Beijing (CNN)China’s Defense Ministry has praised outgoing US Defense Secretary James Mattis, saying Beijing “highly appreciated” his attitude during his time in the post.
In the Chinese government’s first response to the former general’s impending departure, Defense Ministry spokesman Wu Qian said: “(Mattis) made positive efforts in making military-to-military relations a stabilizer in the overall China-US relationship.”
Wu said Beijing also looked forward to having a “sound and stable” relationship with Mattis’s successor, acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan, when he takes over on January
Mattis’ time in the Pentagon’s top job came amid rising political, economic and military tensions between the US and China, including a more assertive stance by Washington in the South China Sea and large weapons sales to Taiwan.
In September, the US imposed sanctions on the Chinese military’s Equipment Development Department and its director, Li Shangfu, over the purchase of certain weapons from Russia.
The move provoked fury in Beijing, leading to a temporary suspension in top-level military talks between the two countries.
Washington also provoked anger in May when it ‘disinvited’ China from major US military exercises in the Pacific over the PLA Navy’s behavior in the South China Sea.
In his resignation letter to Trump, Mattis made it clear that China posed a major threat to the US and its international agenda.
“I believe we must be resolute and unambiguous in our approach to those countries whose strategic interests are increasingly in tension with ours,” he wrote.
“It is clear that China and Russia, for example, want to shape a world consistent with their authoritarian model — gaining veto authority over other nations’ economic, diplomatic and security decisions — to promote their own interests at the expense of their neighbors, America and our allies.”
Wu said Mattis’s comments were “unfounded accusations”.