Monday 18 Jan 2021 | 18:59 | SYDNEY
Monday 18 Jan 2021 | 18:59 | SYDNEY

More on China intentions


Sam Roggeveen


21 November 2007 08:17

In response to my post about China's motives for conducting its January anti-satellite (ASAT) test, reader Raoul Heinrichs writes: would appear that Pike and Kulacki may be talking at cross purposes. It is entirely conceivable that the PLA's development of ASAT capabilities is largely motivated by a consideration of American vulnerabilities in Taiwan contingencies, but that the January test was technologically driven, and not intended as a political or strategic demonstration.

However, Kulacki's claim that a lack of certainty regarding Chinese intentions creates a 'potential for dialogue' and opportunities for conflict resolution, strikes as me as a particularly dubious and counter-intuitive proposition. If anything, a pervasive sense of uncertainty in the minds of American defence planners is likely to intensify Sino-American strategic competition by heightening suspicion and mistrust, and ultimately inviting American counter-moves.

I read Kulacki's argument a little differently. He seems to be saying that as long as the US can plausibly maintain the possibility that China's ASAT test is not aimed at them, then the US can still talk with China about it. As soon as the US is sure, there's no room for negotiation on the US side.

As I say, this is a different reading, but its hardly a more persuasive one. For one thing, short of getting hold of the Chinese Central Military Commission's paperwork for the ASAT program, we're never going to know absolutely for sure if the program is aimed at the US. But we can make an educated guess about China's intentions, and we can conclude that, whatever China's motives in maintaining an ASAT program, the fact that it exists is a legitimate concern to the US because it threatens US satellites. Willing itself into disbelief about China's intentions and capabilities is surely no way for the US to enter a dialogue.