In this same quarter century that we treated Russia like a criminal suspect, we welcomed China as the prodigal son. We threw open our markets to Chinese goods, escorted her into the WTO, smiled approvingly as U.S. companies shifted production there.
Beijing reciprocated—by manipulating her currency, running up hundreds of billions of dollars in trade surpluses with us, and thieving our technology when she could not extort it from our industries in China. Beijing even sent student spies into American universities.
Now the mask has fallen. China is claiming all the waters around her, building island bases in the South China Sea and deploying weapons to counter U.S. aircraft carriers. Creating ports and bases in Asia and Africa, confronting Taiwan—China clearly sees America as a potentially hostile rival power and is reaching for hegemony in the Western Pacific and East Asia.
And who produced the policies that led to the “unipolar power” of 1992 being challenged by these two great powers now collaborating against us? Was it not the three presidents who sat so uncomfortably beside President Donald Trump at the state funeral of 41?While I have a great respect for most of Buchanan's writing, he is wrong to ignore Bush 41's complicity in all of this.
I was serving as a missionary in Japan in the late 80's when I happened by a newsstand featuring an article about the U.S. government approving the manufacture of aircraft parts by companies in China for U.S. aerospace companies. Later, we learned that China had abused this trade openness:
Catic is responsible for much of China's imports and exports, and some American officials have contended that it has close ties to China's military. The Seattle Times, quoting unidentified Congressional sources, has reported that Catic provided two General Electric jet-turbine engines to the military, which dissassembled them for study, breaking agreements that the engines would be for civilian use only and would be left intact.This was on Bush 41's watch. And the Tiananmen Square protests were in 1989, revealing that, not withstanding the smiley face, China's regime was the same as it ever was. This was again on Bush 41's watch. Yet only a matter of month's later, he waived a prohibition on loans to companies that did business in China, and allowed the export of 3 satellites to be launched by China. It didn't help, though, that the neo-cons were calling for easing of restrictions on the transfer of technology to China.
But this probably stretches back much further. From a 1999 report at Arms Control Association:
From the earliest years of Sino-American relations, senior U.S. officials (including then National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger) provided Chinese interlocutors with highly sensitive U.S. intelligence data on Soviet military capabilities and deployments—without the Chinese having ever solicited this information. The Nixon administration sought to coordinate its diplomatic and security actions with China in Vietnam, in South Asia, and in relation to Taiwan, Japan and Korea. Under President Ford, the United States explicitly encouraged major European allies to relax their export policies toward China, including on weapons sales; the Chinese were regularly kept informed of these actions. U.S. policymakers also sought to find the means to permit sales of U.S. computers to China that it would not export to the Soviet Union.
Under the Carter administration, these ties broadened and deepened. The United States provided Chinese officials with regular intelligence briefings; both countries also undertook active intelligence collaboration (in part to monitor Soviet compliance with the SALT accords). Other programs heightened collaboration against Soviet actions in Afghanistan and Vietnamese actions in Cambodia. These activities accelerated further under the Reagan administration, including the provision (with Chinese assistance) of U.S. Stinger anti-aircraft missiles to mujaheddin insurgents resisting the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.
But the Reagan administration's decision to expedite technology transfer to China bears most directly on the report's findings. As the Chinese sought to develop a civilian industrial base where none or little had existed before, technology transfer from the United States was pivotal. Much of this effort involved technologies and know-how with inherent relevance to both civilian and military programs. It included provision of a massive array of technical and design data for assembly of McDonnell-Douglas aircraft in Shanghai, including an MD-82 coproduction agreement signed in 1985—the largest U.S.-Chinese industrial project of the past two decades.
The Cox Report documents Chinese violations of U.S. export control regulations in the purchase and disposition of advanced machine tools from McDonnell-Douglas. But the larger collaborative effort (designed to meet exacting Federal Aviation Administration certification standards for indigenous production of commercial aircraft in China) was comprehensive in its scope. By enhancing a wide array of technical skills and industrial-technology applications required in aircraft manufacture, the project facilitated the skill base of the Chinese aviation industry as a whole, including the military sector.
The report also fails to acknowledge that the Reagan administration initiated foreign military sales (FMS) programs to China, including sales to military end-users, provision of technical know-how to Chinese military research and development, and active collaboration between U.S. defense contractors and Chinese counterparts. By 1987, these programs comprised avionics packages for Chinese combat aircraft, sales of anti-submarine warfare torpedos and gas turbine engines for the Chinese navy (the latter still in use on Chinese destroyers), sales of artillery-locating radar and the upgrading of artillery production capabilities. Other transactions included sales of Blackhawk helicopters and an array of non-lethal military equipment.
Successive U.S. administrations were not oblivious to the multiple implications of U.S. technology transfer to China. The commercial links were undoubtedly important, but the security implications were also inescapable. A more militarily credible China would be better able to counter Soviet power, and it would require the Soviet Union to deploy additional military assets in Asia. It was also assumed that (in return for U.S. technological assistance) the Chinese would exercise political and military restraint in relation to Taiwan, Japan and Korea.
The United States therefore saw China as an asset rather than a threat to U.S. security interests. Senior Chinese leaders acknowledged Chinese industrial and military backwardness to U.S. officials and corporate representatives, and they also made clear the longer-term Chinese intention to emerge as an advanced industrial, technological, scientific and military power. The Chinese repeatedly urged the United States to further relax its export control policies, and likely assumed that the United States would quietly facilitate Chinese efforts to acquire an extensive array of dual-use technologies.
Additional developments throughout the latter half of the 1980s—including purchase of more advanced computers, acquisition of sophisticated machine tools, prospective sales of nuclear reactors, and an explosive growth in the training of Chinese scientists and students in the United States—attested to the consolidation of U.S.-China relations, with an ever-increasing focus on advancing China's technical and industrial capabilities, many with potential relevance to China's military modernization.
In addition, following the Challenger space shuttle disaster, the Reagan administration approved launches of U.S. satellites from Chinese rockets. It was hardly a state secret that Chinese launch vehicles (the Long March 3-B and 2-E) were derived from the same family of missiles used to deliver Chinese nuclear weapons, and that the space launch program was overseen by Chinese military personnel. Underwriting the costs of Chinese launches (there have been approximately 30 launches involving U.S. aerospace companies since 1988) undoubtedly enhanced Chinese space capabilities.
In the aftermath of several egregious launch failures in 1995 and 1996, Hughes, Loral and other major aerospace companies reviewed Chinese assessments of these failures, though Chinese aerospace personnel bristled at the implied criticisms of their programs offered by foreign experts. Alleged violations of U.S. export control provisions and security procedures by several of these companies remain under investigation. But U.S. companies had an obvious incentive to encourage the Chinese to pinpoint and remedy design and manufacturing flaws in the launch vehicles, since further catastrophic failures would have jeopardized their collaborative programs. These reviews by U.S. engineers and technical personnel very likely reinforced modifications in launch vehicle designs that the Chinese themselves had begun to consider. So construed, the Chinese benefitted from U.S. technical expertise. But it defies comprehension that it was in anyone's interest to depend on unreliable launch vehicles.It should be noted that in 1974, President Gerald Ford appointed Bush 41 as the Chief of the Liaison Office in China and later made him the director of Central Intelligence. Thus, he would have held a central role in the secret dealings with China. Although he had no official place in the Carter Administration, he nevertheless was a director of the Council on Foreign Relations, which plays a key, if unofficial role, in shaping U.S. foreign policy. And, of course, he served as Vice President during the Reagan administration and, presumably, would have had a voice in China policy.