Just before Xi Jinping and Barack Obama sat down for their California summit, the region’s military representatives sat down in Singapore for the 12th Shangri-la Dialogues. Our defense analyst Wendell Minnick saw a classic Shakespeare act deploying, although with less drama than in the past, he writes in Defense News.
Just as Shakespeare’s comedic play ends joyfully with multiple marriages and no deaths, this year’s Shangri-La lacked any real sense of crisis, minus cyber, as China and the US held their tongues over the recent Chinese military incursion into India, challenges over the Japanese-controlled Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea, disputes over exclusive economic zones (EEZs) and Beijing’s territorial disputes in the South China Sea.
Though tough talk emerged from some members of the Chinese delegation, the dialogue lacked the normal hawkish rhetoric from delegates of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), although some comments did stretch credulity.
Lt. Gen. Qi Jianguo, deputy chief of the PLA General Staff, told attendees during his speech, “China has never taken foreign expansion and military conquering as a state policy.”
Qi made no mention of China’s 1950 invasion of Tibet, 1962 invasion of India, 1979 invasion of Vietnam or threats made to invade Taiwan.
Chinese delegates did challenge allegations of wrongdoing made by the US and others, but refrained from the typical outbursts of the past.
“In general, they wanted to tone down in the wake of the Obama-Xi talk … so as to create a better atmosphere,” said Arthur Ding, a cross-strait military affairs expert at Taiwan’s National Chengchi University.
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