Gates and China's leaders

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates met with Chinese President Hu Jintao and Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi on January 11. The meetings followed Monday's session between Gates and Gen. Liang Guanglie, China's minister of defense. After the meeting with President Hu, a DoD press release stated that "The Chinese are taking an American proposal to hold a strategic dialogue between the two countries seriously." This was not the impression given after the discussion with Gen. Liang. 

The proposed Strategic Dialogue would focus on four areas: nuclear arms and proliferation, missile defense, space operations, and cyber warfare. The new Pentagon orchestrated talks would be in addition to the other major Dialogue that has been conducted since 2006. During the Bush Administration these talks were run by the Treasury. They were expanded at the urging of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to become the current Strategic and Economic Dialogue. The State Department now co-chairs with Treasury these biannual meetings so as to address a wider range of topics in the increasingly contentious Sino-American relationship. Treasury, with its focus on trade and investment opportunities in China and Beijing's position as the largest holder of Treasury debt, was thought to be neglecting national security problems resulting from China's rise to great power status.

The Pentagon apparently believes the discussions need to be further expanded on issues that pose threats to American interests. To make the point, during Gates' visit, China conducted its first flight test of the J-20 stealth fighter. The development of the fifth generation J-20 is well ahead of what has been publically predicted about Chinese capabilities. It was in the belief that China was far behind America in aircraft design that Gates capped production of the U.S. F-22  fifth generation stealth fighter at a mere 187 aircraft to save money. 

The Pentagon press release may have put a naive spin on the event, however. It states,

"When Secretary Gates raised the issue of the J-20 test in the meeting with President Hu, it was clear that none of the [Chinese] civilians in the room had been informed [of the test]," said a senior U.S. defense official speaking on background. 

In the secretary's view, this omission underscores the need for the sort of joint civilian-military strategic security issues dialogue that he has proposed, the official said.

Can there really be such a split between the Communist Party leaders and the military high command? A split that could encourage Americans to believe there are still reformers and not just hard-liners in Beijing? Or is this just another example of the "good cop, bad cop" ploy that has been used so often before to encourage "soft-liners" in the U.S.?

The second scenario is more likely. It is well known that President Hu relies on the People's Liberation Army as one of his core constituents. Also, two days after the first photos of the J-20 appeared last week, the Chinese Communist Party newspaper Global Times ran an editorial  arguing,

The rumored Chinese stealth jet, or "aircraft-carrier killer," has been making headlines in the US. It is both natural and unnatural for the US to be concerned about China developing new weapons. Most powers wish that their superiority will last forever. China is growing up fast, and the US military edge over China is unavoidably shrinking.

There does not seem to be any difference between the CCP and the PLA about the J-20 and what it means. The timing of the J-20 unveiling was well known in both parts of the Beijing regime; and that the timing coincided with Gate's visit cannot be considered a coincidence. If the Pentagon gets its own Strategic Dialogue with China, there is little chance that it will be any more successful that the State-Treasury S&ED has been in resolving the growing friction from Beijing's more assertive behavior.

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates met with Chinese President Hu Jintao and Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi on January 11. The meetings followed Monday's session between Gates and Gen. Liang Guanglie, China's minister of defense. After the meeting with President Hu, a DoD press release stated that "The Chinese are taking an American proposal to hold a strategic dialogue between the two countries seriously." This was not the impression given after the discussion with Gen. Liang. 

The proposed Strategic Dialogue would focus on four areas: nuclear arms and proliferation, missile defense, space operations, and cyber warfare. The new Pentagon orchestrated talks would be in addition to the other major Dialogue that has been conducted since 2006. During the Bush Administration these talks were run by the Treasury. They were expanded at the urging of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to become the current Strategic and Economic Dialogue. The State Department now co-chairs with Treasury these biannual meetings so as to address a wider range of topics in the increasingly contentious Sino-American relationship. Treasury, with its focus on trade and investment opportunities in China and Beijing's position as the largest holder of Treasury debt, was thought to be neglecting national security problems resulting from China's rise to great power status.

The Pentagon apparently believes the discussions need to be further expanded on issues that pose threats to American interests. To make the point, during Gates' visit, China conducted its first flight test of the J-20 stealth fighter. The development of the fifth generation J-20 is well ahead of what has been publically predicted about Chinese capabilities. It was in the belief that China was far behind America in aircraft design that Gates capped production of the U.S. F-22  fifth generation stealth fighter at a mere 187 aircraft to save money. 

The Pentagon press release may have put a naive spin on the event, however. It states,

"When Secretary Gates raised the issue of the J-20 test in the meeting with President Hu, it was clear that none of the [Chinese] civilians in the room had been informed [of the test]," said a senior U.S. defense official speaking on background. 

In the secretary's view, this omission underscores the need for the sort of joint civilian-military strategic security issues dialogue that he has proposed, the official said.

Can there really be such a split between the Communist Party leaders and the military high command? A split that could encourage Americans to believe there are still reformers and not just hard-liners in Beijing? Or is this just another example of the "good cop, bad cop" ploy that has been used so often before to encourage "soft-liners" in the U.S.?

The second scenario is more likely. It is well known that President Hu relies on the People's Liberation Army as one of his core constituents. Also, two days after the first photos of the J-20 appeared last week, the Chinese Communist Party newspaper Global Times ran an editorial  arguing,

The rumored Chinese stealth jet, or "aircraft-carrier killer," has been making headlines in the US. It is both natural and unnatural for the US to be concerned about China developing new weapons. Most powers wish that their superiority will last forever. China is growing up fast, and the US military edge over China is unavoidably shrinking.

There does not seem to be any difference between the CCP and the PLA about the J-20 and what it means. The timing of the J-20 unveiling was well known in both parts of the Beijing regime; and that the timing coincided with Gate's visit cannot be considered a coincidence. If the Pentagon gets its own Strategic Dialogue with China, there is little chance that it will be any more successful that the State-Treasury S&ED has been in resolving the growing friction from Beijing's more assertive behavior.

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