The United States will not try to block the growing influence of China, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Thursday, as he counseled patience in building relations with Beijing. “We are not trying to hold China down,” Mr. Gates said. “China has been a great power for thousands of years. It is a global power and will be a global power.” Mr. Gates is scheduled to meet with his Chinese counterpart, Liang Guanglie, on Friday, ahead of the Shangri-La Dialogue, an annual security meeting in Singapore. The two men are expected to discuss how to advance a strategic dialogue on security issues, including cyber warfare and nuclear weapons, as well as efforts to rebuild military-to-military ties.
Mr. Gates noted that China’s military modernization included building capabilities “that are a concern” to the United States, including missiles capable of striking aircraft carriers, cyber weapons, and anti-satellite missiles. But he emphasized his belief that the Chinese were building their military in order to extend their influence in Asia, not to directly challenge the United States. “I think the Chinese learned a powerful lesson from the Soviet experience and they do not intend to compete with us across the full range of military capabilities,” Mr. Gates said.
In addition to his meetings with Asian defense ministers, Mr. Gates is expected to deliver a speech at the security forum emphasizing that the U.S. intends to keep a robust presence in Asia, even in a time of growing fiscal austerity. Since Mr. Gates became defense secretary in late 2006, military relations with China have been up, down and up again. After a period of cool relations, Chinese President Hu Jintao this year has pushed the leadership of the People’s Liberation Army to try to improve ties with the U.S. military.