December 24th, 2008 | PLA Daily Liang Guanglie: China's military diplomacy keeps pace with times (2)
Advancing amid twists and turns
It is impossible for military diplomacy to be always plain sailing, and some twists and turns did happen in China’s foreign military relations, and the tortuous development process of the China-US military exchanges and the Sino-Japanese military exchanges has left me a strong impression.
Both China and US are major countries of global influence, and to develop the military relations between the two countries is of great importance towards maintaining world peace and stability. But the bilateral relations experienced twists and turns in the early days of President Bush’s government, especially after the incident of “Chinese fighter plane colliding with a US Navy surveillance aircraft” in April 2001, the exchange between the two militaries basically came to a standstill except the meetings of the China-US Military Maritime Security Consultation Mechanism. In the face of such a tough situation, we coped with the situation cool-headedly under the guidance of the Central Government’s policy towards the United States. Soon after that, the “September 11″ terrorist attack occurred in the United States, the Chinese government swiftly made important decision on the anti-terror issue and the China-US relations saw a favorable turn. In October 2002, President Jiang Zemin reached important consensus with President Bush on restoration and development the China-US military relations during his visit to the United States. Thus the ice of the China-US military ties was broken and the mutual exchange of visits resumed. In recent years, the “Taiwan independence” separatist activities have been rampant, directly harming the peace and stability across the Taiwan Straits, at the same time the China-US military relations have been interfered and affected by some complicated factors. However, with overall interests in mind, the two countries maintained generally stable relations between the two militaries. President Hu Jintao met with President Push for several times to discuss how to jointly expand contact and develop relations between the two militaries. In October 2003, Cao Gangchuan, vice chairman of the Central Military Commission of the PRC visited the US. That was the first visit by the Chinese defense minister to the United States since 1996 and also the highest Chinese military delegation to visit the United States since President Bush took office. This was a very successful visit, for it has promoted the development of the China-US military relations. In January 2004, Air Marshal Myers, chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff of the United States, visited China. In October of the same year, I visited the US in the capacity of the chief of general staff of the PLA, realizing the reciprocal visit between chief of general staff of the PLA and chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff of the United States.
In October 2005, US Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld visited China. Rumsfeld made an open remark at the end of his visit, saying that it is normal for the Chinese PLA to develop itself, improve its weaponry and carry out modernization drive, the Chinese and US armed forces should seek common grounds while reserving differences and push for steady progress of relations through exchange and cooperation in such forms as military institution education, people-to-people contacts and mutual visits of naval ships.
In July 2006, Guo Boxing, vice chairman of the Central Military Commission of the PRC, visited the United States upon invitation, and he made a speech entitled “China’s Peaceful Development and National Defense Modernization” at the American National Defense University. The US media made the following comments: Vice Chairman Guo drew ringing applause from audience with “a soldier’s candid and humorous languages”, this calm and assertive general has clearly expressed the hope of strengthening the China-US military exchange and mutual trust. This visit has helped enhance the trust and dispel suspicion, signifying that the China-US relations have been brought to a new level. In recent years, the China-US military exchange has steadily expanded and the co-operation in such fields as anti-terrorism, anti-proliferation, maritime security, humanitarian aid and disaster relief operations has been deepening, making positive contributions to deepening the China-US security relations and maintaining peace and stability in the region and the world as a whole.
It is regrettable that some people in the US still cling to the Cold War mentality and attempt to contain China by using the “Taiwan issue” and other issues. On the one hand the US side indicated more than once that it doesn’t support “Taiwan Independence”, on the other hand it continues to sell arms to Taiwan. On October 3 this year, the US government notified the congress to sell 6 types of weaponry and equipment to Taiwan at the value of US$6.463 billion, including “Patriot-3″ anti-missile system and “Apache” gun helicopters. Such behavior of the United States has seriously violated the solemn commitments it has made to China on the Taiwan issue, seriously deviated from the consensus reached by the leaders of the two countries on the China-US constructive cooperative relations, and endangered China’s national security and seriously interfered with the China-US relations and the relations between the armed forces of the two countries. China forthwith lodged a stern protest and adopted countermeasures. The development of the China-US military relations was faced with the new test.
As to the Sino-Japanese relations, people like to describe as “cold politically and warm economically”. In fact, “cold politically” has more impact upon the exchange between defense sectors of the two countries than any other aspects. Owing to Japanese leaders’ visit to the Yasukuni Shrine, the Chinese PLA once suspended high-level contact with the Japanese counterpart and the relations between the two sides hit an all time low. After the Japanese Primer Minister Shinzo Abe’s visit to China in October 2006, the China-Japan relations saw a favorable turn. In the past two years and more, from the “ice-breaking trip” of Primer Minister Shinzo Abe to Premier Wen Jiabao’s “ice-thawing journey” and Japanese Primer Minister Yasuo Fukuda’s “greeting spring trip” and President Hu Jintao’s “warm spring trip” in May this year, the Sino-Japanese relations have been steadily improving, and the high-level exchange in defense sectors has also gradually resumed. In August 2007, Cao Gangchuan, vice chairman of the Central Military Commission of the PRC, visited Japan upon invitation and defense departments of the two sides later released a joint news communiqu? the two sides reached broad agreement on strengthening bilateral exchanges and cooperation, indicating that significant progress has been made in terms of cooperation between the defense sectors of the two countries.
Intensifying the exchange with young and middle-aged officers of the Japanese Self-Defense Force is an important content of promoting the development of Sino-Japanese relations in defense sectors. On July 2, 2008, Xu Caihou, vice chairman of the Central Military Commission of the PRC, stressed when he met with the Kawasaki Japan-China Friendship Fund and the young and middle-aged military officers delegation that the Great Wall is a great project constructed by the Chinese people for security and defense purpose, which reflects China’s consistent strategic defense culture.
The reciprocal visit of naval ships is an important program within the friendly military exchange field and it has strong political and emblematic significance. Although the reciprocal visits between Chinese and Japanese naval ships were raised as early as in 2000, the issue was postponed for several times. It was not until last year when the Sino-Japanese relations showed the signs of virtuous interaction, the reciprocal naval visit was officially put on the agenda. In November 2007, guided missile destroyer “Shenzhen” of the Chinese Navy successfully visited Japan. And then the Japanese destroyer Sazanami visited Zhanjiang in Guangdong Province in June 2008 as the return visit. The destroyer Sazanami also carried such materials as food, sanitary articles and blankets, and other relief materials donated by the Japan Ministry of Defense and the Self-Defense Force to the disaster-stricken area in Sichuan Province. The reciprocal visit of naval ships of the two countries evoked strong reverberation among the netizens. We have always held that China and Japan are each other’s important neighbors, and both gain from peaceful coexistence, and lose from conflicts. The Sino-Japanese friendship is hard-won and embodies the painstaking efforts of generations of the people as well as the common aspiration of the people of the two countries. Thus we should cherish it with utmost care. Meanwhile, we should also have confidence and patience for the development of the Sino-Japanese relations.
The Sino-EU relationship is one of the most important parts of China’s foreign relations. Although the PLA has no direct military contact with EU, yet, China’s military relations with EU member states have, on the whole, been developing smoothly. There exist some negative factors in the EU’s China policy. Especially in the recent period, EU has been exerting pressure upon China on such issues as Tibet, Taiwan, human rights, energy and climate changes, which has, to a certain extent, interfered with the enhancement of China-EU strategic mutual-trust and China-EU Comprehensive Strategic Partnership.
After the beating, smashing, looting and burning incident in Lhasa on March 14 this year, some Western media played up the so-called the “Tibet issue” and the interference with the Olympic torch relay even occurred in some countries. In September this year, I made a formal visit to Italy, Germany, Belarus and Hungary in the capacity of defense minister. In Italy, I had a candid and friendly talk with Italian Defense Minister Arturo. As expected, he tactfully expressed the concern over the “Tibet issue”. I replied: “Your Excellency, we know the situation in Tibet very well, as I made a thorough study and prepared detailed materials on the Tibet issue before I come here.” Then, I briefed the minister with focus on Tibet’s history and status quo and laid bare the essence of Dalai Group’s secessionist activities with the support of detailed data and facts. The Italian side said that what I said was very convincing. Italian Defense Minister Arturo then indicated that the Tibet issue was China’s internal affair and Italy had no intention to interfere with. I then took the initiative to explain to our hosts the situation in Tibet when I visited Germany, Belarus and Hungary, and got goodwill response from our hosts. The Hungarian side positively asked me to give them some Tibet-related materials. I feel that there is no political obstacles hindering the development of Sino-EU relations, such as major geo-political conflicts or questions left over by history, the two sides hold same or similar stand on many important international issues. So long as the two sides enhance mutual understanding and trust in the light of the concept of peace and development, some misunderstanding and misgivings occurred during the exchanges can be removed.