Will top-level talks strengthen China-US military relations?

13:46, May 18, 2011      

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A senior delegation of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) led by Chen Bingde, member of China's Central Military Commission and Chief of General Staff of the PLA, arrived in Washington D.C. on the evening of May 15 local time. This is the first visit the Chief of General Staff of the PLA has gone to the United States in seven years. What can people expect from this visit? Will this visit compensate for the "shortcomings" and strengthen the military ties between China and the United States?

Establishing a new-style military relationship

Chen's visit is viewed by some Western media agencies as the "beacon" that will loosen the tense military relations between China and the United States. Whether this kind of metaphor is proper or not, it can clearly be seen that the military communication between the two countries is improving.

The improvement of the two armies is a good start for the two countries to establish the second 10-year-long mutual-respect and mutual-benefit new-style military relationship of the 21st century. Li Xiaoning, a special researcher from the Center for Strategic Studies of China under Peking University, believes that this new-style military relationship not only accords with the new orientation of China-U.S. relations established during President Hu Jintao's talks with U.S. President Barack Obama but also extends the orientation's development into the military areas. This means that China and the United States need to respect each other's different social systems and develop their relations towards a goal of mutual benefit.

Every arrangement carefully designed

It can be seen through the arrangements of the visit and the members participating in the exchange that both China and the United States attach great importance to this meeting. Regarding the arrangements, this visit is not a short and simple one or two day trip but a long investigation and exchange that will last eight days. The long duration is good for the senior officers of both sides to have in-depth communications.

The content of the visit is also plentiful, including visits to the largest naval base in the United States; the aircraft carrier base; the Naval Station Norfolk in Virginia; Fort Stewart in Georgia, where the Third Infantry Division, an elite division of the U.S. Army, is stationed; Nellis Air Force Base, where the air force tactics center of the United States is located, as well as the National Military Training Center. Several of the aforementioned places have not been open to military leaders for years. It reflects how much importance the United States attaches to Chen’s visit that they have opened these areas for inspection.

In regards to the members of the delegation, the Chinese government sent executive leaders who are responsible for operations, intelligence and foreign affairs as well as senior military commanders of the four branches of the military from three major military commands. The collective backbone of the Chinese military's ground, naval and air forces shows China's sincerity, confidence as well as its willingness to launch comprehensive and open communications with the United States.

Yang Chengxu, a researcher from the China Institute of International Studies, said this visit offers a "breakthrough" in both scale and standards compared with previous visits. The United States also attached great important to this visit and gave the Chinese guests a high-level courteous reception. It launched a formal military salute ceremony to greet Chinese guests and the U.S. defense secretary and secretary of state will also be involved in the meeting.

Consensus, confrontation co-exist in topics of discussion

Topics that the two sides might discuss are also the focus of various parties. There are concerns that as China and the United States have different stances on certain core issues, they will not achieve a consensus at all. However, experts believe although consensus and confrontation may co-exist during the visit, China and the United States can take this platform to clearly express their positions and listen to each other's strategic intentions to avoid misconceptions and disparities.

Li predicted that the two sides may formulate a timetable for exchanges at the next stage and discuss the personnel to be involved in future discussions and exchanges, projects that can be conducted, topics that need discussions as well as the results that may be achieved in counter-terrorism information exchanges. They may also form a technical cooperation in maritime defense to avoid misfires.

Currently, the main obstacles restricting the development of China-U.S. military relations lie on the U.S. side. The United States will touch China’s bottom line if it continues to create obstacles in three major issues, namely selling arms to Taiwan, launching reconnaissance in China with naval vessels and aircraft and discriminatory domestic laws. This will be detrimental to the interests of both sides. China and the United States can bridge the differences and find a way to eliminate the military obstacle based on the attitudes of mutual respect, equality and mutual benefit.

By People's Daily Online

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