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"Canada can, within a positive friendly atmosphere, ask the Chinese government to resolve the Tibetan situation."

China PLA officer urges challenging U.S. dominance

March 5, 2010

Chris Buckley
BEIJING
Sun Feb 28, 2010 11:11pm EST

BEIJING, China (Reuters) -- China should build the world's strongest
military and move swiftly to topple the United States as the global
"champion," a senior 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, a professor at the elite National Defense
University, which trains rising officers.

His 303-page book stands out for its boldness even in a recent chorus
of strident Chinese voices demanding a hard shove back against
Washington over trade, Tibet, human rights, 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," writes Liu.

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. "To save itself, to save the world, China must prepare to
become the (world's) helmsman."

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

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.

The next marker of how China's leaders are handling these swelling
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.

"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."

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 argues that China should use its growing revenues to become the
world's biggest military power, so strong the United States "would
not dare and would not be able to intervene in military conflict in
the Taiwan Strait."

"If China's goal for military strength is not to pass the United
States and Russia, then China is locking itself into being a
third-rate military power," he writes. "Turn some money bags into
bullet holders."

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.

Yet Chinese public ire, echoed on the Internet, means policy-makers
have to tread more carefully when handling rival domestic and foreign
demands, 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's book was officially published in January, but is only now being
sold in Beijing bookstores.

LIGHTING A FIRE IN AMERICA'S BACKYARD

In recent months, strains have widened between Beijing and Washington
over trade, Internet controls, climate change, 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 so far 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.

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.

Liu and other PLA officers, however, 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 said he hoped China and the United States could manage their
rivalry through peaceful competition.

"In his State of the Union speech, Obama said the United States would
never accept coming second-place, but if he reads my book he'll know
China does not want to always be a runner-up," said Liu in the interview.

(Editing by Benjamin Kang Lim and Jeremy Laurence)
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