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Rumsfeld questions secrecy, pace of China's military growth

In visit to Beijing, urges greater political openness

BEIJING -- China is raising global suspicion about its military intentions by failing to acknowledge the true size of recent increases in its defense spending, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said.

On his first trip to China as President Bush's Pentagon chief, Rumsfeld is meeting with government officials and senior military leaders in advance of Bush's planned visit next month. A Chinese spokesman said he hoped Rumsfeld's visit ''would increase his understanding" of China's policy.

In his first scheduled event of the three-day trip -- a speech at a Communist Party training center -- Rumsfeld lectured China on the lessons of democracy. He urged more political openness and cautioned against the fast pace and secretive nature of China's military expansion.

''While there is no one model that is perfect for every nation at every time in its development, a look across the globe suggests that societies that tend to encourage more open markets and freer systems are societies where the people are enjoying the greatest opportunities," Rumsfeld said in remarks prepared for delivery today at the Central Party School, the party's top training center for mid-career members and its main ideological think tank.

''Most of the nations in Asia understand that," he added.

Later, Rumsfeld was meeting with President Hu Jintao and his defense minister, General Cao Gangchuan.

In his remarks at the Central Party School, Rumsfeld advised vigilance against ''another Great Wall" -- a barrier limiting speech, information, and choices. People cannot be isolated for long, he said.

The speech applauded China's recent dramatic economic growth and said the United States would welcome a peaceful and prosperous China.

''We also approach our relationship realistically," Rumsfeld added.

''Many countries, for example, have questions about the pace and scope of China's military expansion," he said in his prepared remarks. ''A growth in China's power projection understandably leads other nations to question China's intentions and to adjust their behavior in some fashion."

He urged China to be more transparent about its military buildup and said history suggests that greater openness in the military and economic fields is eventually tied to openness in the political sphere.

In an interview with reporters accompanying him from Washington yesterday, Rumsfeld said the United States and other countries would like to know why the Chinese government has understated its defense spending.

He mentioned no budget figures, but the Pentagon said last summer that China may be spending $90 billion on defense this year -- three times the announced total.

''I think it's interesting that other countries wonder why they would be increasing their defense effort at the pace they are and yet not acknowledging it," Rumsfeld said. ''That is as interesting as the fact that it's increasing at the pace it is."

China's foreign ministry spokesman Kong Quan, when asked about Rumsfeld's remark yesterday, told reporters that China has published defense reports in recent years to elaborate on its policy objectives and defense expenditures.

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