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China-U.S. relations present opportunities and challenges
The upcoming visit of the US Secretary of Defense Robert
M. Gates has induced such a public opinion that the China-US
relationship will look up again. What are the problems impeding
the China-US military relationship? How about the development
trend? Recently, the Chinese People’s Association for Friendship
with Foreign Countries and the Research Center of Sino-US Relations
of Tsinghua University jointly held a workshop to delve into
those issues. The major viewpoints on the Sino-US military contacts
gleaned from the workshop are as follows:
Why Sino-US relations so fragile?
Rear Admiral Yang Yi (former director of the Institute for
Strategic Studies of the National Defense University of the Chinese
People’s Liberation Army): The military contacts are the “wind
vane” of the China-US relations. China and the US hold
different points of departure in military exchanges since the
US intends to learn about the going-on and intention of the Chinese
military, whereas China adheres to the stance that the military
ties must serve the overall situation and should not dance to
the baton of the US.
How to address the existing problems in the China-US relations?
In my opinion, we should never slack down the pace to realize
our strategic goal despite the alleged worries of the US, but
go ahead as planned. Of course, we can hold strategic communication
with the US.
Prof. Wang Baofu (National Defense University of the PLA):
Why the China-US military relations are so fragile? The reason
is that the military affairs are sensitive. Once something wrong
occurs in the China-US relations, the military contacts are prone
to be suspended. Comparatively speaking, the resulting influence
upon the social development and economic interests of the two
countries is not as much. Surely, on the whole, the China-US
military relations are still developing as reflected in progress
made in the contact and negotiation on the nuclear weapons and
the outer space. Even during the Cold War period, the US and
the former Soviet Union entered into many treaties. So we have
good reason to believe that a lot more things can be promoted
in the China-US military relations.
Prof. Ouyang Wei (National Defense University of the PLA):
The root cause for the lack of military co-operation between
China and the US is the absence of strategic mutual trust. China
and the US can enjoy military cooperation. Both countries must
refrain from making wrong judgment in maintaining regional and
global stability. Once there’s conflict, both sides will
suffer. In addition, as China is a new entrant in the implementation
of some international rules, especially when problems on the
sea are concerned, it needs to make incessant endeavor to grasp
how to apply these rules.
My personal judgment is that the China-US relations can be
defined as complex ones involving both competition and cooperation.
Such relations concern both local and overall relationships which
are asymmetrical. In many cases the local relations are confrontational
while the overall ones are not necessarily so. Maj. Gen. Peng
Guangqian (deputy secretary-general of the National Security
Policy Committee of the China Association of Policy Science Study):
The paradox confronting the current China-US military relations
is that the globalization deepens interest inter-dependence on
one hand and exacerbates the interest friction on the other.
The interest inter-dependence may lower the risk of the world
war to some extent, but it does little to prevent small-scale
conflicts, less alone root out the cause for war. The balance
of nuclear power deterrence may cut down the risk of an all-round
nuclear war, but can’t prevent the outbreak of conventional
How to view the new changes in Asia-Pacific security situation?
Peng Guangqian: Various latest US reports showed that the US
has already put China in the position of a major potential strategic
opponent challenging its interests in future. In addition, the
eastward movement of the US military strategic deployment focus
from Europe to the Asia-Pacific region and the adjustment with
Guam as the new military strategic hub are basically completed.
The US has been verifying its combat ability and theory through
a series of test-oriented actual-combat exercises, including
the US-South Korea (ROK) military exercises and the US-Japan
Ouyang Wei: In terms of geopolitics, China should be aware
of its international position. Compared with the early days of
the reform and opening up, the situation is utterly different.
China should behave as a regional power having global influence.
Therefore, we shall not only concern the security of our own,
but the security of other countries.
We need to consider the issues concerning multiple countries
from the perspective of global strategy, instead of considering
them from the bilateral perspective. I propose a concept of “East
Asia Economic and Security Community” to make East Asian
countries dependent in economy and trustful in security. From
this standpoint, the China-Japan relations can also realize the
situation of “seeking common ground while reserving differences”.
Thus, the influence of the Japan-US alliance can be mitigated.
Yang Yi: The South China Sea issue and the Korean Peninsular
issue should be viewed from the overall strategy of a power in
combination with the geographical situation around China. Different
regions should apply different strategies. On the Korean Peninsula
nuclear issue, the situation of the US, Japan and South Korea
(ROK) confronting China, Russia and North Korea (DPRK) can’t
be formed and the “denuclearization” on the Korean
Peninsular should be maintained by all.
Prospect for China-US military exchanges
Wang Baofu: We must have a clear and long-term strategy for
the China-US military relations. China should not only try to
avoid the direct military confrontation with the US recently,
but deter it from waging a next war in the neighboring countries
and areas of China. But what is worrying us is that the US will
wage a war every several years judging from the historical rule
in the past several decades. This is what we Chinese should pay
utmost vigilance for.
Peng Guangqian: Historical experience shows that when the economic
strength and military strength of a country are powerful and
prosperous or declining at the same time, the possibility of
waging military action is relatively small on the contrary. But
when the economic strength of a country is declining and the
military strength is powerful, the possibility of waging military
action is the most. The US is currently just in the position
of the latter. It can be said that the most dangerous thing is
not the inferiority in strength, but slackening of vigilance.
If we are well prepared both mentally and materially, the crisis
might not break out necessarily.
In regard to the China-US relations, we should prepare for
the worst while we are making our utmost efforts in dealing with
the US. What is the preparation for the worst? That is to get
well prepared for any possible military conflict between the
US and China.
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