As the world ushers in the Barack Obama era with hopes for a better future, China has called for stronger military ties with the United States. China’s Ministry of Defence spokesman Colonel Hu Changming has said that there were currently "difficulties" in military relations between the two nations, but expressed the hope that the new US government would work towards improving the ties. The remarks came as China issued a policy paper on national defence.
China wants a modernised army
In 2008, China raised its official defence budget by nearly 46 billion euros, which is an 18 percent increase from 2007. The Information Office for the State Council issued the military policy paper on Tuesday, saying an increased defence budget is required to ensure social peace. Speaking with reporters later, the defence ministry spokesman Hu Changming said though China’s overall security situation has improved over the past year, it needs to modernise its armed forces in order to tackle separatists in Tibet and Xinjiang.
Lili Xiong, an expert from the Beijing based University of International Business and Economics, explains why, he thinks, the country needs high defence spending:
“For such a vast and populous country the military budget cannot be low. Secondly, the military technology of China is very backward. And thirdly, with the development of economy the cost of human resources in China is becoming higher and higher, which means the salaries of soldiers are becoming higher too.”
China also insists that forces for independence in Taiwan are one of its top security concerns. Taiwan and China have been separated since the end of the civil war in 1949. But China considers the self-ruled island a part of its territory and supports reunification. Expert Lili Xiong says the increase in defence budget doesn’t mean Beijing is preparing for war against Taiwan.
Despite the fact that relations between the two sides have warmed since president Ma Ying-jeou took office in Taiwan in May 2008, Beijing doesn't support Taipei’s military boost-up. Hence the US decision to sell $6.5 billion worth arms to Taiwan last year sparked outrage in China.
And with the promises of change generated by Barack Obama’s presidency, Beijing has urged the US to make efforts to create favourable conditions and promote better military relations.
“That means we want to construct mutual trust between the two countries. Though their ideologies are different, China and the US have many issues in common,” says expert Lili Xiong.
It has been 30 years since the establishment of diplomatic relations between Washington and Beijing. Bilateral political and trade ties have grown tremendously between the two sides since then. Therefore expectations are high from Barack Obama, as he takes over, says Gu Yuewu, a political expert from the University of Bochum:
“Obama is someone, who, from the Chinese perspective, has a better understanding of non-American cultures and background. Hence, it is expected that while dealing with China, he will try and understand the China-specific interests and concerns, which don’t really correspond to American traditions.”
However questions remain regarding whether Obama and his government will be able to meet up to these expectations, especially in view of a massive trade imbalance the US faces amid the global economic crisis.