Why Liang May Leave Happy
Image Credit: U.S. Defense Department

Why Liang May Leave Happy


As the Chen Guangcheng saga drags on in Beijing, this week’s visit to Washington of Gen. Liang Guanglie, China’s defense minister, risks being overshadowed – or at least that’s the angle that much of the coverage of Liang’s trip seems to be taking. 

In fact, Liang is almost certainly more interested in the shadows cast by the round of defense diplomacy that took place in Washington immediately prior to his arrival: the so-called “2+2” summit between the Philippine defense and foreign secretaries and their American counterparts.

The visit of Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and Secretary of Foreign Affairs Albert Del Rosario had been scheduled long before last month’s maritime confrontation between Chinese and Philippine ships at the disputed Scarborough Shoal (a dispute that continues to rumble on, with some ominous statements being made at the diplomatic level). But the latest spat certainly gave their mission – to secure more defense support from the U.S. – an added sense of urgency.

Their lobbying yielded the following public commitments: an increase in foreign military financing (FMF) for the year to September 2012 to $30 million (up from $15 million); a U.S. pledge to share “real-time information” with Manila to help it monitor its maritime possessions; non-specific assurances that more U.S. excess defense articles will find their way into the Philippines’ inventory; and a promise to nudge Australia, Japan and South Korea into giving the Philippines some of their older kit.

None of this should prevent Liang from spending a productive few days in Washington. For one, it’s clear that the U.S. pivot to Asia barely extends to the FMF program. In 2011, East Asia and the Pacific in their entirety garnered less than 1 percent of the total $5.47 billion FMF budget, and the modest boost to the Philippines’ share isn’t about to change that. Of course, FMF is not the only indicator of U.S. military assistance (and the U.S. gives the Philippines extra cash through other schemes), but it’s an important one.

Second, the United States appears to accept Chinese sensitivity as a significant constraint on the pivot to Asia, especially with Sino-U.S. relations in so delicate a state. High-profile Chinese people keep fleeing to American consulates and embassies, causing unwanted embarrassment on both sides. The two countries’ brittle military-to-military relations have only just been restored and need time to cement. Now isn’t the time to take sides in a bilateral dispute, and the U.S. has offered assurances that it has no intention of doing so.

So, Washington’s strategic actions remain a lot more modest than the headlines might lead you to believe: Marines in Australia (hardly on China’s doorstep) and littoral combat ships (which sound impressive, but are actually relatively small naval vessels) to be based in Singapore. The assistance to the Philippines is part of this pattern of marginal adjustments. Washington is drip-feeding additional support to its regional allies, not opening the taps.

The Liang visit ought therefore to be quite cordial. He might even leave Washington later this week feeling more upbeat than the Philippine delegation that preceded him.

John Chan
May 11, 2012 at 14:53

@p. john,
What does USA have to show off then? USA was beaten badly in Korea and Vietnam despite it has unproportional technological and material advantages, other than that it needs to gang up with the world’s developed nations on small underdeveloped nations. What shall we call it? Chicken, bully or paper tiger?

Perhaps continuing to huff and puff your imperialist true color will be more helpful to soothe USA’s damaged hegemony ego.

John Chan
May 11, 2012 at 13:50

@p john,
Japan is better to take up its responsibility to win some medals in the Olympics to prove that Asian can stand shoulder to shoulder with the best of the world. Even small nation Korea is trying to help. Relying on the sick man they “could laugh out loud” to win medals and beat those arrogant westerners is not fair and proving Japanese is sicker than sick man.

John Chan
May 11, 2012 at 13:25

@p john,
What does USA have to show off then? USA was beaten badly in Korea and Vietnam despite it has unproportional technological and material advantages, other than that it needs to gang up with the world’s developed nations on small underdeveloped nations. What shall we call it? Chicken, bully or paper tiger?

Perhaps continuing to huff and puff your imperialist true color will be more helpful to soothe USA’s damaged hegemony ego.

May 11, 2012 at 12:47

@John Chan: We need your insider’s information and opinion on the topic below:



papa john
May 11, 2012 at 04:18

@my little johnny chan,

Militarily, there is absolutely nothing for China to show off. The “barbarians” like Mongols, Manchu could easily defeat China. The Japanese could laughed out loud at the sick man of Asia and the human waves tactic didn’t scare the Vietnamese, then don’t make yourself a fool in front of the world.

John Chan
May 11, 2012 at 04:05

Get off the high horse before saying what is right and what is wrong.

John Chan
May 11, 2012 at 03:57

What’s wrong with travelling to where the jobs are? Are you saying that Americans only take jobs close to their couch?

Water boarding only happens in USA, not in China. It is wrong for you to portray China like the USA. George Orwell was describing the current state of the Westpac nations, it is wrong for you to portray China as Orwell’s story without know what is happening in China.

Tiananmen Square Massacre, Great Leap Forward and eating shit fabrication are the handy work of the Western black information network to demonize China for their insidious imperialist and racist purposes. Eating shit, peeing on people, leaching naked people like a dog, etc only happens in the USA. It is a shame that someone is working hard to white wash those crimes against humanity, indeed tell me where is your equality for those abused human beings?

John Chan
May 11, 2012 at 03:15

“John Chan” the impostor’s posting.

John Chan
May 11, 2012 at 02:51

Playing one man Mutt and Jeff show? Posted inflammatory rant as “John Chan” Impostor then ranted again to smear China with twisted facts?

China’s navy was never involved in the standoff at Scarborough Shoal incident. It is wrong for you to smear PLAN baselessly. It was Philippines gunboat, a gift from the USA, harassing unarmed Chinese fishermen in that incident.

Defending a nation’s sovereignty is a matter of honour and duty, it is not a matter of cost, even setbacks during the course are honourable. Philippines is only a pawn of USA in the stand off in the South China Sea, reining in American aggression is hard, but China has to do it, “not because they are easy, but because they are hard.”

French only could cheat they never could fight even facing the corrupted Qing court, Vietnamese learnt from the French well, even suffered defeats, they still claimed victory shamelessly. Japanese won the last time, but they got beaten many times by the Chinese before, it is hard to know who will win next time, but they better pray they won’t lose, because next time there will be no Kamikaze to protect Japan anymore.

USA is in the business of imperialism and exploitation, shame on you to gloss up American destructive behaviour in Asia.

May 10, 2012 at 23:25


A day after the CCP warned the Philippines that the PLAN was willing to escalate the Scarborough Shoal dispute, the US reaffirmed that while they don’t want to become involved with the territorial dispute, the US is fully prepared to honor the 1951 Mutual Defence Pact Treaty with the Philippines!

You forget one key vital strategic advantage the US has over the PLAN………………….air cover! Not one PLAAF aircraft has the range to traverse 1400 km to Scarborough Shoal! While the US can send fighters and bombers globally anywhere they need to get the job done!

It would be better if China stuck with negotiations rather than suffer another humiliating defeat! China should remember they lost the Opium wars twice with Britain, lost the Sino-Frace war, lost twice to Japan, lost the border conflict with the then Soviet Union in 1969, and suffered a logistics defeat when China invaded Vietnam in 1979!

There is a reason why the Russians and the United States won’t share nor sell aircraft tankers to China!

May 10, 2012 at 22:54

@John Chan

just a thought: where is your equality when there are millions of migrant workers who have to travel hundreds of miles to make a living? when people can be tortured to death for expressing their sincere thoughts about how the government and society can improve themselves for the betterment of the people? where was the equality in the June 4th incident, and where was your equality when Mao enacted the Great Leap Forward that resulted in the deaths of dozens of millions of your fellow citizens, when men and women were ripped from the beds and forced to eat shit for teaching the honorable history of their nation, as they themselves had been taught. tell me where.

May 10, 2012 at 22:50

@ John Chan and Papa John.

Don’t feed the troll. that means, both of you.

@Chan: what you see as imperialism is merely the US promoting its interests as any other hegemon would. this is neither right or wrong in and of itself.

@papa john: thank you for feeding our local troll. the US does not need to get into conflict with China, nor should we entertain doing so unless it becomes a direct threat to the physical welfare of the American People, which it is far and away from being capable of. if anything, we should be promoting mutual interest and values. if you want an example of this, go look up Josh Wedon’s Firefly and the idea of Chimerica. have a nice day.

John Chan
May 10, 2012 at 22:07

Phillipines needs to be careful. CCP invaded and took Vietnamese islands in 1974. China´s massacre 64 Vietnamese sailors in Spratly islands, filmed the whole event and posted on YouTube as trophies. CCP needs to do the same to Phillipines. CCP will sink 7th Fleet too if the America comes.

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