Sign of shared confidence
Updated: 2014-04-10 08:34
SOME SAW THE VISITING US SECRETARY OF State Chuck Hagel and his Chinese hosts "trade barbs". Others saw them "face off" in public. Still others were surprised at their "adversarial statements".
The joint press conference on Tuesday featuring Hagel and his Chinese counterpart, Defence Minister Chang Wanquan, appeared less upbeat than people would normally anticipate. Especially with the substantive seven-point consensus on improving military-to-military interactions they have reached in the background.
But such display of divergences, or as some Western media put it, "tensions", is actually a sign of a shared confidence that their understanding and trust of each other are strong enough to withstand such straightforwardness.
That Chang called their talks "candid, friendly, constructive", and Hagel described them as "good, direct, positive"; that Hagel conveyed to both his Chinese colleague and President Xi Jinping a US commitment to military-to-military dialogue and mutual trust; and that both sides vowed to build a new model of inter-military relations under the framework of the new-type major-country relationship testify to such confidence.
The ostensible tensions on display on Tuesday, while reminding us of the potentially dangerous flashpoints between the two militaries, also sent the message that the Chinese and US militaries are rational enough to look the reality of their ties in the face. This is an essential first step toward managing their differences, and is also an indispensible premise to their vision of "positive interaction in the Asia-Pacific region".
Such exposure of disagreements should be considered a positive asset. To cultivate genuine trust between the two militaries, as Hagel emphasized, both "must be very candid about issues where we disagree, while also continuing to deepen our cooperation in areas where we do agree." Which is exactly what we have seen during Hagel's current visit.
That Hagel's Chinese hosts have not allowed displeasure about his unwarranted statements in Japan to stand in the way of trust-building points to a sincere wish to make true the vision of a Sino-US relationship of "no conflict, no confrontation, mutual respect, and win-win cooperation".
Just as Hagel has wished, his hosts have been open not only about their intentions, but also about their capabilities.
The two militaries are not friends at this point. But they do not have to be enemies, either. As long as they do not take each other as an imaginary one.