Just three months ago U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis visited People Republic China and met his counterparts from the PLA. The press praised his efforts noting that he became a first Pentagon chief to visit China since 2014 and the first from the Trump administration. The second meeting was planed to improve security dialogue with Beijing. However officials report that the next meeting was cancelled by the initiative of the China. Meanwhile both sides are trying to play down the worries. “There are no reasons to panic over tensions between the countries” is a common denominator of both US and PRC reaction to the cancellation. Tensions are rising as China and America is involved in a increasing number of rows – economical, political and global. The cancellation of the DOD Jim Mattis visit will not add the sense of stability though.
There are at least two confrontations between PRC and USA in military matters:
- Russian-Chinese arms sales
- PLA military activity in the South China Sea
US is strictly opposing the sale of Russian SAM S-400 to China and have gone as far as imposing sanctions to prevent arming PLA with modern anti-air systems S-400. The rationale beyond the US position is the fear of reverse engineering of the underlying technology (as it happened with the previous generation of the SAM, S-300). It will allow PLA to fully defend from the US air force which will make any hypothetical conflict with China difficult. While deployed at disputed islands in South China Sea it will effectively prevent US from air domination. China will get an absolute control over the airspace in strategically important region of the World.
China views the sanctions imposed as a rough intervention in its interior affair.
South China Sea and the Taiwan problem are well known and there is little place for a dialogue left. There is a lot of technical details to discuss to prevent accidental collisions of PLA and USAF/Navy.
By cancelling the visit PRC side is making a statement that until US will not soften its tone in negotiations China will continue its course.