Thursday February 27, 2020


April 11, 2014

U.S. Secretary of Defense arrived in China on Monday for his first visit to China in this position. His three-day trip to Qingdao and Beijing, China followed meetings with his Southeast Asian counterparts in Hawaii and a visit to Japan. Hagel’s Asia trip concluded with a stop in Mongolia.

Hagel’s trip began with a tour of China’s aircraft carrier, the Lioning. The U.S. had been requesting for a while to see the aircraft carrier, especially since the U.S. has already given tours of their aircraft carriers to officials from China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA). Hagel was the first foreign official allowed to visit.

Despite China not allowing media to join Hagel on board the carrier, the U.S. viewed China’s decision to finally allow the U.S. to see the carrier as a positive gesture and sign that China hopes to provide a bit more military transparency. The visit, of course, also served as a symbol of China’s military strength.

While in Beijing, Hagel and his Chinese counterpart, Defense Minister Chang Wanquan, met and exchanged grievances, cataloging their concerns, both in private and during a public briefing.

Chang expressed concerns about the U.S. shift to Asia and criticized U.S. support of the Philippines and Japan and arms sales to Taiwan. He placed the blame for the continuing territorial disputes on Japan and the Philippines and urged the U.S. to keep Japan in check and to not tolerate its provocations.

In reference to the disputes, Chang pledged that “on this issue, we will make no compromise, no concession – not even a tiny violation is allowed.” He also stated bluntly that “China can never be contained.”

Secretary Hagel voiced his own concerns, specifically about China’s institution of an air defense identification zone (ADIZ). Hagel said, “Every nation has the right to establish air defense zones, but not a right to do it unilaterally, without consultation.” He added that such action, “adds to tensions, misunderstandings and could eventually add to and eventually get to a dangerous conflict.”

Airing these areas of contention publicly showed that the U.S. and China still have a long way to go. But, at the same time, the fact both leaders were comfortable mentioning these disputes while side-by-side claiming to be working towards better relations shows a willingness to be honest about disputes. It is hopefully a necessary step in resolving or moving past these challenges in order to create stronger ties.

As Secretary Hagel put it, “Our vision is a future where our militaries can work closely together on a range of challenges, such as humanitarian assistance and disaster relief missions. However, to reach this objective, we must be candid about issues where we disagree.”

The remarks given by Chang and Hagel were not just about areas of disagreement. Positive comments were made as well. For example, according to a Wall Street Journal article, “Gen. Chang said the Pacific was big enough to hold the ambitions of both China and the U.S. And Mr. Hagel praised China as essential to the stability in the region.”

They also reiterated that the U.S. and China are still striving towards the creation of a “mew model of military-to-military relationship,” a buzz phrase that has been circulating since Obama and Xi met in California. Joint military exercises, improved communication mechanisms, and more high-level dialogues are all in the works.

Secretary Hagel also met with President Xi Jinping while in China. Discussions with President Xi Jinping focused less on differences and more on cooperation. Hagel spoke with President Xi about working together when it comes to facing the dangers posed by North Korea.

They also spoke about the importance of improving military ties between the two countries. Xi said of Hagel’s trip, “Your visit this time will definitely push forward the development of our new model of military-to-military relationship.”

Hagel appreciated the overall candor of the trip, saying the “leaders affirmed the need for continued dialogue between the two nations, building off of the foundation laid out in earlier conversations between Presidents Obama and Xi.”

For more information on Hagel’s trip to China, see the following news articles:

Reuters- U.S. defense chief, in first, visits China’s aircraft carrier

Washington Post- U.S.-China differences are clear even as Hagel stresses cooperation in Beijing visit

Wall Street Journal- U.S., China Defense Chiefs Trade Barbs Over Regional Ambitions

China Daily- US urged to restrain Japan

Businessweek- China’s Military Chiefs Lecture the Visiting U.S. Defense Secretary

Wall Street Journal- Hagel Asks China’s Xi Jinping to Do More to Contain North Korea

CCTV- China-US military: agree to disagree

U.S. Department of Defense- Hagel, China’s Defense Minister Build Military Relations Model

New York Times- During Hagel Visit, China Showed Its Military Might, and Its Frustrations

For Chinese language news on this topic, see the sources below:

People’s Daily (人民网)- 哈格尔访华期间美通过对台军售方案 美政府被”打脸”

China News Service (中国新闻网)- 哈格尔结束访华之旅:欢迎自由负责任的中国崛起

Guangming Net (光明网)- 常万全:面对威胁解放军做好开战准备 战之即胜

IFeng (凤凰网资讯)– “哈格尔:已与常万全达成两个重要机制的协议

Southern Weekly (南方周末)-范长龙面斥美国防部长在日言论“中国人民是不满意的”

China News Service (中国新闻网)- 习近平会见美国国防部长哈格尔

IFeng (凤凰卫视)-美防长在国防大学演讲 中国军官提尖锐问题