October 14, 2001 - Washington Times

Beware China's ties to the Taliban
By Jesse Helms

The deadly attacks on the United States in New York and Washington prompted some suggestions that the U.S. must work with Communist China to combat international terrorism. This is a badly misguided proposal that merits a hasty burial. Given the resolve the Bush administration has displayed toward China to date, it is unlikely to fall into this trap. The very notion that the United States needs Chinese assistance is based on the flawed assumption that as a member of the U.N. Security Council, China's acquiescence somehow becomes essential to the adoption of a resolution approving the use of force against whomever the U.S. deems responsible for the attacks in New York and Washington. To the contrary, nothing could be more disastrous.

We have been down this U.N. road to disaster before. During Operation Desert Shield, the United States sought the approval of the Security Council to use force against Saddam Hussein, but the resolution that was, in fact, adopted, approved the use of force only to expel Iraqi forces from Kuwait, nothing more.

The very nature of that resolution tied the hands of U.S. forces and was one of the justifications used for stopping Operation Desert Storm with the Iraqi Republican Guard intact and Saddam still in power. That was a mistake that has been regretted to this day, and now that the forces of international terrorism have struck New York and Washington, the U.S. cannot afford to waste time and energy consulting the United Nations.

The second rationale for working with the Chinese is the weird assumption that China and the United States share a common interest in fighting terrorism.

What a naive and dangerous fantasy.

The fact is, the Communist Chinese government is in bed with every one of the terrorist and terrorist-supporting rogue regimes (is it not now time that we dispose of the laughable "countries of concern" nonsense?) of the Middle East.

China's alliance with major rogue regimes has been so extensive and so well known for so long that it is absurd to pretend otherwise. Indeed, it is equally absurd to expect assistance against terrorism from a regime that has supplied nuclear and missile technology to Pakistan and Iran, chemical weapons materials to Iran, missile technology to Libya and air defense equipment to help Iraq shoot down U.S. pilots, all of which China has done. Less well known is that the Chinese government is one of the foremost benefactors of Afghanistan's ruling Taliban, the focus of so much of U.S. attention since Sept. 11. Moreover, China is the largest foreign investor in Afghanistan.

On Sept. 11, Pakistan's Frontier Post reported that the Chinese and Afghani governments had signed a new economic and technical cooperation agreement. A defense cooperation agreement was signed in 1998 after Taliban officials allowed Chinese scientists to inspect unexploded cruise missiles that had been fired on Afghanistan in retaliation for Osama bin Laden's attacks on U.S. embassies in Africa.

Those who imagine that the U.S. shares common interests with the Chinese in combating Islamic-based terrorism most likely base their assumption on China's fight against supposed Uighur terrorism in Xinjiang Province, formerly known as East Turkestan.

But there is an ugly catch to that: If the U.S. should end up receiving any kind of support from Beijing for our anti-terrorist efforts, it will almost certainly come at the price of acquiescing in China's crackdown on the Uighurs (as well as its attempts to crush Tibet and isolate Taiwan). That would be a moral calamity, for there is no justification in lumping the Uighurs with the murderous fanatics who demonstrably mean us harm. The Uighurs are engaged in a just struggle for freedom from Beijing's tyrannical rule, for the most part peacefully. For this, they have been viciously suppressed, with the Chinese government arresting and torturing political prisoners, destroying mosques and opening fire on peaceful demonstrations.

The goals of the United States are clear. Having been attacked, America properly seeks to punish and deter fanatical, mostly small, Islamic groups and their state sponsors. China, on the other hand, has two goals, both utterly incompatible with ours.

Internally, the Chinese government is at war with all of Islam. As a religion, and as a means of organizing and inspiring people, Islam represents a mortal threat to Chinese communist rule. Externally, China's ultimate goal is to destroy America's status as the sole superpower in the world.

To the Chinese government, this is a zero-sum game: anything that embarrasses, diminishes or bloodies the United States automatically serves China's interest. (Witness the nationalistic glee, assiduously stoked by the Chinese government, that was on display on the Internet in China in the wake of the attacks.)

In its anti-U.S. effort, the Chinese government finds the Islamic rogue regimes of the Middle East to be useful allies.

Strategically and morally, the United States cannot and must not assume that China is part of a solution to terrorism. Indeed, Communist China is a very large part of the problem.

Jesse Helms of North Carolina is the senior Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.