Monday June 1, 2020


May 8, 2012


On May 7, Chinese Defense Minister Liang Guanglie met with U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta at the Pentagon. Talks between the two high-level officials were a highlight of Liang’s week-long visit to America. Liang’s trip marks the first high-level military visit since Obama took office, and the first visit to Washington by a Chinese Defense Minister in nine years. Liang, who was accompanied by senior officers from the Chinese navy, army, and air force, arrived as part of a larger effort to boost military ties between America and China.

Improving military-to-military relations between the two countries has been a priority for both governments for years. In fact, during Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping’s visit to America in February, he also attended meetings at the Pentagon with Secretary Panetta. When discussing Minister Liang’s visit, Panetta argued that stable bilateral military relations are essential to “avoid dangerous misunderstanding and misperceptions that could lead to crisis.” Yet despite constant efforts to shore up strategic trust between the two militaries, both sides recognize that there is still a substantial level of suspicion between America and China. The U.S. is concerned about the build-up of China’s military, as well as what the U.S. views as China’s increasingly aggressive posture in the South China Sea. China, meanwhile, is concerned about continued U.S. arms sales to Taiwan and a stronger U.S. military presence in the Asia-Pacific region, part of the American “pivot to Asia” which was announced last November.

Partially due to this level of mistrust, military contacts and exchanges are usually the first to be terminated when U.S.-China relations hit a rough patch. For example, after the Obama administration announced a $6 billion arms sale to Taiwan in 2010, China immediately moved to postpone or cancel military visits to and from China, including an earlier visit by Liang Guanglie to America. Military contacts only resumed in 2011 with then-U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates’ visit to Beijing. Accordingly, many analysts have called it a positive sign that Liang’s visit took place as planned despite a recent rise in tensions between the U.S. and China. The controversy over Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng and a rise in U.S. military support for the Philippines, which is currently engaged in a territorial dispute with China, have both caused friction recently, but the military-to-military talks went ahead as scheduled. Liang pointed to this as a “turnover in U.S.-China military relations,” demonstrating both sides’ commitment to carrying out such talks regardless of other diplomatic tensions.

Topics under discussion included concerns over North Korea’s nuclear program, maritime disputes in the South China Sea, and cybersecurity. Both sides underlined the importance of military relationship to the overall picture of U.S.-China relations, and agreed to continue holding high-level discussions. Secretary Panetta plans to visit Beijing for more talks later this year. Further, the U.S. and China agreed to continue cooperation on humanitarian endeavors, and will hold a joint military exercise on counter-piracy that will be held later this year in the Gulf of Aden.

Prior to visiting the Pentagon, Minister Liang toured a naval station in San Diego, California. Liang also plans to visit various other U.S. military bases, including Camp Lejeune, North Carolina; Fort Benning, Georgia; the U.S. Southern Command in Florida; and West Point military academy in New York. Liang will depart on May 10.


For more information on Liang Guanglie’s visit to America, please see the following news sources:

Bloomberg Businessweek – “China Seeks Equality With U.S. Military

China Daily – “China’s defense minister visits Pentagon, Panetta

CNN – “China’s top military officer visiting U.S. military installations

DefenseNews – “China’s Defense Chief Visits Pentagon Amid Diplomatic Row

Reuters – “Chinese defense minister to tour U.S. next week

Xinhua – “Build trust to avert tragedy


For Chinese language commentary on Liang Guanglie’s visit to America, please see the following news sources:

Xinhua (新华网) – “梁光烈与美国国防部长帕内塔举行会谈

People’s Daily (人民网) – “海陆空“五虎将”随梁光烈出访

Phoenix (凤凰网) – “梁光烈晤帕内塔 达成年内举行联合演习等4项共识


Compiled and edited by Shannon Reed.