01 April 2011

Ed Wong & Jonathan Ansfield, New York Times: “China Lays Out Vision for Its Military”

Edward Wong and Jonathan Ansfield, China Lays Out Vision for Its Military,” New York Times, 31 March 2011.

BEIJING — The Chinese military said Thursday that while the security situation in Asia and the Pacific was generally stable it was becoming “more intricate and volatile,” with no clear solutions for tension points like the divided Korean Peninsula and with the United States increasing its involvement in regional security issues. The military’s vision was laid out in a national defense white paper, a document published every two years since 1998. The paper tries to walk a line between trumpeting the modernization efforts of the Chinese military and assuaging fears by foreign governments and analysts that the fast-growing People’s Liberation Army will be used for expansionist purposes or regional dominance. …

“China attaches importance to its military relationship with the United States and has made ongoing efforts towards building a sound military relationship,” Sr. Col. Geng Yansheng said at a news conference on Thursday, reading from a text. “The Chinese military is now taking steps to advance exchanges with the U.S. military this year.” …

Colonel Geng said that the army’s Chief of General Staff, Gen. Chen Bingde, would visit the United States in May. Robert M. Gates, the United States defense secretary, flew to Beijing in January to smooth over military-to-military relations that had been frozen after the Obama administration announced arms sales to Taiwan in January 2010. In June Mr. Gates got into a prickly dispute with General Ma Xiaotian at a security summit meeting in Singapore, an episode that revealed the deep fissures in the military relationship.

Mr. Gates had to navigate yet another tricky diplomatic situation here when the Chinese military tested a J-20 stealth fighter jet in Sichuan Province while he met in the Chinese capital with President Hu Jintao.

In December Admiral Robert F. Willard, the commander of United States Pacific Command, told a Japanese newspaper that China had a working design for an antiship ballistic missile that could strike at aircraft carriers and could soon be ready for deployment. The missile, known as a “carrier killer,” has become a symbol in Western military circles of the Chinese army’s technological advances.

The weapon “is not science fiction,” Andrew S. Erickson, a professor at the United States Naval War College, said in an e-mail interview earlier this year. “It is not a ‘smoke and mirrors’ bluff,” he wrote. “It is not an aspirational capability that the U.S. can ignore until some point in the future.”

Of equal or greater import is China’s plan to soon deploy an aircraft carrier known to be under construction. But the white paper, while ostensibly aimed at making China’s military development more transparent, did not discuss the carrier project. Colonel Geng dodged a question about it at the news conference. …

For further background, see Andrew S. Erickson, “Beijing Issues Latest Defense White Paper ‘China’s National Defense in 2010’: Full Text, Key Excerpts & Analysis.”