China’s eloquent envoy to Washington, Cui Tiankai, confidently looked over the crowd at the Aspen Security Forum in picturesque Aspen, Colorado.
China does not seek global dominance, he assured them, nor does it want tensions with the United States to escalate further.
Discussions on China-US ties, which have sunk to their lowest point since the two countries established diplomatic relations in 1979, have featured prominently at the three-day forum, which also had a panel discussion on the subject, moderated by Joseph Nye from Harvard University, China Daily reported.
“To be fair, I think over the last few decades, we have learned many things from the United States. Of course, they are still saying we have not learned from the US,” said ambassador Cui.
“I think we should never learn from the United States’ obsession with global dominance,” he said at the annual event.
“I don’t think a new Cold War will serve anybody’s interest (or) will give us any solution to the problems,” said Cui. “Why should we allow history to repeat… when we are faced with so many new challenges?”
Cui is right on this count — a Cold War will not benefit either nation, or the world for that matter. Like two children arguing in a playground, accusing each other of starting the trouble — the US and China seem hell-bent on conflict.
But as Cui said these words at the forum, new satellite surveillance photos revealed China’s startling and ongoing navy build-up, a rapid development no doubt sparking concerns at the Pentagon.
According to Forbes magazine, the Chinese Navy (PLAN) is expanding at an incredible pace, rapidly outstripping almost all other navies. A year ago it had no amphibious assault carriers, none. By fall, it could have three.
These large helicopter carriers are often the most powerful ships in many navies, and almost all navies want them. And China is building them quicker … much quicker.
China’s new Assault Carriers are known as the Type-075 LHD (Landing Helicopter Docks).
Measuring the length of two-and-half football fields and estimated to displace between 30,000-40,000 tons once in the water, they are essentially moving naval bases capable of launching amphibious landing craft from their floodable well deck.
Sources say the Type 075 will be able to carry up to thirty helicopters, six of which can be taking off or landing at the same time, allowing it to rapidly deploy troops and supplies onto forward landing zones.
They have already launched two in the past year. And now images have emerged on Chinese-language social media that, perhaps unwittingly, reveal yet another.
This equates to an astounding assembly time in dry dock of about 6 months, Forbes reported.
At this pace the third Type-075 may be launched in October. Construction is taking place at the Hudong–Zhonghua shipyard in Shanghai. The new ship is visible, partly constructed, in the same dry dock where the first two were assembled.
How many Type-075s China will build is hard to gauge. But at this pace they could rival the US Navy’s fleet within five years, Forbes reported.
And China may already be designing a follow-on class, the Type-076. This may be equipped with a more powerful air wing including uncrewed combat air vehicles (UCAVs).
Cui’s remarks came nearly two weeks after a policy speech delivered by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum in Yorba Linda, California, China Daily reported. It was Nixon’s 1972 China visit that ushered in a historic thaw in relation, ironically.
Pompeo used what US media called “dramatic Cold War language” to blast decades of formal relations with China and accused Beijing of seeking global dominance.
Nye, the distinguished service professor emeritus of Harvard, cautioned that the historical metaphors regarding a new Cold War could be misleading, because, unlike the rivalry with the Soviet Union, the US has a great deal of trade and social contact with China.
Commenting on the closure of the Chinese consulate in Houston and the subsequent shutdown of the US consulate in Chengdu late last month, Cui said it was “really unfortunate” for the US to decide to close China’s first consulate in the country.
“Then you see in diplomacy the principle of reciprocity is always followed, so we’ll have to respond. But we certainly (didn’t) want to have all this from the very beginning. We certainly don’t want to see any escalation,” he said.
In stark contrast to US intelligence agency reports, Cui said the allegations against the Chinese consulate in Houston or any of Chinese diplomatic missions in the US are “totally groundless” — a statement that will go over like a lead balloon in Washington.
Still, the Chinese ambassador insisted that the growth of China-US relations over the decades has served the interests of both countries and the world “very well.”
“It’s quite clear all of us are still enjoying the positive outcome, the benefits of this close relationship. Nobody can really deny this,” Cui said.
Be that as it may, with China churning out warships every six months — warships that would be essential in a potential attack on Taiwan — there is no doubt that China’s drive to modernize its navy will change its world status as a naval power.
Changes that will undoubtedly lead to further repercussions on the world stage.