Accuracy in Media

Thanks to some solid reporting by the New York Times, the issue of technology transfer to Communist China has become a major issue. But the Washington Post, having been scooped on the issue, is now fighting back. It has run an amazing story wondering what the fuss is all about. Reporter Bradley Graham said that according to “many independent specialists on Chinese affairs, the evidence so far does not amount to a credible case that China’s military rockets are better prepared to strike at American cities as a direct windfall from U.S. participation in its satellite launching business.”

There are a couple of problems with that story. One of them is identified as Bates Gill, a China specialist at the Monterey Institute of International Studies in California. He is quoted as saying the U.S. help to China has been marginal, at best, and that it has had no impact on their strategic doctrine of being able to strike the U.S. with nuclear weapons. Regarding the transfer of technology to the Chinese, Bates said it was an “even if” proposition, suggesting that it was questionable whether the Chinese got any help and whether it was significant if they had.

But that statement is itself questionable because, as Bradley Graham himself acknowledges in his story, an official Air Force intelligence report on the transfer has been classified as secret and has not been released. This report is said to have concluded that our national security was harmed by the transfer. The proper response of a newspaper like the Post to such secrecy should be an immediate demand for the public release of this report. After all, doesn’t the public have a right to know?

That so-called “specialist,” Bates Gill, is also questionable. We have obtained a copy of testimony he delivered in October of last year before the Senate in which he spoke of an “overall positive trend in Chinese nonproliferation policies and behavior.” In particular, Gill spoke of China’s nuclear-related exports and assistance to Pakistan, saying that “China has taken steps to constrain or halt activities of proliferation concern.” In light of Pakistan’s recent detonations of a nuclear device, such statements seem ridiculous. The damage has already been done.

Gary Milhollin, director of the Wisconsin Project on Nuclear Arms Control, also testified before that hearing, and his remarks were far more accurate in view of recent events. “China has…been the leading proliferator of nuclear weapon technology in the world,” he testified. “China gave Pakistan nearly everything it needed to make its first atomic bomb.” Regarding the Clinton Administration’s “engagement” policy toward China, Milhollin said that it had clearly failed. In a forecast of more trouble ahead, he said, “The generally pro-export stance of the Clinton Administration leads one to suspect that China is importing even more sensitive high-technology from the United States today.”

The Washington Post can keep pretending that the threat isn’t as bad as some people say it is. But Milhollin, who wasn’t quoted in that article, has a much better track record of telling-it-like-it-is. Those who have apologized for Chinese behavior should not be regarded as experts on the subject.

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