- Tue, 06/07/2011 - 12:00
Source: Global Times
[18:46 June 07 2011]
Chen Bingde, chief of the General Staff of the Chinese People's Liberation Army, recently visited the US. The first such visit in seven years was seen as a sign of warming up Sino-US relations, but does it mean real progress? Does the US have reason to be concerned about China's increasing military spending? People's Daily Online (PO) talked with Zhu Chenghu (Zhu), director of the Strategic Studies Department at the National Defense University, on these issues.
PO: Could China and the US make substantial progress in the communication of military technology? What is hindering the exchange in this regard?
Zhu: Under current circumstances, it is not very likely for the two countries to make substantial process in the exchange of military technology. There are many reasons for this. We cannot expect too much from it.
US global strategy helps decide this. The US goal is to dominate the world, financially, politically, and militarily.
There are structural conflicts in the Sino-US relationship. Such conflicts are brought about by the differences in political system, ideology, and values between the two countries. Actually, after the Cold War, particularly after China's reform and opening-up policy, the difference or contradiction in ideology has faded from China's memory. But I guess the US has never let go of this.
I understand that the relationship between two big nations is naturally competitive, but that doesn't mean we can't cooperate with each other.
For a long time, the cooperation between the two countries has mainly been in other fields and even in non-traditional security. But when it comes to military technology, cooperation becomes rather sensitive. Therefore, it is difficult for the US to share with us its technology while there is a tense competitive relationship.
We had cooperated with the US in military technology before, but we were on the losing side in the process. I think Chinese should not rely on others for their national security. We need to make military breakthroughs ourselves.
PO: How do you see the relation between a country's military expenditure and its military strength? In answering questions from a journalist in the US, Chen Bingde said China was 20 years behind in military equipment. How can we catch up?
Zhu: I think Chen was just using a figure of speech to make it clear that we are not competing anyone in the development of weaponry and military equipment and we don't want to challenge US military dominance.
But we do need to increase military investment, speed up the development of weaponry and equipment, and improve the training of the army and their ability in coping with all kinds of security threats. From reform and opening-up in the late 1970s to 1995 when Taiwan leader Lee Teng-hui visited the US, China's military expenditure was nearly stagnant. The increase in the past years has actually been catching up with what we should have spent earlier.
As China is growing stronger, it should shoulder more international responsibilities. To do this, it needs the appropriate military training and technology.
For instance, in the past, our navy never went beyond Chinese waters. But today, they are in the Gulf of Aden fighting against pirates and protecting convoys together with other countries in the territorial waters of other countries with the backing of the UN. Sometimes,
when there is a natural disaster, our government needs to provide help and material relief for people in other countries, which also requires us to have modern equipment.
PO: The US greatly supported China in both the War against Japanese Aggression (1937-45) and in the early stages of our reform and opening-up. Why can we not have a good relationship with the US, while we can get along well with Russia?
Zhu: I admit that without the help from the US we might have lost more in the war and it might not have ended so soon. And after the then US President Richard Nixon visited China in 1972, the US also played an indispensable role in the process of reform and opening-up in China. But why have there been so many problems with the Sino-US relationship in recent years?
I think US global strategy demands an opponent. Without a competitor, it would not be possible for the US to maintain a high military expenditure, nor would it be necessary for it to keep an enormous number of forces overseas. After the disintegration of the Soviet Union, some decision-makers and scholars in the US regarded China as a threat to global US hegemony, setting obstacles in the Sino-US relationship to hinder its development.
But we also are at fault. It is true that we are developing, but are we really rising now? Is China developed enough to replace the US as No.1? Is it developed to a degree that China could seek hegemony through military strength?
We should examine the remarks by some media and scholars in the past years about China's rise, our new power, and so on.
Some even believed that there must be a war between China and the US. All these words inevitably would become excuses for the US to guard against or even contain China.
PO: The military exchanges between China and the US are on and off and an effective and regular dialogue mechanism has not taken shape yet. What do you think are the main reasons for this?
Zhu: I think there appeared a weird circle in the Sino-US relationship in the past years, that is, destroy-repair-destroy again-repair again. I think the US is mainly to blame for this.
There are three major obstacles in the military relationship between China and the US: US arms sale to Taiwan, the National Defense Authorization Act and DeLay Amendment in 2000, and US spy missions over China's exclusive economic zones. The discontinuity of the military communication between the two countries actually all resulted from these three factors, particularly US arms sales to Taiwan.
I want to remind you that it is na?ve to think Chen's visit to the US will lead the military relationship between China and the US to a healthy path, since the US now is planning another sale of F-16 C/D fighters to Taiwan, or helping Taiwan to upgrade its existing 145 F-16 A/B fighters to the C/D version.
I know that the US has fierce internal discussion on this. The Defense Department advocates selling it while the State Department opposes it. But in the end, I guess the State Department would find it difficult to stop the sale, which could cause another crisis.
PO: After Osama bin Laden's death, do you think it is possible for the US to change its support for China's anti-terrorism effort and instead support the East Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM) or separatism in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region?
Zhu: Bin Laden's death is a big event in the international fight against terrorism and no doubt a good thing for the overall war against terrorism. But it is worth studying and observing whether Bin Laden's death will cause what you are worried about, that is, whether the US will support the separatists and terrorists in Xinjiang after it gets rid of the threat of terrorism.
About a month ago, the US published a list of terrorist organizations in different countries and regions. But ETIM wasn't on the list. I cannot help wondering how the US will treat China in terms of terrorism after it gets rid of the threat of terrorism and the present economic crisis.