Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Geng Bao Visits U.S.

China makes efforts to strengthen national defense

First Published: Unity, Vol. 3, No. 12, June 6-19, 1980.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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One of China’s four modernizations is national defense, but until recently, it has been overshadowed by developments in the other three areas – industry, agriculture, and science and technology. Deputy Prime Minister Geng Biao’s trip to the U.S. to purchase military-related equipment and China’s testing of its first intercontinental ballistic missile, however, highlight China’s serious commitment to improve its military capability.

During Geng Biao’s visit, the U.S. Defense Department announced that it would allow U.S. companies to sell China radar systems, helicopters, transport planes, communications gear and other military-related equipment. This was a major policy ’ change for the U.S., which reflects Washington’s interest in developing ties with China in light of the growing Soviet threat in the world. Washington, however, still refused to sell China weaponry.

China will be able to make much use of the high technology items it can now purchase, as China’s equipment is seriously out of date, being at the level of the 1950’s. This has put China at a disadvantage, such as during last year’s counterattack against Viet Nam, when China found that the Vietnamese military possessed more modern equipment, as they had access both to advanced Soviet items as well as those the U.S. left behind.

As the Wall Street Journal pointed out, though, few large sales of U.S. equipment are expected, for China prefers to gain its own expertise in its modernizing effort. China uses purchases of foreign-made equipment as models for China’s own development. The Chinese government has made it clear that it does not intend to become dependent on other countries.

During Geng Biao’s visit, both Chinese and U.S. government spokesmen stated that the decisions did not represent the beginnings of a formal alliance between the two countries.

The Chinese view the friendly relationship with the U.S. not only as helpful for acquiring advanced technological items, but also in light of the world situation today, in which the Soviets are the main threat to world peace. The Chinese are attempting to utilize their relationship with the U.S. superpower in different instances to thwart the ambitions of the Soviets, and thus try to postpone the outbreak of war.

In a related development, China successfully completed two long-range missile tests in mid-May. The multiple-stage rockets traveled roughly 6,000 miles from western China into the ocean in the northern Pacific. This missile is a major development for the Chinese, as it now means they have the ability to strike at targets far into the Soviet Union.

The rocket tests were aimed, according to Vice-Premier Li Xiannian who was visiting New Zealand at the time, at improving China’s science and technology, as well as its defense capabilities against the threats of the hegemonist powers.

The missiles were unarmed, and as Li added, “China has no intention to conduct any nuclear test in the Pacific.” He noted that China understands the concern of people about nuclear pollution in the area.