It has been a few years since the leaders of the Chinese and American militaries have met on Chinese soil. Thus, it was very significant that Admiral Mike Mullen of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff ventured to China this past week. However, he had what can best be described as a very tendentious, uncomfortable, and “bumpy” visit with the People’s Liberation Army leadership.
Mullen was in Beijing to call gently for greater responsibility, cooperation and transparency between the two countries, but instead got schooled by a communist military Chinese general about runaway U.S. deficit spending:
“China’s newfound confidence was visible Monday as Mullen met his counterpart, Gen. Chen Bingde. While Mullen tried to showcase three new agreements for cooperation, Chen had another agenda. He criticized U.S. drills with Australia and Japan in the South China Sea as inappropriate, and he noted that China’s fleet of what he called “small ships” was not commensurate with its status.
Chen also said that the U.S. ought to behave in a prudent and modest manner, and he hit out at U.S. military spending……
“The U.S. spends about six times what China does on national defense, a point that Chen criticized in his press conference with Mullen. He said that after seeing the advance state of the American military on his visit in May, he was left thinking that U.S. priorities were misplaced at a time when the country should be worried about the state of its economy.
“I know U.S. is still recovering from financial crisis, still have some difficulties in its economy, while at the same – while at the – again, in such circumstances, U.S. still spending so much money on the military. And isn’t it placing too much pressure on its – on the taxpayers?” Chen said. “If U.S. could reduce a bit military spending to spend more on the improvement of livelihood of the American people and also do more good things for world people, wouldn’t it – wouldn’t it be a better scenario?”
As if things weren’t already tense enough for Mullen, in the midst of his China tour came the embarassing news that the U.S Pentagon had suffered a major cyber-attack from a “foreign government.” Guess Hu?
“Hackers working for a foreign government stole more than 24,000 top-secret files from the Pentagon in a single cyber strike, officials admitted today.
The audacious heist earlier this year was just one of a series of state-backed computer thefts that have caused an estimated [$1 trillion U.S.] worth of damage to America’s defence industry.
Deputy Defence Secretary William Lynn did not name the power but there was widespread speculation last night that China was behind the cyber assault.
In May, Chinese hackers were also accused of breaking into the personal emails of senior Pentagon officials.”
It is highly doubtful that such a humiliating military security breach made public during Mullen’s China trip was coincidence.
Earlier this year, Defense Secretary Robert Gates landed on China’s soil for a visit just as video of a new, previously-unknown Chinese stealth jet fighter somehow “leaked” to the public.
As President Obama flew on his most recent trip China, a submarine-based missile of “unknown” origin suddenly flared up off the coast of San Diego. A cruise ship in the area suffered a sudden, crippling engine fire and had to be towed to port.
After Admiral Mullen’s departure, China Daily editorialized that the U.S. “must respect China’s core interests.” It warned darkly against continued U.S. defense of the South China Sea by sales of military planes to Taiwan, or re-establishing a military presence in the Phillipines. China’s assertion of dominion over the South China Sea with its Navy and ballistic missiles is becoming more strident:
“It is not a new topic to discuss whether China has become a world power. This issue has a very obvious implication regarding “China’s responsibilities” in the world. It is not important what U.S. officials have said about China. What really matters is whether the United States can really treat China as an equal partner. This is especially important for the development of the military relations between the two countries.
Military exchanges often lag behind other aspects in the all-around and multi-level China-U.S. relations. The military relations between the two countries are also very weak, meaning they are often the first and the most affected when the China-U.S. relations experience ups and downs. In addition to the sensitivity of military exchanges, the fundamental reason is that military movements are often related to the core interests of both sides and have significant impact on the mentality of the people of both countries.
The United States should understand that the obstacles to exchanges between the Chinese and U.S. militaries over recent years are not the lack of transparency in China’s military or the aggressive posture adopted by China. The root cause is the mentality of containment to which the United States has long clung, which lies behind its public statements. This has sometimes caused the nation to make moves threatening China’s core interests. Only a country that respects other countries can win their respect.
The South China Sea issue has served as a mirror reflecting the complicated mentality and policies of the United States. When the South China Sea disputes escalated, the United States, which has the most powerful military presence in the region, just managed to show off its force and capitalize on the disputes instead of playing a role in cooling down them.
Some media agencies and scholars in the United States have publicly urged the U.S. military to intervene in the South China Sea issue. An editorial in the Washington Post even asked the Pentagon to provide the Philippines with military support. The United States, Vietnam and the Philippines held a joint drill before long, which the Philippines’s media agencies interpreted as a “consolation” to the country. The moves made by the United States to artificially stir up trouble were terribly incorrect, making the situation in the South China Sea more complicated.
It is worth noting that another evil wind is brewing in Washington. Many Congress members are stepping up pressure on the Obama administration to sell more F-16C/D fighters to Taiwan. It is imaginable that if the United States continues arms sales to Taiwan, all the efforts that the United States and China have made to promote bilateral military ties will be wasted.”
China is moving forward rapidly in naval development, with its first aircraft carrier rolling out soon. It has no intention of “ceding”anything in the South China Sea. With longer-range missiles, deliverable by submarines and carriers, China is scant years from being the dominant naval power in the world.
Meanwhile, as Daniel Blumental points out, the Obama administration IS obliging the Chinese with massive cuts in military spending:
“We are not properly resourcing: a) the submarines the Navy says it needs, or, for that matter, the number of ships in its own shipbuilding plan; b) stealthy tactical aircraft (by the Air Force’s own account, they will face an 800-fighter shortfall later this decade); and c) a long-range bomber, now called “the long-range strike family of systems,” particularly by those who think this system is silver bullet for our Asia posture. We were supposed to be deploying new bombers by 2018. Not a chance. The program is estimated to cost $40-50 billion in total, and respected aerospace analyst Richard Aboulafia predicts that we will not see a new bomber until well into the next decade. Yes, that’s right, a new bomber somewhere in the 2020s.
So General Chen, no need to worry about our defense spending — we will not have enough submarines or tactical aircraft, and there is no new bomber on the horizon.”