PLA National Defense University
Communication Is Important
PLA National Defense University. As
Delivered by Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, Beijing, China, Tuesday,
April 08, 2014.
Source : U.S. Department of Defense.
General, thank you. I am honored and consider this a
privilege to have this opportunity to speak to you and later hear from you and
get a sense of, first, what’s on your minds, what you think about not just the
China-U.S. future, but in particular where we can build stronger and richer and
deeper relations between our two countries, which will much determine how the
21st century turns out.
I first want to introduce a friend, a former Senate colleague,
now our U.S. ambassador to China, Max Baucus. Many of you know Ambassador Baucus.
We’re very proud of his work here. He’s working very hard to strengthen this
very special friendship and relationship. So, Max, thank you for being here and
taking time to be with me on my – on my trip. And, again, thank you all for
I want to also thank President Xi; Vice-Chairman General Fan;
my old friend from Washington days, State Councilor Yang; and especially my host
here in China, General Chang, who I’ve spent the morning with. I thank them all
for their gracious hospitality and all that they have done to accommodate my
visit here to China. We’ve had a very wide-ranging and constructive discussion
today on many issues that reflect our growing cooperation.
I also want to thank our ambassador, as I said, in particular
for his insightful understanding of this relationship. While he was in the
Senate, he was chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, which many of you may
know is the committee that oversees trade and exports and imports. So to have
his knowledge here as our ambassador is particularly important to this
Preparing for my visit here to China, but in particular my
visit to this prestigious institution, I was reminded that the first United
States defense secretary to travel to China was my friend, Harold Brown, whom I
see often. During that trip, which took place in January 1980, Secretary Brown
spoke at one of this institution’s predecessors, the PLA Military School.
What Brown said in his speech here 34 years ago bears
repeating. And he said this: “There is no country, no matter how rich or how
militarily powerful, no matter how numerous in population, no matter how great
its potential in natural and human resources – there is no country so great that
it does not need the help of friends.”
All of us would be well-served all over the world to remember
Secretary Brown’s words, because of the tremendous opportunities that arise when
nations partner together in the pursuit of common interests.
When Secretary Brown later hosted then-Chinese Vice-Premier
Xu in Washington, he used a Chinese saying, also worth repeating, in setting
expectations for the evolution of U.S.-China relations. It goes this way: “You
don’t grow fat on just one mouthful.”
This prediction, that progress could be achieved in our
relations through deliberate and painstaking work, has borne out in the course
of time. We’ve had setbacks and disagreements, and we still have disagreements.
And we will most likely have disagreements in the future. But, slowly – in small
bites – we have also made tremendous, significant progress between our two
nations, including the relationship between our defense establishments.
This progress is in both our nations’ interests and in the
interests of the broader region, and in the interests of the world. It must
continue. And that is why I am spending three days in China and visiting with
officers and enlisted personnel at every level. As a former sergeant in the
United States Army, I’m looking forward to having lunch tomorrow with enlisted
personnel, something I do on a monthly basis with U.S. enlisted servicemembers
at the Pentagon.
Although this is my first visit here as defense secretary,
I’ve had the privilege of visiting your country on several occasions over many
years. My first trip to China was in January 1984, when I traveled here to
market a new technology that no one knew at the time, that’s caught on fairly
well, called cellular telephony.
I saw the hutongs of Beijing, the old city in Tianjin, and
the modern Pearl River port of Guangzhou, which then, as you know, was Canton. I
saw the enormous diversity of culture and dialect woven throughout your country.
I saw the forces driving China’s path forward: on the one hand, the traditions
of a rich and ancient culture, measured in millennia; and, on the other, the
youth, the dynamism, the hunger of modern China on the move.
Today, China’s status as a major power is already solidified,
built on its growing economic ties across the globe, and particularly across the
Asia-Pacific region. Last year, the trade in goods and services between the
United States and China exceeded $500 billion. Trade between ASEAN members and
China exceeded $400 billion last year. And [one-third of global trade] travels
the South China Sea.
China’s tremendous growth, coupled with the continued
dynamism of the Asia-Pacific and America’s increasing engagement in the region,
offers an historic and strategic opportunity for all nations. As our economic
interdependence grows, we have an opportunity to expand the prosperity this
region has enjoyed for decades.
To preserve the stable regional security environment that has
enabled this historic economic expansion, the United States and China have a
very big responsibility to address new, enduring regional security challenges
alongside all the partners of the Asia-Pacific. We face North Korea’s continued
dangerous provocations, its nuclear program, and its missile tests; ongoing land
and maritime disputes; threats arising from climate change, natural disasters,
and pandemic disease; the proliferation of dangerous weapons; and the growing
threat of disruption in space and cyberspace.
The Asia-Pacific region is the most militarized in the world,
and any one of these challenges could lead to a conflict, a deadly conflict. And
as the PLA modernizes its capabilities and expands its presence in Asia and
beyond, American and Chinese forces will be drawn into closer proximity, which
increases the risks of an incident, an accident, or a miscalculation. But this
reality also presents new opportunities for cooperation.
All of us want a future of peace and stability for this
region, and the costs of conflict will rise as economic interdependence grows.
But the high cost of conflict will not make peace and stability inevitable.
History has made that very clear. So we must work together, and in partnership
with all the nations of this region, we must work together to develop and build
upon what President Xi and President Obama have called a “new model” of
This model seeks to seize opportunities for cooperation
between the U.S. and China, but also to enhance peace and security throughout
the region. It seeks to manage competition, but avoid the traps of rivalry. And
good China-U.S. relations will not come at the expense of our relations with
others in the region or elsewhere, nor should it, for China or for the United
Realizing this vision will require continued commitment,
effort, leadership, courage, and some new thinking for both the United States
and China across all dimensions of our relationship, but especially between our
militaries. That is what I would like to speak to you about today. In particular,
I’d like to address how we can develop a “new model” of military-to-military
relations that General Chang and I announced this morning.
Doing so will require a shared understanding, an
understanding of the regional security order that we seek and the
responsibilities we all have to uphold it. It will require bold leadership that
seeks to deepen practical cooperation in areas of shared interest, while
constructively managing differences through open dialogue, transparency, and
In the spirit of openness and candor, I’d like to describe to
you – the future leaders, you, the future leaders of the PLA – America’s
Here in the Asia-Pacific and around the world, the United
States believes in maintaining a stable, rules-based order built on free and
open access to sea lanes and air space, and now, cyberspace; liberal trade and
economic policies that foster widely-shared prosperity for all people; halting
the proliferation of dangerous and destabilizing weapons of mass destruction;
and clear, predictable, consistent, and peaceful methods of resolving disputes
consistent with international law.
Since the Second World War, American and Asian investment in
this rules-based order has produced extraordinary results, including here in
China. For our part, the United States has helped to provide access to global
markets, technology, and capital; underwritten the free flow of energy and
natural resources through open seas; and maintained alliances that have helped
keep the peace. We haven’t done it alone. We’ve done it with partners.
America’s rebalancing to the Asia-Pacific is about ensuring
that America’s presence and engagement – including our relationship with China –
keeps pace with the Asia-Pacific’s rapidly evolving economic, diplomatic, and
The rebalance also reaffirms America’s longstanding bonds of
history, commerce, and friendship throughout this region. This includes
commitments to our treaty allies – Japan, Korea, Australia, Thailand, and the
Philippines. And it includes our deepening ties with members of ASEAN. That is
not – must not be, nor will be – at the exclusion of strengthening our
relationship with China. That is why I just visited Japan, one of America’s
closest allies, and last week hosted an ASEAN defense ministers forum in the
United States, the first time we’ve ever done so. In both settings, I not only
emphasized America’s interest in continuing to build a lasting and constructive
relationship with China, I encouraged all of our allies, all of our allies and
partners to build long, consistent, productive relationships with China.
All nations have the responsibility to pursue common
interests with their neighbors and to settle disputes peacefully in accordance
with international law and recognized norms. But as a nation’s power and
prosperity grows, so do its responsibilities. And whether the 21st century is
one marked by progress, security, and prosperity will depend greatly on how
China and other leading Asian Pacific powers meet their responsibilities to
uphold a rules-based order.
Disputes in the South China and East China Seas must be
resolved through international norms and laws. We must trust in those laws and
those norms. The United States has been clear about the East and South China Sea
disputes. We do not take a position on sovereignty claims, but we expect these
disputes to be managed and resolved peacefully and diplomatically, and oppose
the use of force or coercion. And our commitment to allies in the region is
Great powers must resolve their disputes peacefully and
responsibly. Strengthening the peace and avoiding conflict requires leadership.
It requires courage. It requires understanding. It requires reaching out. And it
requires cooperation. It also requires a careful management of differences, all
of which are important parts of President Xi and President Obama’s vision for
Today, I had the opportunity to engage in productive
discussions with General Chang. As I mentioned earlier, we spent most of the
morning together. We spent a good part of the morning talking about our
military-to-military relationship, how we can support the vision of President Xi
and President Obama. We discussed the responsibility we have to reassure each
other – and to reassure other nations throughout this region – reassure them
about our capabilities and our intentions, because that is how we build trust.
We also discussed the need to take a long-term perspective,
because both of our nations are, and will remain, Pacific powers, great powers.
And in order to deepen mutual understanding, we cannot shy away from addressing
difficult issues. We must deal straight up, honestly, directly with each other
in confronting disagreements and difficult issues.
With these ideas in mind, I believe our “new model” of
military-to-military relations should proceed on three tracks: first,
maintaining sustained and substantive dialogue; second, forging concrete,
practical cooperation where our interests converge; and, third, working to
manage competition and differences through openness and communications.
The foundation for our military-to-military cooperation must
be a sustained and substantive dialogue. The engine for this dialogue has been
our high-level exchanges. We must continue and increase those exchanges. This in
particular has been an area of notable progress.
Last year, China hosted General Dempsey, our senior military
officer and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, as well as our Air Force Chief of
Staff and Vice Chief of Naval Operations. I was honored to host General Chang at
the Pentagon last year. We also hosted Admiral Wu Shengli, your chief of naval
You recently hosted General Odierno, our Army Chief of Staff.
Later this month, our Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Greenert, will visit
China. And, next month, General Dempsey will host his counterpart in Washington,
General Fang, for another exchange. More bilateral exchanges and visits are
planned, and earlier today General Chang and I agreed on two important new
mechanisms: We will establish a high-level Asia-Pacific security dialogue, and
we will create an Army-to-Army dialogue. This will deepen substantive military
discussions and institutional understanding.
When they are substantive, these discussions are invaluable.
They’re invaluable because they help identify areas where we can and should
pursue concrete, practical cooperation – the second track of our
military-to-military relations, which is vitally important.
Already, we have identified non-traditional security missions
as areas of clear mutual interests, including counter-piracy, humanitarian
assistance and disaster relief, military medicine, and maritime safety. One
example of our practical cooperation is these areas where we can do more, and
specifically annual Disaster Management Exchanges held now between our
militaries, and with representatives of the United States Federal Emergency
Management Agency. Last November’s exchange, held in Hawaii, included a
first-ever exercise involving PLA troops on U.S. soil.
We are set to deepen this practical cooperation. In addition
to welcoming China to this year’s RIMPAC exercise, today I invited the PLA to
participate in a military medical cooperation activity that will take place
By building trust where we have common interests, practical
cooperation and sustained dialogue will help us work through disagreements and
more effectively manage competition, which is the third track of our
Managing the competitive aspects of our relationship requires
us to be more candid, more open, more transparent about our capabilities, our
intentions, and, again, our disagreements, even on the most sensitive subjects.
This openness is not only for our mutual benefit. It provides assurances to an
increasingly anxious region unsure of our intentions.
The United States has taken significant steps to be more open
with China about our capabilities, intentions, and disagreements. And we will
continue to welcome initiatives by China to do the same, particularly as China
undertakes significant military modernization efforts.
During my tour yesterday of the Liaoning aircraft carrier, I
heard directly from the ship’s sailors how important open military-to-military
communication is. Last December, the Liaoning commander, Senior Captain Zhang
Zheng, helped to avoid a near-catastrophe in which U.S. and Chinese vessels
avoided a collision by only 46 yards. It turns out that, only three months
before that incident, Senior Captain Zhang had accompanied Admiral Wu on a visit
to the United States. When Senior Captain Zhang was confronted with a moment of
crisis, his effort to de-escalate the situation was informed by having met
members of the U.S. Navy and having developed an understanding of the U.S.
Navy’s intentions and operating procedures.
Greater openness has also enabled recent progress in
establishing a notification mechanism for major military activities, and it will
help us to expand the content of these notifications as we build greater trust.
Openness and two-way communication is especially important in
the area of strategic and emerging capabilities, and in managing regional
security challenges. It is why we seek to resume a U.S.-China nuclear policy and
strategy dialogue. It is also why, through our Cyber Working Group, the United
States has been forthright in our concerns about Chinese use of networks to
perpetrate commercial espionage and intellectual property theft. We’ve also made
efforts to be more open about our cyber capabilities, including our approach of
Those efforts recently took a major step forward when the
Department of Defense, for the first time ever, provided to representatives of
the Chinese government a briefing on DoD’s doctrine governing the use of its
cyber capabilities. We’ve urged China to do the same. It’s in both of our
interests to continue to follow this path.
We’ve asked China to work more closely with the United States
and regional partners on another shared challenge where we have had some
disagreement, responding to the dangerous destabilizing behavior of North Korea.
In my meetings with Asia-Pacific leaders throughout this visit, we’ve discussed
the threat North Korea poses to America, its allies, and to regional stability.
The regime’s nuclear program and its recent missile launches in violation of UN
Security Council resolutions pose a continued and stark challenge and threat to
the United States homeland.
America will continue to respond to North Korea’s actions by
reinforcing our allies and increasing our deterrence, including through my
announcement this week that we will deploy two additional ballistic missile
defense ships to Japan. This builds on other steps to bolster regional missile
defense, including building a second radar site in Japan and expanding our
ground-based interceptors in our country, in Alaska.
We look to China to play a constructive role in meeting this
challenge, to help us, partner, cooperate with us, because of China’s interests,
its status as a leading power in Asia and the world, and because its largest
trading partners are the nations being threatened by North Korea.
Continuing to support a regime that engages in these
provocative and dangerous actions – and oppresses its own people – will only
hurt China’s international standing in this region. Instead, the United States
and China, along with other nations in this region, must increase our
cooperation to address the North Korean threat.
As we work through differences and find areas of common
interest, my hope is that we heed what Harry Truman, a great American president,
said many years ago. And he said this: “We do not believe that there are blind
tides of history which sweep men one way or another” – because people “of
courage and vision can … determine their own destiny.”
The United States and China can and will determine their own
destiny. They must marshal that courage and vision that President Truman talked
about. We must determine our own destiny, our own way together. That is our
And in that effort, every military interaction matters. Every
interaction matters. So in closing, I would share with you an event that gives
me reason for great hope.
Last October, during the course of routine patrols in the
East China Sea, the USS Curtis Wilbur, a U.S. Navy destroyer, was sailing within
25,000 yards of the Putian, a PLA Navy frigate. The 40-year-old captain of the
Putian hailed the 41-year-old captain of the Curtis Wilbur over bridge-to-bridge
communication, and, after exchanging pleasantries, they started talking.
They started with the weather and then complimented each
other’s ships. They went in more detail and went on to talk about their children,
their families, and the Chinese captain offered to teach the American captain’s
son Mandarin. They talked about homesickness and what was for dinner – Mexican
night on the Wilbur and “complicated” Chinese food on the Putian. In fact, they
were having such a good time that, after a break for dinner, they resumed their
conversation and chatted about typhoons. They talked about the songs “Hotel
California” and “Country Road,” basketball stars Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady, and
the two captains proposed a warship-to-warship basketball game.
Over the course of their conversations, they discovered that
the Chinese captain was from Taizhou, the birthplace of the PLA Navy, and that
the American captain was from Beverly, Massachusetts, which is one of the
birthplaces of the American Navy. And that was quite fitting, because each man
was living up to the best traditions of their navies – and their militaries and
Each of you, in this way, will help shape our future and our
countries’ destinies. Each of you will be a part of this conversation and the
molding and the shaping of where we all take the world. One by one –
captain-to-captain, ensign-to-ensign, general-to-general, admiral-to-admiral –
we must all do our part to build greater trust, confidence, and cooperation
between our two militaries, our two countries, and among all the countries of
the region of the world.
Thank you for this privilege. Thank you very much.