China Update / National Intelligence Council
This past December, a report titled "Global Trends 2015" was
issued by the National Intelligence Council (NIC). The NIC is a
15-member board under the direction of the Central Intelligence
Agency. The NIC worked in close contact with various U.S.
Government specialists for the purposes of assessing the threats
that the U.S. and the world face over the coming 15 years.
In January I spelled out some of the report''s conclusions, but, in
light of the U.S.''s recent incident with China, I thought it would
be a good idea to explore the NIC''s other findings regarding our
strategic competitor. Following are some excerpts from the 60-
China''s potential: "Estimates of developments in China over the
next 15 years are fraught with unknowables. Working against
China''s aspirations to sustain economic growth while preserving
its political system is an array of political, social, and economic
pressures that will increasingly challenge the regime''s
legitimacy, and perhaps its survival."
Later, the report noted, "Estimates of China beyond five years
are fraught with unknowables. Some projections indicate that
Chinese power will rise because of the growth of its economic
and military capabilities. Other projections indicate that the
array of political, social, and economic pressures will
increasingly challenge the stability and legitimacy of the regime.
Most assessments today argue that China will seek to avoid
conflict in the region to promote stable economic growth and to
ensure internal stability. A strong China, others assert, would
seek to adjust regional power arrangements to its advantage,
risking conflict with neighbors and some powers external to the
region. A weak China would increase prospects for criminality,
narcotics trafficking, illegal migration, WMD (weapons of mass
destruction) proliferation, and widespread social instability."
Trade: "The sweeping structural changes required by China''s
entry into the World Trade Organization and the broader
demands of economic globalization and the information
revolution will generate significantly new levels and types of
social and economic disruption that will only add to an already
wide range of domestic and international problems."
"To the degree that China implements reforms mandated by its
entry into the World Trade Organization, its economy will
become more efficient, enabling rapid growth to continue.
China''s economic development, however, will be mainly in the
dynamic coastal provinces. Agricultural provinces in northern
and western China will lag behind, causing social tensions that
Beijing will be challenged to manage."
Energy: "Asia will drive the expansion in energy demand,
replacing North America as the leading energy consumption
region and accounting for more than half of the world''s total
increase in demand."
"China, and to a lesser extent India, will see especially dramatic
increases in energy consumption.
"By 2015, only one-tenth of Persian Gulf oil will be directed to
Western markets; three-quarters will go to Asia."
Information Technology: "China will lead the developing world
in utilizing information technology, with urban areas leading the
countryside. Beijing''s capacity to control or shape the content of
information, however, is likely to be sharply reduced."
"China''s ambitious goals for reforming its economy will be
difficult to realize: restructuring state-owned enterprises,
cleaning up and transforming the banking system, cutting the
government''s employment rolls in half, and opening up the
economy to greater foreign competition. Growth would slow if
these reforms go awry, which, in turn, would exacerbate
bureaucratic wrangling and increase opposition to the reform
Military: "China''s People''s Liberation Army (PLA) will remain
the world''s largest military, but the majority of the force will not
be fully modernized by 2015. China could close the
technological gap with the West in one or more major weapons
systems. China''s capability for regional military operations is
likely to improve significantly by 2015...
"China will be exploiting advanced weapons and production
technologies acquired from abroad - Russia, Israel, Europe,
Japan, and the United States - that will enable it to integrate
naval and air capabilities against Taiwan and potential
adversaries in the South China Sea.
"In the event of a peaceful resolution of the Taiwan issue, some
of China''s military objectives - such as protecting the sea lanes
for Persian Gulf oil - could become more congruent with those
of the United States. Nevertheless, as an emerging regional
power, China would continue to expand its influence without
regard to U.S. interests.
"China by 2015 will have deployed tens to several tens of
missiles with nuclear warheads targeted against the United
States, mostly more survivable land- and sea-based mobile
missiles. It also will have hundreds of shorter-range ballistic and
cruise missiles for use in regional conflicts. Some of these
shorter-range missiles will have nuclear warheads; most will be
armed with conventional warheads."
Phew, thank goodness most of these shorter-range ones will be
conventional. As you can see, many of the NIC''s conclusions
have been hot topics over the past 11 days. I''ll have more next