When Robert Gates arrives in China over the weekend, it will be the first visit to the country by a U.S. Secretary of Defense in 11 years. The Washington Post reports:
In the past year, China’s diplomatic and military stance has became increasingly muscular, even confrontational, most notably at sea. Worried Asian neighbors turned to the United States, which was already stepping up its engagement with the region.
“We are settling into what all observers agree is a Sino-American security rivalry. The key is to manage and stabilize it so it does not become a conflict,” said Dan Blumenthal, a former China country director at the Pentagon and a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C.
China says it’s not a threat and its military is purely for defense – which in its definition includes deterring Taiwan, a self-governing island that Beijing claims as its territory, from declaring formal independence.
Chinese officials have been ratcheting down their rhetoric, partly to ensure a smooth visit by President Hu Jintao to Washington later this month. Military contacts with the United States quietly resumed in October, and the invitation to Gates is the strongest signal to date of a more conciliatory approach.
Read more about China’s new stealth fighter jet in the Los Angeles Times’ article, “China’s development of stealth fighter takes U.S. by surprise.”