Wed. Feb 21st, 2024

Prof. ST Hsieh

Director, US-China Energy Industry Forum


[email protected]

May 30, 2023

US-China relation is thawing, no doubt. But a full re-set is far from certain. Military vs Military communications are important because the worst scenario could be a hot war. It would be most unfortunate if the US and China went to war accidently.

However, the US and China have direct communication lines between Biden’s office via National Security Advisor and Xi’s office via his top foreign officer, so any emergency or crisis could be resolved effectively at the top. Globally, the savage war in Ukraine which pits Russia vs the US led west, is unsettled so the chance of another confrontation between the top two powers are very unlikely.

Taiwan is the only one real hot spot in Asia, China has made her position abundantly clear to the world. The US is fully aware of the critical issues that could cause a war with China over Taiwan. Specifically, Taiwan has clearly stated that she is all for peace!

The only obstacle for the face-to-face meeting between US Defense Secretary Austin and his Chinese counterpart, General Li, is simply because General Li is on the US sanction list since 2018. If the US does not lift General Li from the US sanction list, may be China should sanction Secretary Austin soon! Then they will meet as equals, if the US does not object.

China Rebuffs Pentagon Chief, Blunting Push for Rapprochement

U.S. had proposed a meeting; China accused the U.S. of insincerity.

WSJ: By Nancy A. Youssef Updated May 30, 2023 2:50 am ET

WASHINGTON—China has rebuffed a U.S. request for a meeting between their defense chiefs on the sidelines of an annual security forum in Singapore this weekend, the Pentagon said Monday, showing the limits of a tentative rapprochement between the two rival powers.

The decision by China formally to inform the Pentagon shuts the door for now on a meeting between Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Li Shangfu, China’s new defense minister, which the U.S. had proposed on the sidelines of the annual Shangri-La Dialogue security forum.

China’s dismissal of the proposal also was termed an unusually blunt message, U.S. defense officials said. Beijing has questioned Washington’s sincerity in pushing for the meeting, pointing to sanctions Washington has imposed on Li since 2018 when he ran the Chinese military’s armaments departments and purchased combat aircraft and missile equipment from Russia.

In a statement to The Wall Street Journal, Liu Pengyu, Chinese embassy spokesman in Washington, said the U.S. was “seeking to suppress China through all possible means and continue imposing sanctions on Chinese officials, institutions and companies.”

He added: “Is there any sincerity in and significance of any communication like this?”

In the past, such meetings have come together at the last minute, including last year’s meeting between Austin and his then-counterpart, which was agreed upon hours beforehand.

“Overnight, the PRC informed the U.S. that they have declined our early May invitation for Secretary Austin to meet with PRC Minister of National Defense Li Shangfu in Singapore this week,” the Pentagon said in a statement. “The Department believes strongly in the importance of maintaining open lines of military-to-military communication between Washington and Beijing to ensure that competition does not veer into conflict.”

China’s decision comes after a weekslong effort by the U.S. to secure a meeting, including a letter from Austin to Li. The rebuff could spark concerns among Southeast Asia allies nervous about being caught between the two powers, some U.S. officials warned. They held open the prospect of a Singapore meeting between lower-level officials.

“We’ve had a lot of difficulty, in terms of when we have proposed phone calls, proposed meetings, dialogues, whether that’s the secretary” or other top U.S. defense leaders, Ely Ratner, assistant secretary of defense for Indo-Pacific Security, said last week at an event at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington-based think tank.

Relations between Beijing and Washington have been fraught since February, after the U.S. shot down a suspected Chinese surveillance balloon, warned Beijing against arming Russia in the war in Ukraine and allowed Taiwan’s president to stop off in the U.S.

The White House didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

The U.S. has sought to improve military relations since the balloon incident, in part to avoid miscommunication, as both nations operate militarily throughout the Asia-Pacific and amid rising tensions between the two countries over Taiwan.

The decision by China to meet with some top U.S. officials, but not top national-security cabinet officials, appears to be a strategic choice, said Zack Cooper, senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank.

“The Chinese believe they have the most leverage when dealing with officials who handle economic issues. So they are prioritizing those engagements over ones involving national security,” Cooper said.

The Biden administration is required to inform Congress should it decide to lift the sanctions on Li. The Trump administration imposed them in 2018 because Li—then head of the Chinese military’s Equipment Development Department—approved the purchase of Russian jet fighters and missiles. He became defense minister this year.

Liu, the Chinese embassy spokesman, said in the statement: “The U.S. side should immediately lift sanctions and take concrete actions to remove obstacles, create favorable atmosphere and conditions for dialogue and communication.”

Global Times: The US is clear about the reason why China-US military dialogue faces difficulties: Chinese FM

By Li Aixin Published: May 30, 2023 08:05 PM

The US is clear about the reason why China-US military dialogue faces difficulties, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday in response to US media hype over China “rebuffing” a possible meeting between Chinese and US defense chiefs. 

Mao Ning, spokesperson of the Chinese Foreign Ministry, responded at a routine press conference on Tuesday, saying the US should earnestly respect China’s sovereignty, security and interest concerns, immediately correct wrong practice, show sincerity and create necessary atmosphere and conditions for dialogue and communication between Chinese and US militaries.

In a follow up question, Mao was asked whether the update on the meeting has anything to do with the US sanctions on the Chinese defense chief. Mao hinted that the US should address the stumbling blocks on the road to bilateral communication first, set by the US side

On Monday afternoon Beijing time, Senior Colonel Tan Kefei, spokesperson of China’s Ministry of National Defense, announced that Li will attend the 20th IISS Shangri-La Dialogue and visit Singapore from Wednesday to Sunday. An IISS press release reads that the institute “is delighted to announce” that Li is to make a major speech during the dialogue on Sunday morning. 

Experts note that the buzz in media hype and asymmetric silence of the Pentagon over an in-person talk between the China and US defense chiefs could be viewed as the US’ latest trial balloon to both pressure and scapegoat China for being responsible if there will be no meeting eventually.

Tensions between Beijing and Washington have been simmering due to a series of US moves provoking China over the latter’s core interests, especially the Taiwan question. That includes former US House speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan island in August 2022 and the meeting between Taiwan regional leader Tsai Ing-wen and sitting US House Speaker Kevin McCarthy in April this year in the US. 

The US has also been instigating “Taiwan independence” secessionist forces to resist reunification by force by selling weapons to the island of Taiwan, increasing or expanding military bases in the Philippines and Australia, planning to deploy missile-armed marines along Japan’s Okinawa islands, and holding large-scale drills, all targeting China.

Critical Quote

“The U.S. is clear about the reason why China-U.S. military dialogue faces difficulties. The U.S. should earnestly respect China’s sovereignty, security and interest concerns, immediately correct wrong practice, show sincerity and create necessary atmosphere and conditions for dialogue and communication between Chinese and U.S. militaries.”

—Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning

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