What should we know about the Shangri-La Dialogue’s Sino-US Defense Ministers talks?

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Shangri-La Dialogue
US Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin meets with Chinese Defense Minister Gen. Wei Fenghe at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, June 10, 2022. (Source: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE)

Jakarta, IO – From June 10 to 12, Singapore hosted the Asia-Pacific Security and Defense Forum “Shangri-La Dialogue.” The Chinese Defense Minister delivered a speech at the Shangri-La Conference titled “China’s Vision for Regional Order,” and Austin also delivered a speech reiterating US defense strategy in the Indo-Pacific area. 

Outside the meeting, one of the highlights was the first face-to-face encounter between China’s and the United States’ defense ministers, Lloyd Austin and Wei Fenghe. “From our standpoint,” a senior US official said, “we expect the substance of this summit to focus on managing competitiveness on regional and global concerns.” 

The Sino-US negotiations were supposed to last 30 minutes, but they went on for 28 minutes. Following the discussion, a Chinese spokeswoman stated that the Sino-US talks were a strategic dialogue in which they discussed Sino-US ties, the Taiwan Strait problem, the South China Sea issue, and the Ukraine situation in a forthright, positive, and productive manner. China has long thought that seeing is preferable to not seeing, and talking is better to not talking. 

Why Should the Chinese and US Defense Ministers Meet? 

The likelihood of encounters between Chinese and American ships and military aircraft in the South China Sea, East China Sea, and other places has recently increased, and domestic public opinion on both sides has become increasingly hostile. As a result, the purpose of the meeting between military men from both sides is not to eradicate the cause of disputes and conflicts (which is Politicians), but to learn more about each other face to face, define the bottom line, and develop a regular communication channel. 

Military officials from the United States and China have utilized the Shangri-La Dialogue to de-escalate tensions. Wei Fenghe met then-US Secretary of Defense James Mattis at the Shangri-La Dialogue in 2018 and invited him to Beijing. A few weeks later, Mattis visited Beijing to meet with Chinese authorities, and China’s military ministry portrayed the encounter as “pleasant and fruitful.”