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"We Tibetans are looking for a legitimate and meaningful autonomy, an arrangement that would enable Tibetans to live within the framework of the People’s Republic of China."

Sino-U.S. Military Relations May Be Improving

November 5, 2009

By Wendell Minnick
Defense News
November 2, 2009

Taipei - China's second-highest ranking military
officer, Gen. Xu Caihou, painted a rosy picture
of his country's military modernization during a visit to Washington last week.

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates welcomes
Chinese Gen. Xu Caihou at the Pentagon on Oct.
27. Xu is the highest level Chinese military
official to visit the U.S. in years. (JIM WATSON / AFP)

Xu, vice chairman of the Central Military
Commission, downplayed China's military threat
during an Oct. 28 meeting with U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

Gates and Xu agreed to "seven points of
consensus" on Sino-U.S. military cooperation and
exchanges - including high-level mutual visits
and exchanges of military officials, more
cooperation on humanitarian aid, broader
communication on land forces and maritime
security, and junior officer exchanges. There was
also an agreement to conduct a joint air-sea
search and rescue exercise. Gates is expected to visit China in 2010.

The meeting comes ahead of President Barack
Obama's Nov. 15-18 trip to China, where talks are
expected to focus on improved military ties and
Beijing's continued objections to U.S. support for Taiwan.

During an Oct. 26 speech at the Center for
Strategic and International Studies, Xu said much
of China's military modernization was dedicated
to counterterrorism, peacekeeping and disaster relief.

Improved Sino-U.S. military relations have
sticking points. Military exchanges were
discontinued after Washington approved a $6.5
billion arms deal with Taiwan in October 2008.
Three maritime incidents involving Chinese and
U.S. vessels in China's Exclusive Economic Zones
(EEZ) followed the arms release.

Xu blamed the incidents on "intensive
reconnaissance missions conducted by U.S. naval
ships in China's EEZ, which infringed upon Chinese interests.

"It is encouraging to see that both sides have
recognized that we should not allow such
incidents to damage our state-to-state and
mil-to-mil relations," Xu said. "One testament to
that is the recent round of MMCA [Military
Maritime Consultative Agreement talks] between
our two navies held earlier in Beijing this year.
Neither of us wants to see this happen again, so
I believe that the two navies should continue our
consultation and discussion in maritime military
security in a spirit of friendship and mutual understanding."

The Sino-U.S. MMCA, signed in 1998, was the first
agreement on confidence-building measures between the two countries.

"The trend is moving in the right direction,"
said Zhuang Jianzhong, vice director of the
Center for National Strategy Studies at Shanghai
Jiao Tong University. Military exchanges have
resumed under the Obama administration, and the
seven points of consensus show promise, but there
are still obstacles, he said, including arms sales to Taiwan and EEZ issues.

"But there are positive signs even with those
tough questions. If we could handle them with the
strategic vision or with the strategic
reassurance, these questions could gradually be resolved in the future."

He also minimized China's defense spending and
research by comparing it to the U.S. defense
budget. "The U.S. defense expenditure in 2008 was
$68.3 billion; that of China was $6.12 billion,
representing 8.8 percent of the U.S. defense
expenditure," Xu said. "In terms of the share in
the GDP [gross domestic product], China has a
defense expenditure that is 1.4 percent ...
compared to 4.8 percent in the case of the United States."

Increase in Chinese Spending

Richard Bitzinger, a former CIA analyst, said
that Xu "trots out the usual shopworn arguments
in comparing Chinese defense expenditures to
those of the United States" to downplay Beijing's military spending.

In reality, Chinese defense spending has "gone up
500 percent in real terms since 1997," said
Bitzinger, now at the Institute of Defence and
Strategic Studies at Singapore's S. Rajaratnam
School of International Studies. "Chinese defense
spending growth has outstripped national economic
growth," increasing 11 percent to 13 percent a
year in real terms, while its annual GDP growth
has been around 8 percent to 9 percent.

Bitzinger said Beijing no longer compares its
defense budget to those of Britain, Russia or
Japan "because in the past few years, China has
outstripped all of these countries in military spending."

China now spends 60 percent more on defense than
Japan. "China has not only replaced Japan as the
largest defense spender in the Asia-Pacific, it
is the second largest defense spender in the
world, after the United States," Bitzinger said.

On China's development of new ballistic and
cruise missiles, Xu said the weapons were
"limited" to "meet the minimum requirement for
maintaining national security" and were "entirely for self-defense."

He made no mention of the new road-mobile Dong
Feng 31A intercontinental ballistic missile,
capable of hitting Washington, or of China's
1,300 short-range ballistic missiles aimed at Taiwan.

Instead of focusing on uncomfortable issues like
nuking Chicago, Xu talked in equal terms with the
U.S. on regional security issues, suggesting
China was on par with U.S. military capabilities.

One mainland Chinese source, speaking on
anonymity, said the translation of Xu's comments at CSIS were slightly off.

"It is almost amazing to read the Chinese line
that 'both China and the U.S. have significant
influences in the world'," he said. "I think the
English translation here does not exactly match
the original Chinese, which is 'China and the
United States are the two countries that have
significant influences in the world.' That is
almost a shameless elevation of China to a status
that is equivalent to the U.S. Maybe it says something about China's psyche."

Apologists for Beijing suggest China's westward
expansion and need to secure the South China Sea
mirror America's early Manifest Destiny and
Monroe Doctrine policies. Critics of the
comparison argue this does not justify the
military occupation of Tibet, threats to invade
Taiwan, and claims the South China Sea is a "Chinese lake."

Xu also hooked China's national security
modernization to the U.S counterterrorism bandwagon.

"We notice that the United States regards
terrorism as today's major security threat. The
threats facing China caused by secessionist,
extremist and terrorist forces are also on the clear rise."

He cited terrorist attacks by East Turkestan
separatists and continued separatist forces in Taiwan.

"I also need to point out that China is yet to be
completely reunited while secessionist schemes of
Taiwan independence, East Turkestan independence
and Tibet independence forces are still under way," Xu said.

Taiwan is pushing hard for the U.S. release of
new F-16s to replace its aging F-5 and Mirage
2000-5 fighters. China has threatened to
discontinue military relations with the United
States in the event of a release. ?
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