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"As long as human rights are violated, there can be no foundation for peace. How can peace grow where speaking the truth is itself a crime?"

China PLA officer urges challenging U.S. dominance

March 2, 2010

Chris Buckley
March 1, 2010

BEIJING (Reuters) -- China should build the
world's strongest military and move swiftly to
displace the United States as the global
"champion," a Chinese PLA officer says in a new
book reflecting swelling nationalist ambitions.

The call for China to abandon modesty about its
global goals and "sprint to become world number
one" comes from a People's Liberation Army (PLA)
Senior Colonel, Liu Mingfu, who warns that his
nation's ascent will alarm Washington, risking
war despite Beijing's hopes for a "peaceful rise."

"China's big goal in the 21st century is to
become world number one, the top power," Liu
writes in his newly published Chinese-language book, "The China Dream."

"If China in the 21st century cannot become world
number one, cannot become the top power, then
inevitably it will become a straggler that is cast aside," writes Liu.

His 303-page book stands out for its boldness in
a recent chorus of strident Chinese voices
demanding a hard shove back against Washington
over trade, Tibet, and arms sales to Taiwan, the
self-ruled island Beijing claims as its own.

"As long as China seeks to rise to become world
number one ... then even if China is even more
capitalist than the U.S., the U.S. will still be
determined to contain it," he writes.

Rivalry between the two powers is a "competition
to be the leading country, a conflict over who
rises and falls to dominate the world," says Liu.

"The China Dream" does not represent government
policy, which has been far less strident about the nation's goals.

But Liu's book testifies to the homegrown
pressures on China's Communist Party leadership
to show the country's fast economic growth is
translating into greater sway against the West,
still mired in an economic slowdown.

Liu is a professor at the elite National Defense
University, which trains rising officers, and the
appearance of his book underscores that calls for
Beijing to take a hard stance against Washington
reach beyond nationalist views on the Internet to
include voices in the military elite.

"This book represents my personal views, but I
think it also reflects a tide of thought," Liu
told Reuters in an interview. "We need a military
rise as well as an economic rise."

The next marker of how China's leaders are
handling these expectations may come later this
week, when the government is likely to announce
its defense budget for 2010, after a 14.9 percent
rise last year on the one in 2008.

Another PLA officer has said this year's defense
budget should send a defiant signal to Washington
after the Obama administration went ahead in
January with long-known plans to sell $6.4 billion worth of arms to Taiwan.

"I think one part of 'public opinion' that the
leadership pays attention to is elite opinion,
and that includes the PLA," said Alan Romberg, an
expert on China and Taiwan at the Henry L.
Stimson Center, an institute in Washington D.C.

"I think the authorities are seeking to keep
control of the reaction, even as they need to
take (it) into account," Romberg said in an emailed response to questions.

Liu's book was officially published in January,
but is only now being sold in Beijing bookstores.


In recent months, strains have deepened between
Beijing and Washington over trade, Internet
controls, U.S. arms sales to Taiwan and President
Barack Obama's meeting with Tibet's exiled
leader, the Dalai Lama, who China reviles.

China has responded with angry words and a threat
to sanction U.S. companies involved in the Taiwan
arms sales. But it has not acted on that threat
and has allowed a U.S. aircraft carrier to visit Hong Kong.

China's leaders do not want to jeopardize ties
with the United States, a key trade partner and
still by far the world's biggest economy and military power.

Over the weekend, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said
he wanted trade friction with the United States
to ease. U.S. Deputy Secretary of State James
Steinberg is due to visit Beijing this week.

Yet Beijing policy-makers have to tread
increasingly carefully to balance rival domestic
and foreign demands on how to handle Washington,
said Jin Canrong, a professor of international
relations at Renmin University in Beijing.

"Chinese society is changing, and you see that in
all the domestic views now on what China should
do about the United States," said Jin. "If
society demands a stronger stance, ignoring that can bring a certain cost."

Liu and other PLA officers say they see little
chance of avoiding deepening rivalry with the
United States, whether peaceful or warlike.

"I'm very pessimistic about the future," writes
another PLA officer, Colonel Dai Xu, in another
recently published book that claims China is
largely surrounded by hostile or wary countries beholden to the United States.

"I believe that China cannot escape the calamity
of war, and this calamity may come in the
not-too-distant future, at most in 10 to 20 years," writes Dai.

"If the United States can light a fire in China's
backyard, we can also light a fire in their backyard," warns Dai.

Liu writes that China and the United States can
manage their rivalry through peaceful economic
competition and vying for wider influence in
coming decades, when Beijing will emerge as the undoubted global leader.

But as China grows into the world's top economy,
it will also need the world's strongest military
force to deter the wary United States from
challenging China's emerging pre-eminence, Liu argues.

The PLA should be so powerful the United States
"would not dare and would not be able to
intervene in military conflict in the Taiwan Strait," writes Liu.

"Turn some money bags into bullet holders."

(Editing by Benjamin Kang Lim and Jeremy Laurence)
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