SecDef Hagel tours China’s aircraft carrier. Is it kind of unexpected?

How would you read this move? As a good will gesture? Or differently? Read few comments.

Jonathan Sullivan, Associate Professor, School of Contemporary Chinese Studies, University of Nottingham, Deputy Director of China Policy Institute

I don’t see anything sinister in it. In fact I think one can interpret it as a mark of respect (both sides are giving face), as a sign of confidence (again on both sides), and even as a kind of proto confidence building measure (transparency, openness in terms of military capacity is a good thing for both sides going forward). Keep in mind also that the carrier is not yet fully operational, and at this point is more of a “showcase” than a key part of the PLA Navy. And by taking Hagel to the carrier, the Chinese can demonstrate “openness” etc while actually not giving access or information on more “sensitive” and crucial capacities like its submarines.

Of course the carrier visit comes on the back of Hagel’s ‘robust’ comments made in Japan, but personally I don’t see a direct connection.

Jonathan Holslag, Research Fellow, Institute of Contemporary China Studies, Vrije University, Brussels

This is not unsurprising. China and the United States are clearly balancing against one another, militarily and economically. But for balancing to work, there needs to be dialogue from time to time. I don’t think that the Liaoning matters so much. Much more important is what goes on in submarine warfare these days, in missile technology, and in space-based capabilities. This is really where the competition is going on right now.

Robert SutterProfessor of Practice of International Affairs, Elliot  School of International Affairs, George Washington University

It’s not unexpected for a US defense secretary to seek such a visit.  That the Chinese would  show the ship to him is a bit more open than China has been in the past–but Beijing has become more open to visiting US defense leaders in recent years.

Roy KamphausenAdjunct Associate Professor of International and Public Affairs, Columbia University, Senior Associate for Political and Security Affairs, The National Bureau of Asian Research

It is unexpected, but perhaps is a concession toward transparency that allows the Chinese side to avoid transparency in another, more difficult area. In any case, it is a positive move by the Chinese side.


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