China, nuclear shenanigans and face

Wal-Mart provides shelf-space. The goods come from China

Gordon C Chang puts it really well:

The significance of Khan’s assertions is that they undermine the stout Chinese defense of Iran. First, they highlight long-held Iranian ambitions to build an atomic arsenal.

Second, by detailing how the Pakistani government was involved in nuclear transfers to Iran, Khan raises new questions about Beijing’s role. Why? The Pakistani nuclear weapons program is essentially an extension of the Chinese one. China, beginning around 1974, transferred bomb technology to Pakistan. Beijing’s assistance was crucial, extensive, and continuous. As Gary Milhollin of the Wisconsin Project on Nuclear Arms Control has noted, “If you subtract China’s help from Pakistan’s nuclear program, there is no nuclear program.” Moreover, Beijing has remained involved in Islamabad’s nuclear efforts, long after the events Khan so meticulously describes in Sunday’s statements.

The continuation of Chinese involvement in the Pakistani program was revealed when Islamabad ended the Khan ring. Due to Chinese pressure, Pervez Musharraf, then the country’s strongman leader, conducted a hurried probe, forced Khan’s confession, and then immediately pardoned him in 2004 to cut off any disclosures embarrassing to Beijing, which supported the controversial decision to end the inquiry prematurely. Given China’s role in the Pakistani nuclear program and its influence in Islamabad, it was not possible for Khan, with official blessing, to transfer Chinese technology to Iran without Beijing’s knowledge and consent.

Dr. Khan apparently did not mention China’s involvement in the statements disclosed Sunday, but the revelation of official Pakistani links to proliferant activities puts Beijing on the spot nonetheless. As time goes on, we are finding more facts linking China to Iran’s efforts to build the most destructive weaponry in history, including direct transfers of equipment and technology to Iran. Much, if not most, of this information about Chinese involvement remains classified in Washington, however.

Why are we helping China keep its secrets? Perhaps the Obama administration should start disclosing—or start threatening to disclose—what else we know about Beijing’s support for the mullahs. [Fox News]

13 thoughts on “China, nuclear shenanigans and face”

  1. Nothing is gonna come of it. And I wouldn’t believe everything AQK says either. Because he is an egotistical megalomaniac. And it’s not clear how much of even Pak’s weapons program he was responsible for let alone Iranians.

    But more important (and a far simpler) reason why US won’t disclose is as Niall Ferguson says “Chimerica is a single economy”. Even if that were not the case and that relationship completely breaks (highly unlikely) PRC is a very strong and powerful country that US not dare mess with directly. This painful lesson was learned far back when US was hobbled during the Korean and Vietnam wars.

  2. Not sure where the fire is here. Clearly the US made a decision to ignore Pakistan building a bomb. I agree it was with a lot of Chinese help. It only became a US problem when AQK decided to start a global trading network.

    As a though exercise, I try describing Pakistan as a “Chinese client state”. While the US money is a nice icing on the cake, the real support comes from China….

  3. Pak is a “service provider” to whoever gives money. And of course Pak is an Islamic Republic lest anyone forget! So the influence is wielded by Saudis, US and PRC in that order.

    Pak is a rentier state. So to deal with Pak problem India has to deal with and develop some “leverages” to “contain” the masters and make sure they keep the “rabid dog” Pak on a tight leash.

  4. Arvi, Krishna,
    Pakistan is a client state of China and they aren’t ashamed to admit it. Pakistan will not and cannot embark on a confrontation with India without China’s approval. Pakistan cannot use the bomb without Chinese consent.
    Gen. Kapoor meant it when he said that India is prepared to fight a two-front war. I think Pakistan’s client status is well understood by the Indian military establishment.
    Soon, somebody will go a step further and state India does not make a distinction between direct Chinese aggression and that of it’s client state.

  5. @trickey

    “Pakistan is a client state of China and they aren’t ashamed to admit it. ”

    That’s simplifying things too much. The US Chinese relations are exaggerated. Mostly by Paks and I would not put too much faith on what they say. Yes Anti Americanism has risen and China has increased it’s presence. But Washington DC has much more leverage with Pak power elites than China.

    “Soon, somebody will go a step further and state India does not make a distinction between direct Chinese aggression and that of it’s client state.”

    That would be stupid to put it mildly. Why take on two of them and unnecessarily create enemies? In 1971 despite begging and pleading by Henry Kissinger China refused to intervene. In Kargil PRC did not intervene. Don’t go looking for dragons to slay!

    Also US is responsible for (turning a blind eye to) Pak’s nukes; after all AQK did most of his “pilferage” from US and other countries in Europe while CIA most likely knew all about it!

  6. “Perhaps the Obama administration should start disclosing—or start threatening to disclose—what else we know about Beijing’s support for the mullahs”

    Obama administration is powerless as long as China holds the trillions of US treasuries which enable the American Public to have a feeling that they can have their cake and eat it too.

    Until Obama and the American people are willing to endure the pain, they can not do anything much beyond empty posturing.

  7. Obama administration is powerless as long as China holds the trillions of US treasuries which enable the American Public to have a feeling that they can have their cake and eat it too.
    @Milind,
    That theory of yours does not hold – here’s why.

    What is the worst that can happen to the US ? let us say that China dumps all the Treasuries in the open market and brings down the value of the US Dollar – at this point it would pretty much precipitate a global depression that every one has been struggling to avoid since September of 2008. What happens to China then ? Who is it going to export all its wonderful products to ??

    The European markets are not faring any better and if any one has been following the debacle of the PIGS countries,they would not bet too much on the Euro either.

    Besides China’s currency is artificially pegged to that of the US – it is ridiculously low balled so that its exports can continue smoothly and its export oriented economy can continue growing- there are some estimates that its atleast 20% lower than what it should be. Think about that !! The Remnibi is kept artifically low so that it can keep its export oriented economy without suffering significant losses.

    So if the Chinese do want to dump the dollar, they are more than welcome to do so – they only end up hurting themselves more than they can hurt America . And as i said it would be recipe for a global depression in this increasingly interconnected world. Who wants that ?? Not the Chinese.

    For all their professed Confucian wisdom, the Chinese have managed to put themselves in a position where their fortunes are deeply interwined with that of America – i.e. America has become TOO BIG to fail for them.

    The only reason America does not want to raise a ruckus about Chinese proliferation right now is because it has rightly calculated that it is not going to achieve anything other than making relations more tense.

    If at all China has to agree to some hard sanctions on Iran, it is not exactly going to be threatened, cajoled or embarrassed into doing so. The US would have to deal with them diplomatically and privately to bring them around. And IF that fails as well , the US may consider using military force against Teheran – but the Chinese may have rightly calculated that the US is in no position to go to war right now with any one let alone Iran.

  8. @arvi

    “That’s simplifying things too much. The US Chinese relations are exaggerated. Mostly by Paks and I would not put too much faith on what they say. Yes Anti Americanism has risen and China has increased it’s presence. But Washington DC has much more leverage with Pak power elites than China.”

    Please list instances where Pakistan has acted directly against Chinese interests. Please list instances where Pakistan has acted directly against US interests. Which list is longer?

    “That would be stupid to put it mildly. Why take on two of them and unnecessarily create enemies? In 1971 despite begging and pleading by Henry Kissinger China refused to intervene. In Kargil PRC did not intervene. Don’t go looking for dragons to slay!”

    The entire point of having a client state is to act through it and not get directly involved.

  9. “Obama administration is powerless as long as China holds the trillions of US treasuries which enable the American Public to have a feeling that they can have their cake and eat it too.”

    China’s credit to US is a liability not leverage. The credit is not backed by muscle power.

    “Of course we are concerned about the safety of our assets. To be honest, I’m a little bit worried” … “I would like to call on the United States to honor its words, stay a credible nation and ensure the safety of Chinese assets.” – Chinese premier, Wen Jiabao, said at a news conference after the closing of China’s 2009 legislative session.

  10. @ trickey

    “China’s credit to US is a liability not leverage. The credit is not backed by muscle power.”

    Maybe. But jus remember that no nation in the history of the world has been able to remain as a great power by continuing to be the biggest debtor nation.

    Also US China trade relations are as important to US as they are to China. Despite posturing by each side that it has the other over a barrel. In that aspect, Niall Ferguson got it right when he said Chimerica is a single economy!

  11. Maybe. But jus remember that no nation in the history of the world has been able to remain as a great power by continuing to be the biggest debtor nation.

    True then, true now. This week Moody’s warned that Americas AAA credit rating was at risk – remember that these are the same people who helped create the financial crisis by looking the other way when these global fat cats were spinning webs of deception with their mortgage securities BS.

    Translation – US credit rating will get downgraded by the end of the year – and it will becoming increasing costly for the US to borrow money..

  12. @Arvi

    “Maybe. But jus remember that no nation in the history of the world has been able to remain as a great power by continuing to be the biggest debtor nation.”

    Agree. Just wanted to emphasize that holding US debt is no geopolitical leverage because it is more than neutralized by military disadvantage.

    “Also US China trade relations are as important to US as they are to China. Despite posturing by each side that it has the other over a barrel. In that aspect, Niall Ferguson got it right when he said Chimerica is a single economy!”

    The current trade imbalance is unsustainable even in the short term. There is a practical limit to American fiscal carelessness which probably peaked in 2008.

    @Nagarajan
    “True then, true now. This week Moody’s warned that Americas AAA credit rating was at risk – remember that these are the same people who helped create the financial crisis by looking the other way when these global fat cats were spinning webs of deception with their mortgage securities BS.”

    Yes. AAA has no meaning anymore and that is at the root of the present crisis. US bonds credit worthiness are not to be underestimated, however. They are backed by unmatched geopolitical power, technological dominance, astounding private sector, low poverty and large number of HNI’s . These factors provide endless policy options. To quote some from Farid Zakaria(“Defusing the debt bomb”): Introduce VAT or Eliminate certain ridiculous subsidies or raise retirement age by a couple of years.
    These are politically expensive solutions but they will cover the debt hole easily because the economic base is so huge.

  13. In “The Nuclear Express: A Political History of the Bomb and its Proliferation”, veteran nuclear specialists Thomas Reed and Danny Stillman make a chilling argument that by proliferating to Pakistan, Iran etc., China wants to cause a nuclear incident in the US by proxy. By indirectly causing such an incident (through, say, material stolen from Iran or Pakistan), China can reap the benefits of destabilizing the US without directly implicating themselves.

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