a threat the United States national security
and interests around the world because economic growth allows strengthening military power,
massive energy consumption, and strong trade partners. Having access to foreign natural
resources is the necessary for China‘s economic growth and political stability. China‘s leaders
believe that economic development is a very importance issue for the Chinese Communist Party
survival because the poverty and high population demand massive economic development to
support the their basic needs, and declining economic would result in political instability and
―the possibly collapse of the Chinese Communist Party‖ (Lt Col Mellman 11). Many people may
argue that some other Asian Countries such as India, Indonesia, and Malaysia also have large
size of economic and population, but it is my belief that China still plays a major role in the U.S.
national security concerns. Setting China policies and the process of making decision will be the
challenges for the new Presidents of the United States.
Chinese Industrialization: A Threat to Global Environment
During the last half of the twentieth century, there has been a significant rise in human
impact on the natural environment, a trend that can be attributed to the growth of the world‘s
population from approximately 2.5 billion in 1950 to a little over 6 billion currently (Soroos
1999, p. 27). Most of these increases are taking place in Africa, Asian and Latin America. At the
same time, the world‘s economy has grown exponentially as well, giving way to large increases
to global food production, which in turn led to a rise in agricultural industries, fertilizers,
pesticides, and land expansion. This large increase in human activity has given scientists enough
data to virtually conclude that humans are mostly responsible for fundamental alterations being
made on the planet, such as ―depletion of stratospheric ozone layer‖ and ―global climate change‖
In a pre-industrial world, there was a balance of the sun‘s energy absorbed by greenhouse
gases in the atmosphere. Increasingly, the atmosphere absorbed too much greenhouse gases,
affecting the way in which infrared radiation moved in and out of the atmosphere, creating major
changes in the earth‘s temperature, making it increasingly warmer. These effects are the basis for
the scientific argument behind the climate crisis that the earth is facing today (Gore 2006, p. 25).
Some of these changes in temperature have devastating effects that include increases in flash
floods (Gore 2006, p. 72), more severe hurricanes (Gore 2006, p. 54), and in some areas,
extremely drier climates (Gore 2006, p. 73).
It has become evident that international cooperation is imperative to prevent even further
drastic changes from negatively affecting the Earth and its inhabitants, that all countries do their
part to set goals to live more environmentally responsible while creating ways for improved
sustainable development. However, I believe that superpowers like the United States must set
high standards for change so that rapidly developing countries like China will make
environmental policy a priority for themselves as well.
Within the past few years, there have been growing concerns about the effects of
industrial pollution in China—on both the domestic and international level. These effects
potentially harmful effects have caught the attention of the United States to help China address
its environmental challenges. However, concerns of the climate change issue does not ―really
resonate with the Chinese‖, who do not want to slow down economic growth to ―mitigate carbon
dioxide emissions‖ (Zwaniecki, 2007), despite the effects the pollution have on neighboring
countries, such as Japan. The Japanese ODA (Official Development Assistance has had some
difficulty in addressing the problems of China‘s industrial pollution, creating worries about acid
rain and dust blown in from China (Yahuda 2006, p. 292). The concern of acid rain that are
formed from emissions coming from China has also extended beyond affecting Japan—it has
degraded forests and watersheds in other parts of Asia and some Asian pollutants are reaching as
far as the U.S. West Coast. Despite some disagreements the China has expressed with the United
States about slowing their economic growth in response the international climate crisis, they are
very receptive to propositions that can help them decrease energy consumption without
endangering the fast pace of growth (Zwaniecki, 2007).
Studies have shown that improving energy efficiency could allow China to not only
reduce the cost of environmental degradation, which now equals 8 percent to 13 percent
(Zwaniecki, 2007) of its annual gross domestic product, but also cut down its greenhouse gas
emissions. More importantly, better air quality could save some 200,000 to 750,000 lives per
year now lost prematurely in China (Zwaniecki, 2007). Such potential for safe economic
improvement and a necessity to help raise the quality of health for Chinese citizens and a
prevention for Chinese industrial pollutants from affecting other the US among other countries
have made China a US priority in helping the two focuses on tackling the environmental
challenges. However, because China is currently in economic transition as a communist-to-
extreme capitalist country, addressing the industrialization pollution problems are making
achieving better environmental standards even more difficult.
For example, the 1997 Kyoto Protocol illustrated the fact that China remained ―more
concerned about economic growth‖ and fixing its ―own pollution problems‖ (Lampton 2002, p.
165) than looking at the larger picture of its effects on the global environment. China, along with
other many developing nations, which included Brazil and India, was active in pushing to
―exempt developing countries from greenhouse gas reduction targets (Lampton 2002, p. 166). It
was in their opinion that the burden of meeting the emissions requirements should be placed on
the more developed countries, like the United States. It was reasoned that because not only was
the United States more able to economically support such a drastic initiative, they were the also
the largest emitters of greenhouse gases to begin with. A study released by the U.S. Department
of Energy, Energy Information Administration and Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center
indicated that the United States emits more greenhouse gas pollution than ―South America,
Africa, the Middle East, Australia, and Asia all put together,‖ contributing 30.3 percent of the
greenhouse gas emission into the Earth‘s atmosphere alone (Gore 2006, p. 156).
This disagreement is the reflection of the ―North-South gap‖ that exists between
developing and developed countries like China and the United States (respectively) and how
each country‘s priorities differ based on this concept. Essentially, while the North, represented
by developed countries, gives substantial attention to ―environmental‖ issues that threaten
ecological stability, the South, represented by developing countries, has placed greater emphasis
on ―immediate need for economic growth to raise standards of living‖ (Vig 1999, p. 6). The
developing countries‘ attitudes at the Kyoto meetings can be summed up by Mark Mwandosya of
Tanzania, chair of the developing country caucus: ―Very many of us are struggling to attain a
decent standard of living for our peoples, and yet we are constantly told that we must share in the
effort to reduce emissions so that industrialized countries can continue to enjoy the benefits of
their wasteful lifestyle‖ (Paarlberg 1999, p. 249).
In result, the optimism that was initially felt at the international summit to ratify Kyoto
Protocol was quickly extinguished—China pushed for the protocol‘s emissions requirements to
be non-binding and on a voluntary basis (Molitor 1999, p. 232) while the United States did not
even adopt the protocol‘s policies for ratification (Gore 2006, p. 177). What was to be a major
step in the world working collectively to take a step forward to address the climate crisis, the end
product of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol was essentially a set of toothless, underspecified guidelines,
allowing countries to freely decide which gas or combination of gases to be controlled for
regulation (Molitor 1999, p. 232). Although on a per capita basis, human activity in the United
States puts in an estimated ―ten times as much carbon dioxide as human activity in China‖
(Paarlberg 1999, p. 249), the World Bank has recently released a report that if China remains on
its present rate of industrialization, it is estimated that it will surpass U.S. carbon emissions early
in the twenty-first century, around 2020 (Lampton 2006, p. 166). This fact illustrates the
importance for both the United States and China to overcome North-South fundamental
differences to reduce the harm that each inflicted upon the global environment.
One could conclude that a unilateral approach for environmental policy-making may be
more suitable to each country‘s interests and domestic circumstances—that by working
separately they could reach their own goals without pressuring one another for burden sharing. It
can be argued that in the short-run, by acting unilaterally, the United States may prove to be
more progressive by creating a lead by which other developing nations can follow, providing a
model for governments contemplating adopting similar environmental policies and measures
abroad (Paarlberg 1999, p. 253). However, I argue that a harmonious, integrative approach is the
best way to set an example for governments abroad. I believe that if the United States and China
can agree on complementary policies for solving environmental problems, they will send a
stronger message to the rest of the world—that the North-South gap can be overcome through
international cooperation towards a common goal of tackling the climate crisis. Unilateral action
can lead to confrontations about state-sovereignty and individual economic policies.
It must be recognized that because global warming is an international problem that exists
on multiple levels, it is important that China and the United States develop integrative policies
that attend to each other‘s national agendas while also working towards sustainable development.
This approach, I believe, will provide for a better long-term solution to the climate crisis. While
it may not be practical to attempt at a consensus on uniform emissions standards for the United
States and China, it is still important that the two countries do not completely dismiss one
another as being impossible to work with; rather they must develop more innovative
environmental policies that recognizes each countries fundamental political and economic
differences. As stated by President Barack Obama in an online-video address before the 2008 G-
5 summit, the global warming ―stakes are too high‖ and the ―consequences too serious‖ for the
United States and China to assume that working unilaterally can be effective for global
environmental improvement (Changedotgov 2008).
It can be seen that although China‘s growing power does not pose and immediate threat
to US national security, it is a threat nonetheless and it must not be ignored. In addition to this,
the growing threat must be addressed with respect and not underestimation. It may be that the
resources that China currently utilizes may not be as abundant nor as sophisticated as that of the
US‘s, but it cannot be said that some day they will be able to obtain the same amount or more
power and influence as the US by other means they deem necessary. China‘s rapid growth
cannot be dismissed and it is now more important than ever that the US does all that it can to
develop a beneficial and strong relationship with this emerging international super power.
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