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China and Russia take aim at US at Chinese military forum

BEIJING: Chinese and Russian military chiefs targeted the United States for criticism at a security forum in Beijing on Monday (Oct 30), even as China’s second-most-senior military commander vowed to boost defence ties with Washington.

The Beijing Xiangshan Forum, China’s biggest annual show of military diplomacy, began Sunday without the country’s defence minister, who typically hosts the event, but included a US delegation amid roiling regional tensions.

Russia’s Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu warned the West that its involvement in the Ukraine war created grave danger.

“The Western line of steady escalation of the conflict with Russia carries the threat of a direct military clash between nuclear powers, which is fraught with catastrophic consequences,” Russia’s TASS state news agency cited Shoigu as saying at the forum.

Shoigu also said the West intends to inflict “strategic defeat” on Russia in a “hybrid war”, and praised the model of Russia-China relations as “exemplary”, Russian state media reported.

Zhang Youxia, vice chairman under President Xi Jinping on China’s Central Military Commission, delivered veiled criticism of the United States and its allies, accusing “some countries” of trying to undermine the government.

“Some countries deliberately create turbulence and interfere in other countries’ internal affairs, and instigate colour revolutions,” Zhang said in his keynote address, using the term the Chinese government uses to describe attempts to overthrow Communist Party rule.

“Countries should not deliberately provoke other countries on major and sensitive issues,” he said, adding that Taiwan is a core interest of China.

But in other parts of his speech, Zhang stressed the need for improved military ties with the United States.

“We will deepen strategic cooperation and coordination with Russia and are willing to, on the basis of mutual respect, peaceful coexistence and win-win cooperation, develop military ties with the US,” Zhang said in an address being closely watched by military attaches and diplomats amid tensions over Taiwan and the South China Sea.

China’s defence minister delivered the keynote speech in previous years.

China and the US have had no high-level military-to-military communications since the Washington-sanctioned former Chinese defence minister, Li Shangfu, was appointed in March.

Li was sacked last week without explanation, and China did not name a replacement. Reuters reported last month that Li, who has been missing for two months, was being investigated over corruption.

The US defence department has sent a delegation led by Cynthia Xanthi Carras, China country director in the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense.

It is not yet known whether the US team will meet separately with Chinese military officials.

The participation of the US delegation comes as the United States and China ramp up exchanges ahead of an expected summit between US President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping next month.

Last week, China’s top diplomat, Wang Yi, met with Biden for an hour in talks the White House described as a “good opportunity” to keep open lines of communication between the two geopolitical rivals.

Many Western countries have either shunned the forum or are only sending small and low-level delegations, preferring instead to discuss international security issues at the Shangri-La Dialogue, held annually in Singapore.

Together with the commission’s third-ranked official, He Weidong, Zhang held bilateral meetings with defence ministers from Laos, Mongolia, Belarus, East Timor and Myanmar, according to state media. 

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