Beijing was now actively trying to split the United States' alliances in Asia, and years of military tensions appeared likely, a prominent American scholar warned the US Congress yesterday. Arthur Waldron, international relations professor at the University of Pennsylvania, told the House Armed Services Committee that growing pressures would not necessarily be solved by economic integration: the main trouble was instead with Communist Party rule and its increasing use of nationalism to ensure its survival. 'The party's absolute rule can only be justified by invocation of external enemies, enemies so threatening as to make plausible the postponing of any political reform until the problem is solved,' Mr Waldron said. 'Let's not kid ourselves,' he said, speaking of the on-going debate over economic engagement, something he still supported. 'What is needed is democratisation, liberalisation and the release of political prisoners and so on. That is not going to happen any time soon.' Mr Waldron's comments came in testimony to a full committee hearing on Beijing's strategic goals and intentions. He warned that Beijing was trying to sever US alliances while building up a network of its own, ranging from Russia to Israel as well as the Muslim nations of the Middle East. In Asia, Beijing was working hard on South Korea while any incorporation of Taiwan would strengthen 'dubious' claims to the South China Sea and pull in Singapore to the 'tilt'. 'I don't believe that, if and when the crunch came, any of those states would stand by China and abandon the US and the West. What we see here is opportunistic triangulation in order to bring pressure on Washington and make the occasional million dollars from arms sales,' he said. 'But even that is worrying . . . such behaviour undermines alliance trust and cohesion.' In a worst-case scenario, Beijing might see misleading signals and weakness from Washington as a green light to stage a 'splendid little war' over Taiwan. 'I am certain that an attack on Taiwan would lead to disaster for China. But there are those in Beijing who imagine that the US could be scared off and that a series of missile salvoes could bring the island down.' Reality would be very different, he warned, pulling in the US while leaving deep economic wounds for the leadership. Mr Waldron called for increased US intelligence gathering, a shoring-up of support for more traditional US allies while making increased efforts to limit Chinese military build-ups.