Adm. Gary Roughead, the Navy’s Pacific Fleet commander, is disputing as “propaganda” a recent report in the official Chinese press that stated that the admiral was effusive in his praise for Chinese marines during a recent visit to China.
The official Beijing military newspaper PLA Daily reported Nov. 22 that Adm. Roughead recently watched an exercise involving Chinese marine boxing skills and was reported to have applauded and cheered. “They have such excellent skills and good physical strength! I am tired out just watching the performance, but they are still so full of vigor!” the newspaper quoted Adm. Roughead as saying to a Chinese military officer “in a tone peculiar to servicemen.”
During another encounter with a Chinese female martial arts specialist, Adm. Roughead was quoted as saying to one of his female Navy aides, “Do you think you could beat this Chinese girl if you got into a fistfight with her?” To which the female officer supposedly responded, “Ha! I don’t think so.”
The newspaper quoted Adm. Roughead telling another group of Chinese troops: “Your team is remarkable and you have left a deep impression on me. You and the U.S. Marines have many strong points in common and are both wonderful!”
Adm. Roughead declined our request for an interview.
However, Capt. W. Gureck, a Pacific Scott Fleet spokesman, told us he “got a pretty good chuckle” out of the Chinese report.
“This story is not accurate and I trust you know that it’s obviously a propaganda piece from a state-run newspaper,” he said in an e-mail.
The admiral did watch the Chinese demonstration but “he did not stand or applaud during the demo,” Capt. Gureck said.
“There was polite applause at the end. He did say they were well-conditioned and that just watching the demonstration tired him out,” he said.
Capt. Gureck said Adm. Roughead did not “gush” in his praise of the Chinese, and said instead that “polite would be more accurate.”
Defense officials said the Chinese propaganda treatment of the visit is typical of how Beijing exploits U.S. military exchanges. The Chinese government is aggressive in playing down the threat posed by its large-scale arms buildup and seeks to show neighboring countries in Asia that the United States does not regard it as a threat.
Critics of the exchanges, which are being promoted by the head of the U.S. Pacific Command, Adm. William Fallon, say the program is a naive attempt to influence Chinese military behavior, and they note that China has failed to reciprocate fairly in granting the kind of access to its facilities that already has been granted to visiting Chinese military personnel in the United States.
Bill Gertz and Rowan Scarborough are Pentagon reporters. Mr. Gertz can be reached at 202/636-3274 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Mr. Scarborough can be reached at 202/636-3208 or by e-mail at email@example.com.