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People's Daily Online

US back at foot-in-the-mouth game

People's Daily Online

(China Daily) 09:13, June 16, 2014

On June 5, the United States Department of Defense released its annual report on China's military. On its hobbyhorse again, the Pentagon uses the 96-page report to give a misleading account of China's latest military and security development.

Although the entire report is specious, three points deserve special attention. The first is its contention that China is expanding its overseas interests commensurate with its military capabilities, and its military modernization is focused on potential conflict across the Taiwan Straits, potential contingencies in the South China Sea and East China Sea, and a range of missions beyond its coast, including peacekeeping and humanitarian assistance.

The second point is its claim that China's expanding overseas interests have led to frictions with some of its neighbors and its hard-line stance has escalated tensions in its neighborhood. The report says: 'Despite China's desire to project the image of a benign developing country, its efforts to defend 'national sovereignty and territorial integrity', underpinned by growing economic strength and military capabilities, have been manifest in more forceful rhetoric and confrontational behavior in recent years.'

The third point worth attention is the Pentagon's allegation that China is using means fair and foul to acquire US technologies. 'China uses a large, well-organized network of enterprises, defense factories, affiliated research institutes, and computer network operations,' it says, to collect sensitive information and export-controlled technologies, and this network often enables the People's Liberation Army to 'either access, transfer, or purchase sensitive and dual-use technologies or maintain contact with knowledgeable US and foreign experts under the guise of civilian research and development.'

The report, submitted annually to the US Congress since 2000, maintains the tradition of focusing on the increase in China's defense budget while overlooking its pursuit of a defense policy that is defensive in nature. What makes this year's report special is that it comes amid bilateral efforts to build a 'new type of major-power relationship'. During their meeting at Sunnylands, California, in June last year, President Xi Jinping and his US counterpart Barack Obama emphasized the importance of building such a relationship in order to avoid the historical trap of a conflict between a rising power and an established power.

Based on the agreement, the two militaries have since then been working to build a new type of military relationship. In fact, the development of bilateral military ties is gathering momentum because of the frequent exchange of visits between high-ranking officers and the bilateral and multilateral military exercises held since last year. The next such drill China will take part in is the US-led Pacific Rim military exercise, to be held later this month.

By misrepresenting China's military development, however, the Pentagon report has dealt a blow to the painstakingly built strategic trust between the two countries. The Pentagon annual reports have also played a leading role in spreading the 'China threat' theory by emphasizing what the US calls the lack of transparency on China's military 'build-up' and claiming that its military might exceeds its need for self-defense and thus disrupts the strategic balance in the Asia-Pacific region. These groundless remarks have aggravated some countries' concern over China's rise and sowed the seed of mistrust between China and its neighbors.

The US has also released reports on the militaries of three other countries, including Iran and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. But the 14 annual reports that it has issued on China's military outnumber even the 10 on the military prowess of the former Soviet Union during the Cold War. This is a clear manifestation of the US' open hostility toward China.

The US has been making relentless efforts to facilitate its strategic rebalancing toward the Asia-Pacific for its self-proclaimed purpose of maintaining peace and stability in the region. But its ongoing efforts, reminiscent of the practices during the Cold War, are bound to backfire. The US has renewed efforts to strengthen its alliances with Japan, the Republic of Korea and the Philippines and other countries in the region. It has strengthened its military presence not only in East Asia but also in the Western Pacific, turning the regions into bases that station the largest number of US troops outside the US borders. Contrary to what the US claims, it is clear that its 'pivot-to-Asia' strategy is aimed at containing China.

Some critics in the US have asserted that the US' policy should be one of balancing efforts to engage as well as hedge China. But the Pentagon's annual report seems to be aimed at breaking that balance. Although the part on Sino-US military-to-military exchanges has been included in the report in a bid to address China's concern, it makes little difference because the rest of the details are distortion of facts and a source of bilateral tensions.

By claiming to be ready to develop a new type of major-power relationship with China, characterized by non-confrontation, mutual respect and win-win cooperation on one hand, and clinging to the Cold War mentality and strengthening military alliances with other countries to contain China on the other, the US has played a self-contradictory card. For this, the US could suffer an even greater loss than what it did because of its strategic mistakes in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The author is a researcher at the Center on China-America Defense Relations, Academy of Military Science, PLA.

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