China syndromeU.S., China in high-level military talks

Published 24 April 2013

Representatives of China and the United States met on Monday for the highest-level military talks between the two counties in almost two years. In the meeting, a senior Chinese general pledged to work with the United States on cybersecurity because the effects of a major cyber attack “may be as serious as a nuclear bomb.”

Representatives of China and the United States met on Monday for the highest-level military talks between the two counties in almost two years. In the meeting, a senior Chinese general pledged to work with the United States on cybersecurity because the effects of a major cyber attack “may be as serious as a nuclear bomb.”

The New York Times reportsthat Chinese general Fang Fenghui met with the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey. In a news conference held after the meeting, Fang said he would be willing to create a cybersecurity “mechanism,” but also said it would be a slow process.

“I know how difficult it is,” General Fang told reporters. “Anyone can launch the attacks — from the place where he lives, from his own country or from another country.”

Dempsey’s visit to China, which lasted three days, was an effort to overcome a growing mistrust between  Beijing and Washington. There are several issues over which the United States and China disagree, among them  Washington’s strengthened military posture in the Asia Pacific region, China’s increased assertiveness in the South and East China Seas, and problems of how the two militaries should communicate in a crisis.

Dempsey was invited to China less than two weeks after Secretary of State John Kerry visited, and Obama administration officials say they the back-to-back visits could be a starting point for better relations between the two countries after a tumultuous period.

General Fang, chief of the People’s Liberation ArmyGeneral Staff and a member of the Central Military Commission, said  during the press conference that he wanted a “new kind of military relationship that is consistent with the state-to-state relationship.” Fang also spoke about the military presence of both countries.

“The Pacific Ocean is wide enough to accommodate us both,” General Fang told reporters, a suggestion that it was time for the United States to understand the American military would not be able to dominate forever.

Dempsey was quick to respond to the comment, saying the United States is searching for a “better, deeper and more enduring relationship” with the Chinese military —  but in the context of “other historic and enduring alliances.”

“We do have treaty obligations,” Dempsey told reporters, a reference to the American alliances with Japan, South Korea, the Philippines, and Australia. “We will build and recognize the historic alliances, and there will be points when that creates friction.”

Dempsey also defended the Obama administration’s decision to “pivot” towards Asia, saying it was not as though “we’ve disappeared and are about to reappear.” Dempsey said he told General Fang in their private conversation before the press conference that the United States wants to be a “stabilizing” factor and that not being in the Asia Pacific region would be “destabilizing.”

In recent months the subject of cybersecurity has created  tension between the two countries. Last month the Obama administration minced no words and in telling the Chinese government to order its civilian and military agencies to  cease the theft of sensitive data from American companies. China meanwhile, has expressed its anger over allegations that its military has been involved in cyberattacks.

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