United States and the People’s Republic of China resumed military-to-military
talks February 27-28 in Beijing. The tone of the Defense Policy Coordination
Talks (DPCT) showed the same American desire to accommodate China’s
rise to peer power status that was shown a week earlier by Secretary
of State Hillary Clinton’s trip to the Chinese capital.
Assistant Secretary of Defense David Sedney, a hold over from the Bush
Administration, led the U.S. delegation that included officials from
the Defense Department, the State Department, the Pacific Command and
the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Among the Chinese participants were mid-level
officers from the People’s Liberation Army, navy and air force as
well as some civilians termed “military scholars.” Sedney held 13
hours of talks on Feb. 27 with a delegation led by Maj. Gen. Qian Lihua,
the Chinese Defense Ministry's head of foreign affairs. A shorter meeting
took place the next morning with Lt. Gen. Ma Xiaotian, deputy chief
of the General Staff for the PLA.
was the fifth meeting of the DPTT since its inception in 2005. China
had suspended most military contacts last October over Washington's
agreement to sell $6.5 billion in advanced weaponry to Taiwan, the self-governing
island democracy that the mainland Communist regime claims is a renegade
province. When Sedney journeyed to Beijing last December to ask that
the DPCT meetings resume, he was turned down. China’s leaders were
clearly waiting for the Obama Administration to take office.
took a hard line towards the talks. China’s state-run news agency
Xinhua quoted Maj. Gen. Qian as saying that contacts would remain tenuous
unless the U.S. removes remaining obstacles to improvement. “China-U.S.
military relations still stay at a difficult period. We expect the U.S.
side to take concrete measures for the resumption and development of
our military ties,” said Qian.
Obama administration seems in the mood to make concessions. After the
DPCT meeting, Sedney told a news conference, “The focus was not at
all on obstacles. The focus was on how we can move forward, how we can
make progress, and how we can try to make joint efforts...to achieve
common goals.” On major points, it was Beijing’s goals of expanding
its influence in key regions that were advanced with American blessings.
thanked Beijing for hosting the Six Party Talks on North Korea, as had
Secretary Clinton during her visit. Yet, two days before the DPCT, China
had hosted a delegation from North Korea as part of the celebration
of 2009 as the “Year of China-DPRK Friendship” marking 60 years
of their alliance. Just as China sent the PLA to fight against the U.S.-led
UN forces during the Korean War, China has used the Six Party Talks
to diplomatically protect the Pyongyang regime from any concerted action
that could endanger its rule. According to the official newspaper
The People’s Daily, “Jia Qinglin, chairman of the National Committee
of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), told
a delegation from the Workers' Party of Korea (WPK) that Sino-DPRK relations,
fostered by leaders of older generations, had been continuously developed…but
also looking into the future.”
praised China's contribution to the anti-piracy flotilla patrolling
the Gulf of Aden off the Somali coast. Beijing sent two destroyers and
a supply ship to the region in December. This naval deployment into
the Indian Ocean marks a significant projection of Chinese influence
towards East Africa where Beijing has been supporting the Sudan regime’s
genocidal rule in exchange for control of its oil fields. The deployment
also puts Chinese forces closer to the Persian Gulf and its ally Pakistan
as tensions increase in Afghanistan and with India.
said he discussed possible Chinese contributions to non-military programs
in Afghanistan. For what possible reason would the U.S. want to encourage
any direct Chinese participation in Afghanistan? When the U.S. invaded
Afghanistan, China was working with the Taliban regime building its
infrastructure and an air-defense system.
Taliban was the creation of Pakistan in an attempt to conquer Afghanistan
so as to cover its western flank in its confrontation with India to
the east. China supported its ally because of its own strategic rivalry
with India. As the U.S. has tried to exert more pressure on Islamabad
to take action against Taliban sanctuaries on its soil, Beijing has
stepped up its diplomatic support for Pakistan, along with investment
funds and arms.
Barack Obama warned Islamabad that it would he held accountable for
security along the Pakistan-Afghan border on February 10. The next day,
Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi reaffirmed his country’s
"all weather" alliance with China. Last October, newly elected
Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari made as his first foreign trip a
pilgrimage to Beijing. Just before he left, he told a press conference,
"China is the future of the world. A strong China means a strong
a February 23 editorial, The People’s Daily addressed U.S.
strategy in Afghanistan, with a focus on improving Pakistan’s position
against India. “It is clear that without Pakistan's cooperation, the
US cannot win the war on terror. Therefore, to safeguard its own interests
in the fight against terrorism in South Asia, the US must ensure a stable
domestic and international environment for Pakistan and ease the tension
between Pakistan and India.” This means supporting Pakistan’s position
on Kashmir, the Indian province against which Pakistan-based terrorists
have operated for decades. India-Pakistan tensions have been high since
the November 26 terrorist attacks in Mumbai which killed 179 people.
foreign minister Rangin Dadfar Spanta said on January 21 that India
and Afghanistan were both victims of terrorism. “Afghanistan believes
there are some entities in our region that are using terrorism as a
tool for foreign policy. We have to end this. We share your pain, the
pain of the Indian people because Afghanistan is the victim of same
terror with same sources," Spanta said after a meeting with Indian
Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee in Kabul.
of course, does not want the U.S. to take this view of the situation,
as it would further what Beijing fears most; closer U.S.-Indian ties
against a common threat from the Pakistani-Chinese alignment. The Chinese
line is that Washington must support Pakistan against India in order
to win Islamabad’s cooperation against the Taliban. This would isolate
India, a primary goal of Chinese strategy.
editorial declared, “the US must make sure that Russia is appeased.
The Central Asia region, where Afghanistan lies, used to be Russia's
backyard. Following the September 11 terrorist attacks, the US raised
its anti-terrorism war banner to move deep into this region and revoked
the color revolution in Kyrgyzstan. To Russia, all this feels just like
a thorn in the flesh.” The editorial noted that Kyrgyzstan has expelled
the U.S. from its Manas air base.
again, why would the Obama administration want China to become more
involved in Afghanistan? Larry Wortzel, Vice-Chairman of the U.S.-China
Economic and Security Review Commission, a bipartisan panel of experts
created by Congress, asked Sedney this question at a hearing on March
4. Sedney’s response was that the U.S-NATO mission in Afghanistan
is short on resources, and the Chinese could help by providing economic
assistance and expanded trade. The Chinese model of trade would not
help the Afghans, and any economic assistance would be used to buy influence
with government and tribal elites that would undermine American objectives.
Inviting China into Afghanistan is an act of desperation that has not
been thought through.
day after the Afghanistan editorial (and two days after Secretary Clinton
left China), The People’s Daily ran another opinion piece entitled,”
The U.S. Hegemony ends, the era of global multipolarity enters.” It
started by reveling in the economic crisis that has swept America and
“signals a swift reduction of U.S. strength as a unipolar power.”
Its conclusion was stark. “Does the decline of U.S. geopolitical hegemony
make multilateral global governance more likely? Perhaps it is still
too early to rush any conclusion, but at least one thing is certain:
the U.S. strength is declining at a speed so fantastic that it is far
beyond anticipation. The U.S. is no longer 'King of the hill,' as a
new phase of multipolar world power structure will come into being in
2009, and the international order will be correspondingly reshuffled.”
The opening hands played by the Obama administration with China would indicate
that Washington agrees with Beijing’s assessment.