Few Americans have heard of Liang Guanglie, but his name comes up a great deal in discussions within the U.S. national-security establishment. Liang, 70, is a career military officer and since 2008 has been China's Defense Minister the equivalent of U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates. He is presiding over the rapid rise in Beijing's defense spending, a subject of increasing concern in Washington. Under Liang, the Chinese military has developed its first aircraft carrier, tested a stealth fighter and made significant strides in both cyber- and space warfare. If China does become a legitimate military rival to the U.S. in the Pacific, as many defense planners believe is inevitable, Liang perhaps more than anyone else will have helped make that possible.
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