Development of China-US military relations: Step 1.

Updated On: May 18, 2011

General Chen Bingde, chief of the general staff of the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA), is on a weeklong official visit to the United States, starting on 15 May 2011. Chen's visit is viewed by some Western media agencies as the "beacon" that will loosen the tense military relations between China and the US.

Report, background & analysis: Will top-level talks strengthen China-US military relations? [People’s Daily, 18 May 2011]

There is concern in China that the US is uncomfortable with its rise and that Washington does not want Beijing to be a major player on the global stage. The Chinese also feel that it’s unfair if the US, the number one military power in the world, uses ‘lack of transparency in military modernization’ as a pretext to declare China as a threat.  The US on the other hand is concerned about the lack of transparency when it comes to China's plans for military development and its ultimate goals.

Report, background & analysis: Strategies for harmony between militaries of China, US [People’s Daily, 17 May 2011]

How the Sino-US military relationship plays out has a direct bearing on the security, stability and prosperity of not only the Asia-Pacific region but also on the entire world. China and the US should take this platform to clearly express their positions and listen to each other's strategic intentions to avoid misconceptions and disparities.

Report, background & analysis: US, China Military Leaders Hold High-Level Washington Talks [Voice of America, 17 May 2011]

Although the Pentagon did not present the agenda of the meeting between the two military leaders, they did state in a brief statement made on Tuesday that discussions between General Chen and Admiral Mike Mullen, his US counterpart ‘were productive’. But exactly how productive they were is a question. Analysts have long pointed to the problem of mistrust between the two countries. Military ties between them lag far behind their relationships in other fields due to the lack of strategic mutual trust.

As Jonathan Pollack, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution- a Washington based research group said, "This visit has not been easy to arrange. This has been a military to military relationship that has been, at best, very unsteady over the last few years. So, both should make the most of the time and opportunity that is there.”

This means that China and the United States need to respect each other's different social systems and develop their relations towards a goal of mutual benefit.  If not, they will inevitably fall into a “security trap”.

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