Chinese State Councilor and Minister of Defense Wei Fenghe
Chinese State Councilor and Defense Minister Wei Fenghe spoke by phone with US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin on Wednesday. It is the first phone call between the Chinese and US defense chiefs since US President Joe Biden took office, which highlights the difficulties and complexity of the current bilateral relationship, including the relationship between the two armies, and has a certain peculiarity and importance. Against the backdrop of a turbulent international situation and continued tensions between China and the United States, the communication between the two defense ministers sent a positive signal to the outside world.
During the call, Wei and Austin expressed their willingness to advance the implementation of the consensus reached by the two heads of state, as well as their desire to manage risks. Wei declared China’s solemn position on the Taiwan issue and demanded that the United States stop military provocations at sea. Austin said that the United States adheres to the one-China policy and strengthens exchanges. military and cooperation with China in a frank and open manner.
The two sides also exchanged views on issues such as maritime and aviation security and the situation in Ukraine, continuing the consistent and frank style of China-US high-level dialogues in the face of differences. High-level communication between the two armies will help to avoid errors of judgment and create favorable conditions for the return to stable development of military relations.
Needless to say, the risk of a military accident and even the outbreak of an armed conflict between Chinese and American forces is increasing, which is causing growing concern among the international community. The Chinese and American armies have enjoyed a relatively stable period over the past decade. However, during the last period of the Trump administration, as Washington unscrupulously launched all-out provocations against China, military exchanges between the two countries fell to an all-time low. The real risk of military incidents is greatly increased. This situation persists to this day.
The responsibility for such a perilous state now rests entirely with the United States. The Biden administration has made it clear that it does not seek confrontation with China. Nevertheless, the provocations of the American army did not stop increasing. In particular, military collusion between the United States and the island of Taiwan has become increasingly rampant.
Washington is stepping up its arms sales to the island of Taiwan. The two sides have also greatly increased “military exchanges” aimed at improving “joint combat capabilities”. Moreover, in recent years, members of the US Congress have repeatedly traveled to Taiwan with the help of the military, wandering around the red line with “US military planes landing in Taiwan”. American aircraft carriers crossed the Taiwan Strait under the banner of “freedom of navigation”. These dangerous acts of repeatedly testing the mainland’s red line have greatly increased the real risks of a war in the Taiwan Strait.
The United States has carried out close reconnaissance of China in the South China Sea, East China Sea, Yellow Sea and other areas, which has also increased the risk of accidents. According to statistics, in 2021 there were about 4,000 to 5,000 close reconnaissance sorties by various US military aircraft over China and about five warships per day operating in the South China Sea, the Sea from East China or the Yellow Sea. Due to the increasing frequency, the US military is already in a state of over-deployment and over-fatigue in the Western Pacific, leading to a decline in the professionalism of frontline officers and soldiers. Recent frequent incidents of US warships and aircraft in the South China Sea are proof of this. This situation also means that the risk of friction between the US and Chinese military is growing rapidly and there is an urgent need to control the risks.
This time, China has approached the United States at the invitation of the Americans, which demonstrates that Washington is also aware of the seriousness of the problem. Dialogue is better than no discussion and engagement is better than confrontation, but what is more important is that the United States shows its sincerity to implement its promise to avoid a new cold war with China, not to change the Chinese system or revitalize alliances against China, and that the United States does not support “Taiwan independence” or intend to seek conflict with China . The defense ministers of the two countries emphasized “controlling the crisis”. Washington, as the party that provoked the conflicts and created the crisis, should of course take the initiative to win China’s trust.
If the US military really does not want to have clashes with the PLA, it should stop provoking China militarily and stay away from China’s gates. Especially on the Taiwan issue, Washington should understand that China has no room for compromise, and the Chinese military will firmly safeguard the country’s sovereignty security and territorial integrity. The United States should clearly receive this signal and refrain from misinterpreting, misunderstanding and misjudging this position.
We have also noticed that some in the United States have increased their appetite for risk as they have exploited the conflict between Russia and Ukraine. They even thought that the United States could provoke a conflict in the Asia-Pacific or in the Taiwan Strait and then withdraw without losses. We hope that this kind of madness will not erode the already rare rational elements in the American perception of China. Cooperation between China and the United States will benefit both, while confrontation will harm. This is not a flippant slogan but a fact. Now that the US Secretary of Defense has expressed his will to “manage the risks”, it is time for Washington to act concretely to prove its credibility.