China and Russia Criticize U.S. at Beijing Security Forum

China and Russia Criticize U.S. at Beijing Security Forum
Xiangshan security conference (CGTN)

The Lede: From Sunday to Tuesday this week, China hosted defense ministers, military chiefs, and representatives from foreign countries and organizations in Beijing for the Xiangshan security conference, where Russia and China both leveled criticism at the U.S.-led global security system. The event follows Beijing’s removal of its defense minister Li Shangfu from his position and amid increased concerns stemming from the Israel-Hamas war and the continuing Russia-Ukraine war. 

What We Know:

  • China’s vice chairman of the Central Military Commission General Zhang Youxia focused his address on promoting President Xi Jinping’s Global Security Initiative as a solution to global conflicts stressing common security and respecting countries’ paths of development. Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu was the first visiting official to address the forum. Both Russia and China made veiled criticisms against the U.S., which was not directly named.
  • Zhang also expressed China’s willingness to develop military ties with the U.S. “on the basis of mutual respect, peaceful coexistence and win-win cooperation.” However, he also reiterated the Taiwan issue as a ‘core interest’ to Beijing.
  • Chinese Defense Ministry spokesperson Wu Qian and Cynthia Carras, a U.S. Defense Department official in charge of exchanges with China, also spoke briefly on Monday on the sidelines of the forum. Wu urged the U.S. side to create a favorable atmosphere for communication between the U.S. and Chinese militaries.

The Background: The Xiangshan security conference was last held in 2019. It is normally hosted by the Chinese defense minister. However, the most recent defense minister Li Shangfu was removed last week without explanation following a nearly two-month absence and has yet to be replaced. Beijing has declined outreach for high-level meetings with the U.S. in protest for Washington’s sanctions placed on former defense minister Li in 2018 for weapons purchases from Russia. No U.S. defense secretary has ever attended the Xiangshan Forum. 

Likely Outcomes:

  • By not sending U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, the U.S. is seen as having missed an opportunity to build good will and increase dialogue with its rivals at the Beijing conference by Chinese leaders. He Lei, former vice-president of the PLA Academy of Military Sciences, told the South China Morning Post that had Austin attended, he would certainly have met with a leader higher than a defense minister, likely Xi himself. 
  • The sentiments from the Chinese and Russian delegations at the conference and the absence of the U.S. defense secretary demonstrates a fundamental disagreement. The U.S. has not offered much good will in security matters while Chinese officials expressed the willingness to work together with the U.S. or at least have high-level defense meetings. However, it is likely that China will continue to be open to meeting with U.S. military officials, especially now that Li has been removed from his position. 


“Our world is overshadowed by the dark cloud of cold war mentality and we must avoid falling into bloc confrontation. If a country only cares about its own interest it will perceive everyone else as a rival, if it is obsessed with suppressing others with different opinions it will surely cause conflicts and wars in the world…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 U.S.” – Zhang Youxia, Vice Chairman of the Central Military Commission of China

“The Western policy 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.” – Sergei Shoigu, defense minister of Russia

“The purpose is to use such a platform to win over public opinion in countries in the Global South and prevent changes that are particularly detrimental to Russia.” – Wan Qingsong, associate professor at the Center for Russian Studies at East China Normal University

Good Reads:

China and Russia cast U.S. as agent of global instability at military forum (NYT)

U.S. and Chinese defense officials meet at Beijing forum (Nikkei)

China touts global security vision at a defense forum in Beijing – with Russia by its side (CNN)

US-China relations: Xiangshan security conference delegates suggest ways to build trust (SCMP)