Two high-profile trips by People's Liberation Army generals over the past week painted a clear picture of China's resolve in stepping up military diplomacy, as it hopes to allay fears over its rapid growth and to learn from other militaries. PLA Chief of General Staff Chen Bingde wrapped up a week-long visit to the United States yesterday after visiting several military facilities including Naval Station Norfolk and Nellis Air Force Base. Coinciding with that trip, Defence Minister General Liang Guanglie took a seven-member delegation to Singapore, Indonesia and the Philippines. Chen pressed his counterparts to stop selling arms to Taiwan and stressed that Beijing's military modernisation was not a threat to other countries. Liang, meanwhile, met defence officials of the three countries he visited to discuss co-operation in fields such as trade and education, in an effort to improve relations with China. The two events may seem unrelated, but analysts pointed out similarities between the trips, saying it shows that the military is more willing to reach out and attempt to allay increasing fears about China's rapid growth, while at the same time granting Beijing a rare first-hand glimpse at other nations' militaries. The trend is also reflected in China's increasing participation in international military affairs, such as deploying warships in the international anti-piracy operation to safeguard trade routes in the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean off Somalia, and in the evacuation of Chinese civilians from war-torn Libya. The mainland military has long been considered inwardly focused, lacking experience in dealing with the outside world. Only a limited number of officers can maintain contact with their overseas counterparts, and such communication was often considered a state secret, said Antony Wong Dong, president of the International Military Association in Macau. Major General Luo Yuan, noting that the PLA had more self-confidence following its growth in recent years, said the military 'hopes the international community can recognise that the growth is for the benefit of China, but not a threat to the world'. Last month, General Guo Boxiong , vice-chairman of the Central Military Commission, made a four-day visit to Vietnam, which has territorial disputes with Beijing in the South China Sea, and met Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung. The two sides agreed to step up communication. Five PLA delegations have visited Asian countries since March, and the delegation members included members of the Central Military Commission and high-ranking officials from the navy and air force. Speculating on the reason for China's push, analysts pointed to territorial disputes in recent years, noting the adverse effect they had on relations. Commenting on the high-profile trips, Jonathan Pollack, a senior fellow with the John L. Thornton China Centre at the Brookings Institution, said: 'It may be that the senior political leadership of China recognises that China was paying a political cost for these developments.' He said Guo's visit to Vietnam, for example, may serve to help 'diminish some of the suspicions'. 'I think it may be that some of the senior military leaders, when they go abroad, they may learn more about other countries rather than just standing apart from them, because without these kind of relationships, there really cannot be reasonable regional order over the longer term,' Pollack said. In another attempt to enhance transparency of the military, Beijing included for the first time a chapter on military diplomacy in its defence white paper, to ease fears about the so-called China threat. Luo said the country was opening up more military facilities for overseas visitors. US Defence Secretary Dr Robert Gates visited the Second Artillery Force during his visit to China this year. Additionally, delegations sent overseas now include more representatives. Members of the delegation for Chen's US visit included intelligence officials and generals from four military commands. Zhang Haiyang, political commissar of the Second Artillery Force, and Yang Hui, intelligence chief of the PLA's general staff headquarters, were on the trip. 'By meeting and working together with foreign militaries, we essentially create an era of good feeling, surrounding the relationship with an air of co-operation that - in theory - ultimately shapes amicable overall relations,' said Dr James Holmes, an associate professor of strategy at the US Naval War College and a former US Navy surface warfare officer.