Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld wrapped up his visit to China today. The visit is an important first step in catching up Sino-American defense relations to the more advanced political and economic relationship. President Bush is set to travel to China in November, therefore Sec. Rumsfeld's visit proves timely, especially given that Secretary of the Treasury John Snow was in China this month as well as recent visits from Secretary of State Rice and her Deputy Zoellick over the summer.
Sec. Rumsfeld raised some important issues that need to be seriously addressed by the Chinese in order to build a long-term cooperative military environment with the US:
- Transparency in military spending. The US estimates China is spending double to triple what the Chinese publicly state as their $30 billion annual defense budget (not including space). China flatly denied this allegation.
- China's efforts to block the US from Asian organizations. From the WaPo:
"Speaking to a small group of mid-level Communist Party officials and then in extended talks with the Chinese defense minister, Rumsfeld criticized China's 'seeming preference' for regional organizations that exclude the United States and a recent decision not to invite U.S. officials to participate in an East Asian summit organized by Beijing and planned for December."
- China's efforts to build another Great Wall around free ideas. The Secretary requested giving a policy address at the Central Party School, formerly lead by President Hu. From the IHT:
"Rumsfeld, urged the next generation of China's Communist leadership on Wednesday to become "a major player" in the global economy by taking steps to strengthen the system and not just reap the financial rewards, and he warned against erecting 'another type of Great Wall' restricting free expression and choice." - IHT
"'While there is no one model that is perfect for every nation at every time in its development, a look across the globe suggests that societies that tend to encourage more open markets and freer systems are societies where the people are enjoying the greatest opportunities,' Rumsfeld said in a speech today at the Central Party School, the party's top training center for mid-career members and its main ideological think tank.
'Most of the nations in Asia understand that,' he added, implying that China does not." - Chicago Sun Times
- China's 'mixed signals' message to the US. From the WaPo:
"Rumsfeld also cited joint military exercises that China conducted this year with Russia; a Chinese decision to exclude the U.S. military from multilateral search-and-rescue exercises in Hong Kong for the first time in three decades; and China's participation in a regional group that urged the United States to withdraw military forces from Uzbekistan in July.
Such actions, Rumsfeld argued, contradicted China's expressed desire for closer ties with the United States and, together with what he described as a rapid and secretive military buildup, raised questions about 'whether China will make the right choices, choices that will serve the world's real interests in regional peace and stability.'
'We see mixed signals,' Rumsfeld said, on the second day of his official visit, 'and we seek clarification.'"
In a private meeting between Sec. Rumsfeld and Gen. Jing Zhiyuan, commander of the Second Artillery (nuclear command), he was given assurances that China will not initiate a nuclear strike, which contradicts an earlier statement from a Chinese general over the possible engagement of US forces in a war over Taiwan.
It is understandable, from the Chinese communist party standpoint, why they would want to alienate the United States. The US has been pursuing a policy of containment against China, from strengthening the US-Japanese Security Agreement to include Taiwan's defense, to controlling the strategic oil waterways to China in the Malacca Straits, to forging a partnership on multiple levels with India over China.
However, it is because of the mixed Chinese signals, the confrontation over the US EP-3 spy plane early in Bush's presidency, and its communist closed system of government that the United States is taking very seriously the future direction of the the PLA.
Rumsfeld's visit will lead to a greater military sharing in exchanges that will hopefully impart to both militaries more information about what their respective nations' true goals are.
As an example of what a lack of a free press does to how news is covered, see the China Daily's depiction of Rumsfeld's visit here.
Update: Cheat Seeking Missiles has a great analogy in his summation of the Chinese response to Sec. Rumsfeld's criticism here. (October 21, 2005)