WASHINGTON – A congressional advisory panel questioned on Thursday whether China was willing to embrace U.S. calls to act as an international pillar of stability, saying world prosperity depended on China's abandoning a single-minded pursuit of its "own narrow national interests."
The U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission made 44 recommendations in its annual report to lawmakers. It includes calls for the United States to combat Chinese attempts to isolate Taiwan by supporting the island's membership in various world bodies, and to pressure Beijing to help end the bloody conflict in Sudan's Darfur region.
"While China is a global actor, its sense of responsibility has not kept up with its expanding power," said Larry Wortzel, chairman of the commission, which Congress created in 2000 to investigate U.S.-China issues.
The panel also admonished U.S. intelligence agencies, urging the United States to set up "a more effective program" for gathering information about China's massive military buildup and development.
In general, the commission said Beijing's proliferation of weapons, "indulgence" of the nuclear programs of North Korea and Iran and willingness to place its energy needs above the needs of world security indicate China is "as yet unprepared or unwilling to shoulder the burdens of a stakeholder state."
China's global reach, the report said, extends beyond East Asia to the Middle East, Africa, South Asia and Latin America, where China "is coming to be regarded almost as a second superpower" and a "potential counterweight to the United States."
"China's support for rogue regimes and anti-American governments and groups in vital regions serves an international purpose to balance American power, create an alternative model of governance and frustrate the ability of the international community to uphold its norms," the panel said.
The United States and China have cooperated recently on confronting North Korea's nuclear ambitions. But tension infuses the relationship — from ugly trade spats to fears of China's military buildup to Washington's charge that China abuses its citizens' rights and befriends rogue nations to secure sources of energy.
The commission, comprising six Democratic and six Republican appointees, plans to meet with congressional staff and lawmakers to discuss the recommendations. Democrats, who won control of Congress in recent elections, tend to be aggressive critics of Chinese trade policies; Republicans tend to be strong supporters of Taiwan.
The commission also urged Congress to press complaints against China in the World Trade Organization for what it called Beijing's intervention in international currency markets and failure to enforce intellectual property rights.
American manufacturers have long complained that Beijing's artificially low currency makes Chinese goods cheaper in the United States and American products more expensive in China. Critics say a Chinese flood of pirated movies, computer programs and other copyrighted material has cost thousands of American jobs and hindered the U.S. economy's ability to compete.
On military issues, the panel said China's enormous, secretive military buildup, primarily aimed at occupying rival Taiwan should it declare independence, has substantially tipped the balance of military power toward China.
The Chinese army, the report said, "may be pursuing a path to project power beyond the immediate needs of defending the mainland. It is becoming a force capable of challenging the U.S. military in the western Pacific and beyond."
In Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said she had not seen the report, but "we are against the attempt by any country or any organization to interfere with China's internal affairs under the pretext of the Taiwan question and impede our reunification course."
She said China supports a peaceful solution of the Darfur issue in Sudan, and "the prior consent of the Sudanese government should be acquired" before any U.N. intervention. "The international community should pay attention to the concerns of Sudan," she said, adding that "China, as a permanent member of the Security Council, will continue to play a constructive role on this regard."