SINGAPORE - China is making huge strides in increasing its
economic and military influence in Southeast Asia and around the world, but is not meeting its commitment to be a global leader due to a lack
of progress on political reform, human rights, and support for rogue regimes, according to Sen. John McCain.
Top Obama administration officials are going to great
lengths this weekend at the 10th annual IISS Shangri-La Security Dialogue to avoid criticizing
China as part of their effort to portray a warming of U.S.-China relations.
Even as Defense Secretary Robert Gates
a slew of new U.S. military commitments to the region, he emphasized what
he sees as the positive trajectory of U.S.-China relations and avoided any
issues of contention
But McCain, the ranking Republican on the Senate Armed
Services Committee and the only U.S. senator to attend the conference, has no problem
pointing out where he sees China failing in its commitment to rise peacefully
and in harmony with its neighbors. In a Saturday interview with The Cable, he said that China was
falling short on its treatment of its own citizens and its global
responsibilities. This is part of the reason the U.S. must bolster its commitment
to Asian diplomacy and security, he said.
"Chinese economic penetration has been remarkable, not just
in the region but in the world. A lot of their behavior is in keeping with the
emergence of a world economic superpower. At the same time, they have not made
the progress that we expected of them in a variety of ways: social, political,
the basic freedom of their people, and their continued support of North
Korea," McCain said.
"We give the Chinese
great credit for thinking tens or hundreds of years ahead, but I cannot think
of a rationale for propping up North Korea when they continue to spark
confrontation and export weapons of mass destruction to places like Syria and
allegedly to Burma."
McCain said he largely supported the Obama administration's
China policy, although he regretted the administration's lack of focus on human
rights. The new military commitment to Southeast Asia that
Gates announced today shows that the administration is clear eyed about the
risk of a more assertive China, even if they won't say it out loud, he said.
"Of course it's about China, but it's also about the
importance of the region," McCain said about the Gates announcement. "The
administration realized that we have challenges and potential serious issues in
the region and the best way to prevent those is to have alliances, robust
presence in the region, and the cooperation the secretary emphasized."
On China's military strategy, McCain said, "I think they are
complying with Deng Xiaoping's last
priority (a military
build up), and they are building a military that is in their view that
comports with their economic power."
The U.S. needs to explore every avenue for possible
cooperation while at the same time understand the realities and prepare for any
contingency. As for the human rights issue in China, "At some points, we have
to stand up," he said.
McCain pressed Chinese Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs Dai Binggou on the issue of personal
freedom in China during Dai's recent trip to Washington.
"I asked Dai Bingguo, ‘When are you going to allow people to
Tweet,'" McCain said. "He gave no answer."
Keep your web browser pointed to The Cable for McCain's detailed account of his recent trip to Burma
and his meeting with Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi.