Arthur Waldron is a high profile China hawk who has served as a government adviser on China policy and supported the work of a number of militarist advocacy groups. He has been associated with the so-called Blue Team, an informal group that works on China policy and emphasizes the purported threat to U.S. security posed by the Asian nation.
Waldron is the University of Pennsylvania's Lauder Professor of International Relations and the vice president of the International Assessment and Strategy Center.
Among the hawkish organizations he has formally been associated with are the Center for Security Policy, Family Security Matters, the American Enterprise Institute, the Project for the New American Century, the Jamestown Foundation, and the Foreign Policy Research Institute.
Waldron has long been an advocate of more aggressive U.S. policies toward China, though much of his rhetoric in recent years has focused on human rights. In the run up to the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, Waldron expressed disappointment in the George W. Bush administration's response to China's crackdown on protests in Tibet. He wrote in the neoconservative magazine Commentary:
[Henry] Paulson's understatement, and the President's avoidance of the issue, are products of the administration's initial assumption that, after a quick and decisive Chinese crackdown, the March unrest in Tibet would prove no more than a bump on the road to the triumphant Beijing Olympics in August. American interest was therefore to stick with China's government, even if doing so involved some substantial trimming of American values.
In July 2010, Waldron said that the United States needed to rollback Chinese influence in Asia. Discussing disputed Chinese sovereignty claims regarding the South China Sea, Waldron told the Associated Press, "At some point actions, in this case Chinese, force reactions. [The U.S. has] allies in the region for whom suddenly being washed or surrounded by Chinese territorial waters would come as a shock. So [the U.S. has] the unattractive choice of doing something, or doing nothing and losing [its] allies and [its] reputation."
Waldron was part of the China Futures Panel, convened by congressional Republicans in 2000 "to examine charges of bias in the CIA assessments of China," and led by General John Tilelli. Recalling past right-wing efforts to discredit the CIA—like the Team B episode in the late 1970s—the panel reported that it felt the agency had an "institutional predisposition" toward China.
In February 2001, Waldron was appointed by then-Senator Trent Lott (R-MS) to the China Security Review Commission to participate in a congressionally mandated survey of the "national security implications of the economic relationship between the United States and China."
The commission's July 2002 report included a chapter on the "Additional Views of Commissioners," in which Waldron asserted that increases in Chinese military spending were "aimed at excluding the United States from Asia, and establishing the ability to threaten and coerce neighboring states ranging from Mongolia to Japan to India." Waldron also wrote, "Only democratic change can transform China into a genuine friend of the United States and her allies." (In a dissenting view, commissioner William A. Reinsch, undersecretary of commerce during the Clinton administration, criticized Waldron and his fellow commissioners for "consistently impl[ying] the Chinese deserve blame for acting in their own interest rather than ours.")
For many years, Waldron has advocated "regime change" in China. As the Washington Post reported in 2000:
Waldron bluntly asserts that American interests would be better served if China's communist leaders were displaced. "I worry that if China continues on its current trend, which is repressing at home and building up armaments, that becomes very dangerous. I agree with people who think regime change is key to a really stable peace."
In an October 2005 speech given in Taiwan at the World Forum for Democratization in Asia, Waldron argued that China's economic success was bolstering regime "apologists":
With respect to China's headlong military buildup, I would develop the argument that it is the product not of any real external threat, but rather of an internal need to invoke security to justify autocratic rule. I would note how the buildup is increasing tension and distrust in the region, which harms China not least, and note that a democratic China would be a far better neighbor. China's apparent economic success combined with dictatorship has given new life and hope to the world's dictatorships and their apologists, while harming the movement for world democracy.
Waldron has repeatedly warned about the purported dangers of a Chinese military buildup, making alarmist claims as to the significance of such buildup. In a May 2006 article entitled "The Pentagon's Latest China Report," Waldron wrote, "China is developing a formidable military force that makes no sense at all unless one assumes that a 'grab for power' of some sort is its rationale."
Waldron's argument that the current regime is unstable hinges on his analysis of China's stymied democratic movement and its economy. He maintains that the domestic pressures to democratize that surfaced in 1989 at Tiananmen Square have spurred China to assume more aggressive foreign policies in an attempt to quell dissent at home, and he perceives the calls for self-rule in Hong Kong and Taiwan as fissures in the communist monolith. According to Waldron, reform on the periphery is a harbinger of change in the center.
Waldron attributes China's economic growth to its state-sponsored investment and distorted official statistics, rather than to economic liberalization, as many other scholars do. He criticizes mainstream Sinologists and policymakers for attempting to encourage stability in a fundamentally dysfunctional government.
Waldron has been associated with the Blue Team, a network of politicians, congressional staffers, journalists, lobbyists, and analysts who push for a hard line from Washington on China-related issues. Others associated with the Blue Team includeWilliam Kristol, editor of theWeekly Standard; Richard Fischer of the Jamestown Foundation; former Pentagon adviser Michael Pillsbury; and Bill Gertz of the Washington Times.
Waldron has published several books, articles, letters, and opinion pieces. One of his venues is the Letters to the Editor section of the Financial Times (London), which in the first seven months of 2006 alone published six letters from the professor, mostly about China, but also on Israel. Other outlets for Waldron's work have included Orbis, the magazine of right-wing think tank Foreign Policy Research Institute, and Commentary, the neoconservative mouthpiece whose editors have included Norman Podhoretz, his son John Podhoretz, and Irving Kristol.