China never intends to challenge US: PLA general

09:37, May 19, 2011      

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Chen Bingde (C), Chief of the General Staff of People's Liberation Army (PLA) of China, talks to Chairman of U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Mike Mullen (R) during a ceremony at Fort Myer in Washington, May 17, 2011. Chen Bingde arrived in Washington late Sunday for a week-long official visit to the United States. (Xinhua/Du Jing)

A top Chinese military officer told US military brass yesterday that China never intends to challenge the United States, and China's military equipments are at least 20 years behind the US' army.

"The world has no need to worry, let alone fear … China's growth," said General Chen Bingde, chief of the People's Liberation Army's general staff, in an address to a packed room of American military officers and faculty at the National Defense University in Washington.

"To be honest, I feel very sad after visiting (the United States), because I think, I feel and I know, how poor our equipments are and how underdeveloped we remain," Chen told a press conference at the Pentagon.

The Chinese general told reporters that China's recent increase of investment in military power is "compensatory in nature," making up for decades during which modernizing the Chinese economy was given the first priority.

Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the U.S. military's Joint Chiefs of Staff and Chen's host, stressed the importance of renewed dialogue to minimize risk of misunderstanding.

"What he and I have both talked about is a future that is a peaceful future and a better one for our children and grandchildren. That does not include a conflict between China and the United States," Mullen said.

Chen said he invited Mullen to make his first visit to China as Joint Chiefs chairman.

At the press conference, Chen and Mullen also announced several agreements, including a plan for the U.S. and Chinese militaries to jointly conduct a humanitarian assistance and disaster relief exercise in 2012.

Trying to allay Western concerns and jitters about a rising China, Chen quoted US president Franklin D. Roosevelt's famous quote "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself."

In his speech at the National Defense University, Chen said he was optimistic about the future of U.S.-China military relations, which have suffered repeated setbacks. Early last year China angrily cut off most military-to-military contacts after the U.S. announced a $6.4 billion arms sale to Taiwan.

Chen said the U.S. needs to respect China's "core interests," which he said include issues of national unity like Taiwan. The Taiwanese, he said, are considered by all Chinese as "our compatriots and blood brothers and sisters."

The Chinese general equated China's position on Taiwan to President Abraham Lincoln's commitment to preserving the Union. Chen quoted Lincoln as saying, "The Union is unbroken."

Asked about Taiwan's long-standing request to purchase U.S. F-16 combat aircraft, Chen said such a sale would hurt U.S.-China military relations. He asked rhetorically why Taiwan would need to buy American weapons if the U.S. sincerely believes its stated policy that Taiwan is part of China.

Chen appeared to question the validity of the U.S. position favoring Taiwan's eventual peaceful reunification with China. He recounted a conversation earlier Wednesday with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in which she repeated the U.S. position that "there is only one China in the world, and Taiwan is part of China."

He said he told Clinton: "I've heard that comment, that statement, since I was a schoolboy, and I'm hearing the same thing now I'm approaching my retirement age. I wonder when can I really see the reunification of my motherland."

People's Daily Online / Agencies
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