Generals have a major problem, it’s the heads of state that matter

When US and China top brass met, mainland media delved deep into where relations really stand

The United States rolled out the red carpet for the first visit to the United States by China’s chief of general staff in seven years, which ends today.

During the week-long trip, General Chen Bingde and his entourage, which included seven other generals, were given unprecedented access to key military facilities.

Brigade General Jin Yinan of the PLA’s University of National Defence was reported by Xinhua as saying that China and the US were facing a “new situation”, where the two countries find they have more and more information to share.

But that sharing may also give way to problems and disagreements, Jin said, noting that it was important to make sure communication channels were kept open in all events.

Speaking at a forum broadcast on China Central Television, Chen Hu, editor-in-chief of the bimonthly World Military Affairs magazine, said that while the Chinese generals would not have got to see “the hard core stuff” in those highly restricted military areas, “it is a good gesture”.

However, Chen added, mutual respect and co-operation won’t really be achieved until the US exerts more effort in learning about China’s culture and history.

The Global Times, which is owned by the Communist Party mouthpiece the People’s Daily and has a reputation for unique and sometimes nationalistic views, said there was nothing that military officers could do to dissipate the two countries’ doubts and misgivings about each other.

That was the job of heads of state and opinion leaders, it added, but, given their political memories, such changes would not come easily or quickly.

The editorial also said China has no interest in opposing the United States’ global presence, but only hoped its whole purpose was not to contain China.

What China sees as true threats are the US arms sales to Taiwan and reconnaissance missions off the Chinese coasts, the editorial added. It went on to say that such a “dangerous game” tests China’s patience. And this was where the two countries’ high-level military exchanges can truly add value.

In another editorial, the Global Times wrote since the US strategy is not to allow its position to be compromised by the rise of other forces, nothing – not by being sincere, nor by taking a low profile, nor by offering co-operation or concessions – can stop the US from seeing China as a potential enemy.

China should not devote all its energy to thinking about how to compete with the US, as the former Soviet Union once did, the editorial said.

“The more we concentrate on building our own nation and making our own people happy, the less we need to be concerned whether the US is seeing us an enemy.”

Beijing’s Palace Museum (known commonly by its original name, the Forbidden City) has been riddled with scandals in recent weeks, but one of the most outrageous is that part of it has been restricted as a “world-class wealthy people’s club”.

But the most important question to ask, according to a commentary in the National Business Daily, is who actually owns the site. The publication says it’s easy to say the cultural relic is owned by the public, under the administration of the government. But other factors, such as the ever-increasing admission price, suggest that its ownership has been seized by the bureaucrats.

Independent non-governmental organizations should be created to supervise the management of public assets, the publication added.

The 21st Century Economic Herald, another national business newspaper, ran an editorial calling for an overhaul of the Palace Museum’s governance.

In stark contrast with its allegedly profit-oriented commercial plans, the museum now displays only 10,000 pieces out of a total collection of 1.5 million pieces, and less than one-third of its total area is open to tourists.

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