In a rare public appearance, Gen. Xu Caihou, vice chairman of China's Communist Party's Central Military Commission, came to Washington and told an audience that his country remains a "developing country and would not, could not threaten developed countries." In fact, the PRC seeks "accommodation, not confrontation."
Speaking Monday at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Gen. Xu stressed operations other than war, international cooperation between the Chinese military and its counterparts, intelligence sharing in the face of international terrorism, and said his country wanted to avoid any future incidents such as the March naval confrontation between US surveillance ships and Chinese forces.
After Xu blamed the incident on "the intensive reconnaissance missions" of the U.S. fleet "which infringed upon Chinese interests," he said that "neither of us want to see this happen again." Xu spoke about the incident after being asked a question about naval cooperation by a former U.S. Navy officer.
He also tried to deflect criticism of China's increasingly capable military, telling the audience that Chinese weapon development and procurement is done "entirely to meet the minimum requirement of meeting national security."
Asked about Chinese development of anti-ship ballistic missiles he said this was "entirely for self defense."
One China expert who listened to the speech was, skeptical of the general tenor of the general's remarks.
"The speech had a couple of key points - the PLA is warm and fuzzy and they’re interested in a dialogue, but not as a junior partner. After the last eight years, they probably don’t’ think they need to confront the US as we’re on track to do ourselves in without any outside help," said Jim Lewis, a CSIS expert on cyber warfare who has watched China's growing cyber prowess for years.
Gen. Xu made a vague reference to the challenges of cyber operations when he said the PLA's "top priority is winning wars in the information era." In what seemed like an eerie echo of past Pentagon doctrine, he also referred to the "revolution in military affairs with Chinese characteristics” and to the growing importance of "operations other than war," a term no one has used at the Pentagon for some time.