Chinese General Responds To Abe And Hagel
June 2, 2014 • 9:54AM

In remarks delivered to the final day of the IISS-sponsored Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, Lt. Gen. Wang Guanzhong, deputy chief of staff of the Chinese PLA, characterized the remarks of both Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, delivered earlier to the conference, as “provocative action against China.” In his prepared remarks, Gen. Wang had included no criticisms of either Japan or the US, preferring instead to focus on Chinese defense policy which he described as “defensive”--and on Chinese efforts towards bilateral and regional cooperation with neighboring countries in Asia and the Pacific. Wang especially emphasized the role of development in promoting security. Wang reiterated the importance of the initiative taken by President Xi Jinping at the recent Shanghai meeting of the CICA nations, and underlined the importance of those proposals for peace in the region.

However, after presenting his comments, General Wang said that he felt obliged to express his opinion on the comments made previously by Abe and Hagel. Friends had told him that he should not get upset by the comments as these were only words, not deeds. But he noted that the purpose of the Shangri-La Dialogue was to express frankly the differences between the nations in order to overcome them, and he would therefore feel free to make his personal comments, which he felt reflected the feelings of the entire Chinese delegation.

While Abe never actually named China during his keynote speech on Friday night, everybody knew he was talking about China. Wang said he preferred Hagel’s speech because Hagel was more forthright in attacking China by name. Hagel had directly accused China of undertaking “destabilizing, unilateral actions asserting its claims in the South China Sea.” Abe, Wang continued, should promote peace and security and provide constructive suggestions. Instead, he went against the purpose of the conference, which is dialogue and the exchange of ideas, to criticize China. Hagel’s speech Wang said, was “very frank” and full of hegemony and threats and intimidation. It was a speech to abet destabilizing factors in Asia and was not constructive. Wang also noted that Abe was invited as a special guest (heads of state do not normally attend this defense forum) in order to elaborate on the shift in Japanese defense policy. Abe, however, broke with the purpose of the dialogue, which is aimed at overcoming national differences, and used it as a forum to launch an aggressive, albeit subtly camouflaged, attack on China.

Wang concluded that portion of his speech by asking the question, Who is actually making the provocations concerning territorial sovereignty? China has never taken the first step to provoke troubles, he said. Everyone understands who actually initiated the dispute and troubles in the East and South China Seas. China is frequently accused of being “assertive” in the region, but “It is the US and Japan who are assertive and China is forced to make the minimum response,” Wang said. China had come to the Shangri-La Dialogue, he said, intending to find a path toward reconciliation and peace among the Asia nations. But others had not.

The day before, after Hagel had delivered his speech, Gen. Wang told reporters at the conference that the establishment of a new model of relations between the US and China required that the two countries respect each other and treat each other as equals, reported Xinhua. However, Hagel’s speech went against the construction of this model, Wang said. “When building this new type of China-U.S. relations, friction, or even conflicts may emerge. As the two major countries in the world, contradictions and differences are inevitable. The key is to face and address the problems,” Wang said.