China Never Intends to Challenge US: Top General

In a show of cooperation and mutual respect, the top military leaders from China and the U.S. are meeting in Washington this week and saying nice things about each other. From AFP:

While the Chinese military has improved considerably in the past years, there is still a large gap between them and US military might, Chen told officers at the National Defense University in Washington.

China “never intends to challenge the US,” Chen told the officers, speaking through an interpreter.

China “welcomes a constructive US role in maintaining and promoting peace stability and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific region,” he said.

Later, responding to a question, Chen said there still exists “a 20-year gap” between China’s military and that of the western powers.

Chen earlier invited his counterpart, US Joint Chiefs chairman Admiral Mike Mullen, to visit China. “I hope he visits China as soon as possible,” Chen said.

But, according to the BBC, this public display of “harmony” is just masking the underlying rivalry between the two powers:

Part of China’s potential threat is the weaponry that you cannot see. Beijing is believed to have invested heavily in offensive cyber capabilities; the capacity to attack computer systems and networks.

None the less it is going to be a long time before China can seriously rival US military clout. Chinese naval operations far from its own shores are, for now at least, a novelty.

It was much commented on when Beijing sent a warship to Libya to help with the evacuation of its nationals. And China’s small involvement in anti-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden and off Somalia is a fascinating portent of things to come.

This yields a fascinating insight into what is driving China’s expanding military reach. It is easy to stack up US and Chinese naval capabilities against each other – that’s why the so-called “carrier-killer” missile has drawn so much attention in US naval circles.

Of course there is a dimension of strategic rivalry between Washington and Beijing; something that is likely to grow in the future.

May 18, 2011 1:34 PM
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