China Gets Mixed Message from U.S.
By WENDELL MINNICK
TAIPEI — China is reacting to divergent messages from the U.S. defense community that propose improved military-to-military relations while simultaneously raising alarms about China’s military modernization efforts.
On Sept. 15, Adm. Timothy Keating, the head of U.S. Pacific Command (PACOM), said that although the military relationship with China is “complex” and occasionally “disconcerting,” he is “cautiously optimistic,” though “getting where we want to be” will be a “long, important slog.”
He also said that PACOM does not “worry about China” on a daily basis. Keating made the comments at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies.
“This is certainly encouraging,” said Wang Dong, a research fellow at the center. Keating is “certainly realistic when offering his assessment that the alliance or partnership won’t come quickly. He is right. It might take years or even decades for us to get there — if we are fortunate enough to end up on that route.”
Also on Sept. 15, Dennis Blair, the U.S. director of National Intelligence, released the 2009 National Intelligence Strategy (NIS). The report reiterated Keating’s comments on the complexity of dealing with China, but also warned of the potential threat Beijing poses.
“China shares many interests with the United States, but its increasing natural resource-focused diplomacy and military modernization are among the factors making it a complex global challenge,” the report said.
Wang said better military-to-military relations with the United States will be a “big stride — especially given the fact that not long ago, many in the West [including Japan] were still toying with the idea of a ‘coalition of democracies,’ which of course could potentially become self-fulfilling and draw the region into an unwanted bloc-style great power competition.”
The fear for many is miscalculation. At the same time that members of the U.S. defense community push for better strategic and regional security cooperation with China, there are concerns that China will become a peer competitor to the U.S. military. However, China says that U.S. fears are outdated.
“We urge the U.S. to abandon Cold War mentality and prejudices, correct mistakes in the report and stop making remarks that mislead the U.S. public and undermine mutual trust between China and the U.S.,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said Sept. 17.
Despite Chinese claims of peaceful co-existence, Beijing is investing heavily in both asymmetrical and conventional weaponry.
During the NIS press conference Blair, a retired U.S. Navy admiral and former PACOM commander, said there are concerns over China’s “very aggressive” cyber capabilities.
Then on Sept. 16, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates warned of Chinese investments in “cyber and anti-satellite warfare, anti-air and anti-ship weaponry, and ballistic missiles,” which could threaten U.S. capabilities to project power in the Pacific by crippling U.S. aircraft carriers and destroying U.S. bases in the region.
China’s newest weapons could “degrade the effectiveness of short-range fighters and put more of a premium on being able to strike from over the horizon — whatever form that capability might take.”
China will be showing off its most advanced weaponry during a parade in Beijing on Oct. 1 in celebration of the 60th anniversary of the People’s Republic of China. Analysts expect an intelligence windfall as China displays new long-range cruise missiles, road-mobile intercontinental ballistic missiles and UAVs never seen in public.