World / US and Canada

Actions speak louder than words in military relations

By Lu Yin (China Daily) Updated: 2014-04-07 07:40

US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel begins his first visit to China on Monday since taking office. A Chinese military expert offers her views on bilateral military ties.

The Chinese and US militaries have communicated with each other for 34 years. Although China-US military ties cannot be set apart from overall bilateral relations, they tend to show shortcomings in these ties, fluctuating back and forth from development to stagnation.

Along with the agreement by President Xi Jinping and US President Barack Obama in 2013 to establish a new type of relationship based on mutual respect and mutual benefits, the two militaries have also made efforts to build a new relationship.

In a nutshell, this new relationship is one in which the two militaries, based on mutual respect, try their best to avoid conflicts and confrontation, achieve favorable interaction and deepen strategic understanding, and control possible risks through practical cooperation.

History shows that established and emerging powers can easily be drawn into a vicious circle. This highlights the importance of building a new type of relationship, in order to break this cycle of mutual security suspicions, resulting from changes in the international situation.

This new relationship can efficiently defuse mutual military and security suspicions and reduce misunderstanding between the two militaries, offer a guarantee and solid foundation for a mutually beneficial bilateral relationship, and is conducive to promoting the overall development of China-US relations.

Meanwhile, the new military relationship can also be a good example for other countries, removing worries about the possibility of China-US confrontation, and can also serve to strengthen regional peace and stability.

To build such a new relationship, the two militaries should maintain sound interaction.

Within a bilateral framework, they should continue high-level mutual visits and dialogue, organize mutual visits of ships, facilitate communication between professional technicians, different services and military education institutions, and enhance cooperation in humanitarian rescue work, maritime safety and disarmament.

In addition, multilateral mechanisms in the Asia-Pacific region also offer a platform for the two militaries to conduct favorable interaction, such as the China-US defense dialogue in Jakarta, which serves to deepen practical cooperation in non-traditional security, resolve pressing international issues, and seeks practical ways to maintain regional peace and stability and efficiently control risks.

This year, in order to build such a new relationship, the two militaries should enhance practical cooperation. To this end, the two militaries will promote the building of a mechanism to notify each other of important military activities and draw up rules of conduct for maritime security. They will also strengthen their cooperation this year in joint exercises.

To build such a new relationship, the two militaries should properly resolve their differences and control risks. Although China-US military relations have generally developed in a positive way, there are some challenges, such as US-Taiwan military cooperation, US arms sales to Taiwan, US close-up reconnaissance in China's Exclusive Economic Zones and US involvement in some regional issues.

The two sides should avoid misunderstandings and positively resolve their differences.

Actions speak louder than words in the building of a new military relationship between China and the United States. The two sides already have consensus, they should also take steps to practically respect mutual interests and concerns, deepen mutual trust and cooperation, reduce differences and avoid actions that may harm the interests of others.

China has a firm attitude and is taking positive steps to build a new type of bilateral military relationship and expects the US to take practical political steps to reduce obstacles and promote bilateral military ties.

The author is a researcher at the Institute for Strategic Studies of the PLA National Defence University.

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