updated 11/16/2006 8:29:29 AM ET 2006-11-16T13:29:29

A congressional advisory panel said Thursday it seriously doubts China will reject what it describes as a selfish pursuit of narrow interests and instead embrace U.S. calls to act as an international pillar of stability.

The U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission made 44 recommendations in its annual report to lawmakers. It includes calls for the U.S. to combat Chinese attempts to isolate Taiwan by supporting the island’s membership in various world bodies, and to pressure Beijing to help end the bloody conflict in Sudan’s Darfur region.

The commission, which Congress created in 2000 to investigate U.S.-China issues, also admonished the U.S. intelligence community, urging the U.S. to set up “a more effective program” for gathering information about China’s massive military buildup and development.

In general, the commission said Beijing’s proliferation of weapons, “indulgence” of the nuclear programs of North Korea and Iran and willingness to place its energy needs above the needs of world security indicate China is “as yet unprepared or unwilling to shoulder the burdens of a stakeholder state.”

'A second superpower'
China’s global reach, the commission said, extends beyond East Asia to the Middle East, Africa, South Asia and Latin America, where China “is coming to be regarded almost as a second superpower” and a “potential counterweight to the United States.”

“China’s support for rogue regimes and anti-American governments and groups in vital regions serves an international purpose to balance American power, create an alternative model of governance and frustrate the ability of the international community to uphold its norms,” the panel said.

The U.S. and China have cooperated recently on confronting North Korea’s nuclear ambitions. But tension infuses the relationship — from ugly trade spats, to fears of China’s military buildup, to Washington’s charge that China abuses its citizens’ rights and befriends rogue nations to secure sources of energy.

The commission, made up of six Democratic and six Republican appointees, plans to meet with congressional staff and lawmakers to discuss the recommendations. Democrats, who won control of Congress in recent elections, tend to be aggressive critics of Chinese trade policies; Republicans tend to be strong supporters of Taiwan.

Currency, intellectual property, arms issues raised
The commission also urged Congress to press complaints against China at the World Trade Organization for what it called Beijing’s intervention in international currency markets and failure to enforce intellectual property rights.

American manufacturers have long complained that Beijing’s artificially low currency makes Chinese goods cheaper in the U.S. and American products more expensive in China. Critics say a Chinese flood of pirated movies, computer programs and other copyrighted material has cost thousands of American jobs and hindered the U.S. economy’s ability to compete.

On military issues, the panel said China’s enormous, secretive military buildup, primarily aimed at occupying rival Taiwan if it were to declare independence, has substantially tipped the balance of military power toward China.

The Chinese army, the report said, “may be pursuing a path to project power beyond the immediate needs of defending the mainland. It is becoming a force capable of challenging the U.S. military in the western Pacific and beyond.”

In Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said she had not seen the report, but that “We are against the attempt by any country or any organization to interfere with China’s internal affairs under the pretext of the Taiwan question and impede our reunification course.”

She said China supports a peaceful solution of the Darfur issue and that “the prior consent of the Sudanese government should be acquired” before U.N. intervention. “The international community should pay attention to the concerns of Sudan,” she said, adding that “China, as a permanent member of the Security Council will continue to play a constructive role on this regard.”

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