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Panel urges US-China energy cooperation
Updated: 2005-11-10 07:13

A US congressional advisory panel examining US-China relations is urging lawmakers to kick-start efforts at energy and military cooperation with Beijing and to respond more aggressively to its dramatic rise to power.

The US-China Economic and Security Review Commission made 57 recommendations to Congress about how to deal with China in a report being released Wednesday. The panel paid particular attention to what it saw as China's quest for oil and its "methodical and accelerating military modernization" and influence in Asia.

With its economy booming, China is striving to meet its enormous energy needs by intensifying ties to major energy-producing countries and seeking to buy a wide array of foreign oil and natural gas assets.

China's attempt to corner oil markets outside the international marketplace, and occasionally in countries with "poor human rights records threatens to exacerbate tensions with the United States and other countries that are market participants," the report said.

In a recent example, strong opposition in Congress helped block a bid by a Chinese company to buy California's Unocal Corp., with lawmakers claiming the sale could threaten US national security.

The panel urged Congress to mandate creation of a US-China energy working group comprising top-level government and industry officials from both countries, who would try to find ways to work together "for mutual benefit on energy issues," including a search for alternative fuel technologies.

Chu Maoming, a spokesman for the Chinese embassy in Washington, said China was "willing to cooperate on energy issues with the international community."

US lacking China strategy

The United States is not prepared to respond quickly if there is conflict between Beijing and Taiwan and lacks a broad strategy for dealing with China's rise, the commission said, according to a Reuter report.

The commission reaffirmed its skeptical view of Beijing, concluding that over the past year "the trends in the US-China relationship have negative implications for our long-term national economic and security interests."

The commission was established by Congress in 2000 to examine the national security consequences of America's economic ties with China.

Its views are controversial and generally more hard-line than the official US position, which recently has focused on how Beijing can work with Washington as a responsible member of the international system.

It urged Congress to impose an "immediate across-the-board tariff" on Chinese imports to force Beijing to strengthen significantly the value of its currency.

The report, based on 14 hearings involving 150 witnesses and other research, said the combination of a US policy of "strategic ambiguity" and Taiwan's hesitation in responding to Beijing's military buildup "sends a signal of ambivalence and weakness" to Beijing.

"The US government has not laid adequate groundwork to allow a rapid response to a provocation in the Taiwan Strait," it said. "Almost any possible scenario involving US military support to Taiwan would require extensive political and military coordination with the Taiwan government and regional allies but the foundations for such coordination have not been laid."

The commission said its "greatest concern is that the United States has not developed a fundamental assessment of how American national interests are affected by our relationship with China."

By contrast, "China's leadership has a coordinated national strategy for dealing with the United States (and) is willing to achieve its goals through means that threaten many U.S. interests," it said

"The United States must be prepared to respond more aggressively to China's behavior and actions when they run counter to our interests," the commission stressed.

The panel expressed particular concern that Washington's failure to correct a worsening trade imbalance "conveys to the Chinese that the United States is either unable or unwilling to use its economic power to encourage proper adjustments."

But it argued that China is heavily dependent on selling its products in the American marketplace and this provides the United States with "enormous leverage to demand that China adopt greater reforms and abandon its mercantilist practices."

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