US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates arrived in China on Sunday. The day came about seven months later than he had expected.
Both militaries obviously have a pile of questions for each other. The West Pacific is like being at the crossroads of peace and turbulence – there is no traffic signal here – and all the players in the area are watching where the two powers are heading.
On the eve of his visit to Beijing, Gates restated his concerns about China’s military buildup. Meanwhile, China is no less worried about the US military presence in Asia. When US aircraft carriers were heading toward China’s nearest sea, China had enough reason to cry about its concerns just like the US did.
Despite its military buildup in recent years, China is one generation or more behind the US in military technology. Both China’s arms system and weaponry performance are way behind.
The US has obviously defined a set of excessive and even luxury security standards. Perhaps Washington would feel relaxed only when the Chinese military uses weapons and facilities obsolete in the US army and when the Chinese soldiers return to the era of wearing straw sandals.
The US often questions China’s strategic intention because of its military modernization. In fact, China also wants to ask: What is the US strategic intention of keeping absolute military superiority over the West Pacific?
China won’t be a fast-growing but fragile country. It has to develop it’s military strength in order to make any power think twice before trying to offend China’s key interests.
The top priority of developing Sino-US military relations is to build mutual trust. The US, with stronger military power, should release more sincerity.
In past decades, the US toppled more than a few countries though both hot war and cold war. It has to do more to reduce the natural assumption of a “US conspiracy” in the Chinese society.
At the same time, China should also take US anxiety into consideration. The US is used to being the leading player on the world stage, accepting global obedience. China’s effort to improve its own national security isn’t compatible with the West Pacific order at the moment. China needs to explore a new road to collective security in the region.
Despite the need to step up its military buildup, China should not set a long-term goal of comprehensively surpassing the US. This is both impractical and even risky.
China should endeavor to dispel military contention out of its national competition with the US, which best facilitates China’s interests.
This is easier said than done. But in an era of globalization, it is not necessarily utopian.