May 1, 2008 / 10:35 AM / 12 years ago

China to be focus of U.S. attention in Asia: CIA

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - China is likely to achieve great-power status this century and maintain a military buildup but is not an inevitable enemy, CIA Director Michael Hayden said on Wednesday.

Visitors look at a portrait of Sun Yat-sen, the father of the revolution that toppled China's last emperor in 1911, at Tiananmen square in Beijing April 30, 2008. REUTERS/Grace Liang

China is an economic and strategic competitor with the United States, Hayden said in a Kansas speech on 21st-century trends, adding the country was likely to continue a “troubling” military buildup.

“China, a communist-led, nuclear state that aspires to — and will likely achieve — great power status during this century, will be the focus of U.S. attention (in Asia),” he said.

It all depends on whether China acts from a narrow self-interest or with broader perspective, Hayden said in a speech at Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kansas.

“If Beijing begins to accept greater responsibility for the health of the international system — as all global powers should — we will remain on a constructive, even if competitive, path. If not, the rise of China begins to look more adversarial,” Hayden said in his prepared remarks.

Beijing is determined to show its strength “after two centuries of perceived Western hegemony,” he said.

He said the military buildup was influenced by the U.S. show of armed might in the two Gulf wars and reinforced concerns about China’s intentions toward Taiwan. “But even without that issue, we assess that a buildup would continue.”

China needs to access markets, technology and resources, and wants to assert its influence, but faces challenges including uneven income distribution, a growing dependence on imports of oil and other resources and environmental degradation.

Hayden also outlined two other dominant global trends for the century — a population boom in poor countries and resultant migration to the developed world, and a changing U.S. relationship with Europe marked by differences over how to fight terrorism.

“When there is a direct threat to their people or interests, European governments work with each other and their allies, including the United States, to disrupt it. But they tend not to view terrorism as we do — as an overwhelming international challenge. Or if they do, we often differ on what would be effective and appropriate to counter it.”

Reporting by Randall Mikkelsen; Editing by Patricia Zengerle

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