Politics & Policy

Arming the Panda

Willing Bank robbery.

There is no perfect translation of the word chutzpah into Chinese, but Beijing does provide the perfect example: They have duped the West into giving them billions in development aid, so that they can instead spend their own money on building a military that could beat America’s.

Every month brings new details of increased Chinese military spending. Last month, for example, it was reported that China is rapidly expanding its submarine fleet. By the end of the decade they are set to have more submarines than the U.S. Last week, China announced another big increase in military spending: The 2008 Chinese military budget will increase by 17.6 percent, which followed an increase by 17.8 percent in 2007. Most likely this is an underestimate — according to experts, China’s real military spending is about double that.

The annual report from the Secretary of Defense to Congress, which was released March 4, stated that “China’s expanding and improving military capabilities are changing East Asian military balances; improvements in China’s strategic capabilities have implications beyond the Asia-Pacific region.” The 2006 Quadrennial Defense Review Report stated that China “has the greatest potential to compete militarily with the United States and field disruptive military technologies that could over time offset traditional U.S. military advantages.”

Challenging U.S. military dominance and maintaining the world’s largest standing force (2.3 million people) of course doesn’t come cheap. But the Chinese have us spending money on their domestic problems to help them along.

It is not a secret that the West is giving large sums of money to the Chinese, it just is not reported at all. The World Bank has been giving loans and aid to China since 1981. According to the Bank, as of June 30, 2007, its cumulative lending to China was almost $42.2 billion. As the Bank’s Web site proudly notes, this makes “China’s portfolio one of the largest in the Bank.” How reassuring. At least for Communist-party officials.

In the last year alone, the World Bank lent China about $1.64 billion. The Bank notes that “World Bank-supported projects can be found in almost all parts of China and in many sectors of the economy, with the current portfolio concentrated in transportation, urban development, rural development, energy, and human development.” And who funds the World Bank? More than 15 percent of the World Bank’s finances come from the U.S. taxpayer.

Even if we were not concerned about China’s military, with the massive dollar reserves they have, why are we giving them aid? And for those (rightly) concerned about Chinese actions supporting the genocide in Darfur, wouldn’t the loss of World Bank aid be a greater threat than the loss of Stephen Spielberg? And even if we were not concerned about anything China was doing, surely poorer countries are more deserving of the aid?

Not only has there been no discussion in the World Bank of cutting aid to China, the president of the bank, Robert Zoellick, in October by calling for increased aid to middle-income countries like China. Mr. Zoellick said in a speech, “it would be ironic indeed for the Bank Group to withdraw from work with middle-income countries at a time that governments are recognizing the need to integrate these countries more effectively in diplomacy and political-security institutions.” There is some irony here, but that is not it.

– Daniel Freedman was the foreign-policy analyst, and a speechwriter, for Mayor Giuliani’s presidential campaign.

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