Why Did Gates Warn China Not to Imitate the Soviet Union?

On June 2, one of the participants at the conference, U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates talked a lot about U.S.-China relations with reporters on his private plane; he talked softly but with hard opinions. On the one hand, he said that the United States didn’t want to contain China — that China is and will continue being a global power. On the other hand, he also implicitly warned China not to imitate the Soviet Union in competing with U.S. armaments. He reiterated that cutting military funding would not weaken America’s military power in the Asia-Pacific region.

According to the report, on the private plane to Singapore Gates told reporters that he noticed China was seeking to enlarge the size of its armed forces and combat power, and develop long-range, precision anti-ship cruise and ballistic missiles, anti-satellite weapons and stealth fighters, and network warfare capabilities. He said that the modernization of China’s armed force is developing rapidly, and that China’s attempts to obtain weapons have caused him to pay close attention.

However, Gates expressed his skepticism about China’s strength in challenging America’s armed forces in every aspect. He thought that China has learned a big lesson from the Soviet Union, so it wouldn’t compete with the United States in all respects; instead China aimed at developing a certain degree of capability to move freely in Asia and acquire the opportunity to expand its influence.

Why would Gates make those comments? From the point of view of the author, it’s probably because of America’s concern about the rapid growth of China’s comprehensive strength. As the only super power in today’s world, the United States is very concerned and unscrupulous about how to contain emerging big countries that challenge its hegemony. It can be said that the United States has been stirring up trouble in the world without its old rival, the former Soviet Union, and easily applying armed force to other countries. No matter if it’s the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, Iraq, Afghanistan or the ongoing Libya war, the United States has a hand in all of them. Making military strikes on these countries was done for the purpose of further controlling the world and securing hegemony.

In using the former Soviet Union to warn China, Gates seems to show America’s concern over the possible future Chinese threat to America’s hegemony, as the former strengthens its capabilities. Although China does not appear willing to challenge America’s dominant status in the world at present, the facts also prove that China cannot rival the United States in the short term. It’s just like what General Chen Bingde said during his visit to the United States last month: China’s military strength is more than 20 years behind America’s, and there is also a large distance between the two countries in the field of high technology. This indicates that China obviously knows its distance from the United States; therefore, we can see that China will not actively challenge America’s hegemony. Gates’ words seem more focused on the future.

Nevertheless, from another perspective, it’s possible that Gates’ words were based on uneasiness with the continuing decline of America’s power and the rise of China. When the 2008 financial crisis broke out in the United States, U.S. national power was dealt a serious blow, while China out-shined other countries (its power increasing even quicker). This sounded the alarm for the United States. The United States worried that China was rising on a scale like that of the former Soviet Union; but apparently China is not the former Soviet Union, and it’s not willing to become the former Soviet Union.

The disintegration of the former Soviet Union was not simply because of the outbreak of its internal problems: The policy of peace evolution with western countries also played a considerable role. China obviously has learned a lesson from the former Soviet Union; it [China] didn’t pursue military contests with any of its neighboring countries or the United States, but strongly compressed its military spending, and instead spent its limited resources on developing its economy and improving people’s livelihoods. This fact proves that China was right on this move. Thirty years after its reform and opening up, China finally made great achievements in economics and living standards, changing dramatically regarding its basic features. People’s living standards increased sharply, its comprehensive national strength rapidly increased, which in turn contributed to the development of national defense construction.

The U.S. policy of containing China will not change now and in the future. The United States is afraid of China’s development; the fear comes from its anxiety of losing its dominant status. The United States’ deployment of a strong military around China seems to be a preparation for preventing China from one day challenging America’s dominant status. However, the real issue is that the United States has to cooperate with China in other aspects while containing them. The world is experiencing multi-polarization, and America’s unilateral policy in maintaining its dominant status is now increasingly unpopular. The United States fears that China will start a full challenge against it, but it’s not that China hasn’t seen America’s situation. As the saying goes, fortune comes full circle: Every dog has its day. The dominant position will not always be taken by the United States; the development of the world abides by this inherent law. China has no intention of being hegemonic; consider the prosperous times of China’s Han, Tang, Ming, and Qing dynasties. China will not be the next Soviet Union, and the fate of the Soviet Union will not be China’s future!

Nanfang Daily, China


By Bing Ge

Translated By Liangzi He

3 June 2011

Edited by Mark DeLucas
China – Nanfang Daily – Original Article (Chinese)

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