The conductor: At the opening ceremony for the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton introduces an unnamed U.S. official to China‘s State Councilor Dai Bingguo. Tense circumstances due to the case of Chen Guangcheng have put all her diplomatic skills to the test.
Lack of Mutual Sino-U.S. Military Trust a Major Threat
Is Washington encouraging the Philippines and Vietnam to challenge China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea? In this editorial from the Global Times, which reads like a summary of what the U.S. and China have been discussing since Friday, Beijing warns the U.S. not to try to make up for its economic weakness with what it regards as foolish military adventurism.
The China-U.S. Strategic and Economic Dialogue pertaining to military cooperation and the visit by China Defense Minister Liang Guanglie to America are important events for military exchanges between the countries. These will create a certain degree of relaxation and ease their long-running military confrontation. Such an atmosphere is essential to improving ties, as it reduces the damage and the significance of the friction over specific matters. [reference to controversy over Chen Guangcheng].
Military trust should be amassed by resolving disputes over China’s sea territory [reference to the South China Sea], and through a process of boosting mutual understanding and adapting to circumstances as they arise. This will help build a foundation for the two nations to avoid misinterpreting military maneuvers by the other.
Thus, both nations must have a clear and accurate understanding of one another. It is unwise for the United States to look down on China as a mere land force that can only play a limited regional role. Because China has interests around the world, it is essential for its military to extend its reach further. Neither should China view the presence of the U.S. military in Asia as illegal or ignore America’s special influence over global security. China must accept the truth that the U.S. is an essential power in the region.
The objective of achieving mutual military trust will never be reached if China seeks to squeeze the United States out to lead Asia on its own, nor if the U.S. seeks to constrain the rise in China’s military strength. Luckily, neither Beijing nor Washington has such aims.
Now, as their interests and objectives overlap, each country is in a defensive crouch in relation to the other, giving an opening to brief confrontations. Since the United States has announced its return to Asia, the respective bottom lines of both nations concerning the South China Sea have come close to clashing.
Although analysts still see the possibility of a military conflict in the South China Sea as slim, once the two sides enter into an arms race and making displays of military strength, all efforts to build mutual trust will be ruined.
Competing territorial claims in the South China Sea: China sees
the United States meddling, whereas other nations in the region
regard the U.S. as playing a balancing role.