Friday April 3, 2020


August 22, 2013


On Monday, Chinese Defense Minister Chang Wanquan met with U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel at the Pentagon. The goal of the meeting was to increase military ties and discuss other methods of strengthening U.S.-China military relations.

General Chang spent four days in the United States. Before arriving in Washington, DC, Chang met with the commander of the U.S. Pacific Command, Admiral Samuel Locklear III, in Hawaii. His delegation then stopped in Colorado to visit the U.S. Northern Command.

Improving Military Ties

The two defense leaders discussed current security concerns and potential methods to improve notification mechanisms between the two militaries. They also agreed to participate in more joint exercises and exchanges, noting that increased contacts between military members will help build mutual trust and understanding.

During a joint press conference, Hagel and Chang recognized the necessity of close military ties to the future of the overall U.S.-China relationship. Hagel said, “One of the themes we emphasized today was that a sustained, substantive military-to-military relationship is an important pillar for this strong bilateral relationship.”

Adding to Hagel’s speech, Chang said,“At present, the China-U.S. relationship is in a new historical era. Building a new model of China-U.S. military relationship can help us to increase strategic trust to reduce strategic risks and to maintain world peace and regional stability.”

A Pentagon spokesperson said, this meeting “illustrates and will help to sustain the positive momentum that has been achieved in the US-China military-to-military relationship over the past 18 months.”

Highlights over the last year and a half include then Vice President Xi Jinping’s visit to the Pentagon during his February 2012 trip to the U.S. and General Martin Dempsey’s April meeting with People Liberation Army (PLA) General Fang Fenghui in Beijing. Also of key importance were the Sunnylands Summit between the U.S. and Chinese presidents and the Fifth Strategic and Economic Dialogue, both emphasizing the necessity of improving bilateral military relations.

Steps are already being taken to increase the number of positive military-to-military interactions. Chinese naval ships are currently making their way to join the U.S. near Hawaii to participate in a naval drill. Later this year, U.S. Army and Air Force Chiefs of Staff will visit China and China’s naval commander will visit the U.S. In 2014, Hagel will visit China and China will participate in the Rim of the Pacific Exercise (RIMPAC) hosted by the United States.

Areas of Tension

While the United States and China are both making efforts to improve bilateral military relations, sources of tension remain. Cyber security, specifically disagreements regarding economic espionage, is still a key point of contention, while China continues to be wary about the U.S. rebalancing policy.

In his speech, Secretary Hagel said, “The United States welcomes and supports the rise of a prosperous and responsible China that helps solve regional and global problems.” He also explained that, “with respect to competing maritime claims, I noted that while the United States does not take a position on sovereignty in these cases, we do have an interest in these claims being resolved peacefully, without coercion.

Despite these assurances, General Chang still expressed his concerns during the question period. About security in the Asia Pacific, Chang said:  “China always is a staunch defender of the peace and stability in the Asia Pacific….However, no one should fantasize that China would barter away our core interests.  And no one should underestimate our will and determination in defending our territory, sovereignty, and maritime rights…. Any action that leads to trouble or provocation, any action — unwanted action out of the self-interest or further complicates or magnifies the situation would be highly irresponsible and will not lead to a favorable result.”

For more information about the defense meeting, see the following news articles:

U.S. Department of Defense-Transcript: Department of Defense Press Briefing with Secretary Hagel and Gen. Chang from the Pentagon

Reuters- U.S., China to expand military exchanges amid rows over cyber security, territory

China Daily– “China defense chief in DC

US News and World Report– “Hagel says he will visit China next year

China Daily– “US’ Pacific policy unbalanced: Chang

Times of India– “China will defend its maritime rights, defence minster Chang Wanquan says

U.S. Department of Defense– “Hagel, Chang Seek to Bolster Military-to-Military Relations

ABC News– “Chinese Ships Depart for Rare Drills With US Navy

For more information about U.S.-China military relations, read the following reports:

The National Bureau of Asian Research– “Expanding Contacts to Enhance Durability: A Strategy for Improving U.S.-China Military-to-Military Relations

Congressional Research Service– “U.S.-China Military Contacts: Issues for Congress

Information Office of the State Council, People’s Republic of China-The Diversified Employment of China’s Armed Forces

For Chinese language news on Chang’s visit to the U.S., see the articles below:

Xinhua (新华网)– “中美防长下周举行会晤 美方通报常万全访美行程

International Online (国际在线)– “常万全将会晤美国防长哈格尔 将讨论网络安全等议题

China Online (中国网)– “中国防长访五角大楼:感受到美方热情友好(组图)

IFeng (凤凰网)– “学者:美邀常万全参观核掩体 释善意

Worldwide Online (环球网)– “常万全对美强硬表态获赞:现在已非清末民初!

Compiled and edited by Ariane Rosen