Shangri-La Dialogue: Admiral Dong Jun

AMC's Graeme Acton is at this years Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore. Founded in 1958, the IISS is the leading global authority on geopolitics and strategy, and acting as a conduit for analysis and debate on issues around geopolitics, power, and conflict.

While China’s activities across the region were a constant backdrop to this weekend’s Shangri La Dialogue in Singapore, China itself lacked boots on the conference floor.

But putting the Chinese case most strongly over matters like the South China Sea was the Chinese Defence Minister Dong Jun.

Admiral Dong took time for a significant meeting with US Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin, to discuss communications between their military forces as a bulwark against an accidental military operational error becoming a global crisis.

But appearing on the floor of the conference on Sunday, he spoke stridently about some of the geo-political issues facing China.

Admiral Dong blamed Taiwan’s ruling party, the independence-supporting  Democratic People’s Party, for tensions across the Taiwan Strait, and he pointed the finger at the Philippines, who he referred to as  a “certain country emboldened by outside powers”, for the on-going issues in the South China Sea, where Chinese Coast Guard vessels have been in direct confrontation with Philippines boats.

On Taiwan he warned that any state that dares to attempt to divide Taiwan from China will be “crushed to pieces”.

Without naming the US, he also accused “forces outside the region” of assisting both the Taiwanese and Filipinos.

“Those separatists recently made fanatical statements that show their betrayal of the Chinese nation and their ancestors. They will be nailed to the pillar of shame in history,” he said, in reference to the new Taiwanese President Lai Ching .

Mr Ching’s decision to refer to China by name in his inauguration speech was part of the irritation that sparked “punishment “ naval exercises by the Chinese Navy in the waters around Taiwan in the last couple of weeks .

Taiwan is part of China. For Admiral Dong there is no debate required on that point, it is an uncontroverted fact.

After his speech the Admiral sat down for a series of questions from the Shangri-La audience.

Many he did not quite get around to answering, as he spent more than ten minutes in an at times rambling explanation of China’s position on Taiwan, most of which can be effectively condensed to: “Taiwan is a province of China.”

China’s current positions on the war in Ukraine and the situation in Gaza were left hanging.

Apart from the Taiwan issue, he also gave a heated answer on the South China Sea, mentioning a “certain country” that agreed to allow the US to deploy a medium-range missile system.

“China has exercised sufficient restraint, but there is a limit,” he said.

It was a specific pushback to the keynote session of the Shangri-La Dialogue, in which the the Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr gave a passionate speech regarding the Philippines national character, and the historic and territorial claims it holds to parts of the South China Sea. 

  • Asia Media Centre