China has sought to reassure its neighbors and the United States and other world powers that the goal of any military expansion is peaceful, while offering an assessment of the security situation in Asia and the Pacific.
According to a national defense white paper released Thursday, China will never seek hegemony, nor will it adopt the approach of military expansion — no matter how its economy develops — the state-run news agency Xinhua reported.
The report, titled "China's National Defense in 2010" and the seventh of its kind since 1998, spells out China's "goals and tasks for national defense include safeguarding national sovereignty, maintaining social harmony and stability, promoting the modernization of national defense and keeping world peace.”
It also gives an overall picture of the country's national defense, ranging from the security environment to defense expenditure and arms control. And it describes security in Asia and the Pacific as generally stable, though becoming “more intricate and volatile,” with no clear solutions for tensions on the divided Korean Peninsula.
It also makes mention of the United States increasing its involvement in regional security issues, according to the New York Times.
Defense Ministry spokesman Geng Yansheng made specific reference to the state of China-U.S. affairs in reading from the text Thursday at a news conference, saying that “there’s no denying that in developing military relations, we still face difficulties and challenges.”
“China attaches importance to its military relationship with the United States and has made ongoing efforts towards building a sound military relationship." He continued: "The Chinese military is now taking steps to advance exchanges with the U.S. military this year.”
U.S. defense secretary Robert Gates flew to Beijing in January to smooth over military relations frozen after the Obama administration announced arms sales to Taiwan in 2010, according to the Times.
Relations were further tested when the Chinese military trialed a J-20 stealth fighter jet the southwest Chinese city of Chengdu just as Gates met in the Chinese capital with President Hu Jintao. Gates said at the time that Hu told him the maiden flight of the prototype jet, which could eventually help narrow the military gap with the U.S., was not timed to coincide with his visit.
China has insisted that its military technology lags "decades behind" the United States and that of other developed countries, and that it poses no threat to the rest of the world.
That tension eased slightly following Hu's state visit to the U.S. in late January.
Geng said Thursday that the army’s Chief of General Staff, Gen. Chen Bingde, currently on a 3-day visit to Nepal, would visit the U.S. in May.
The white paper made specific mention of U.S. support for Taiwan, a self-governing island off China's eastern coast that Beijing considers its own.
"The United States continues to sell weapons to Taiwan, severely impeding Sino-US relations," the report states.
Geng, meanwhile, made it clear that the two countries must respect each other's core interests, the BBC reported.
"China is willing to work with the U.S., based on respect, trust, equality and mutual benefits," he said.