Annual Report to Congress:
Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China 2012
Chapter 3: Military-To-Military Contacts
A key component of DoD’s overall approach to the Asia-Pacific region is engagement with China, a course that reflects the value to the global community of a productive U.S.-China relationship. Vice President Biden stated during his visit to China in August 2011 that “a rising China will fuel economic growth and prosperity and it will bring to the fore a new partner with whom we can meet global challenges together.” In January 2011, U.S. President Barack Obama and PRC President Hu Jintao reaffrmed their commitment to building a positive, cooperative, and comprehensive relationship.
A strong U.S.-China bilateral relationship includes a healthy, stable, reliable, and continuous military-to-military relationship. Strong military-to-military ties consist of clear lines of communication for senior military and defense leaders and allow for substantive exchanges on a range of defense and security issues, particularly during times of turbulence and friction. These ties increase the safety of U.S. and Chinese military personnel, provide mechanisms for crisis prevention and management, contribute to greater transparency on both sides, and encourage and influence the PLA and China to engage as a responsible power.
This type of engagement enables both militaries to build habits of cooperation and work toward greater mutual understanding. The United States remains committed to building a stronger military-to-military relationship with China. However, placing the military-to-military component of relationship on a firm foundation remains a challenge.
In the first half of 2011, several high-level visits were executed as part of the bilateral militaryto- military relationship, including visits to China by the U.S. Secretary of Defense and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and visits to the United States by the PRC Chief of the General Staff and the Jinan Military Region Commander. The PRC elevated its military participation in the Strategic and Economic Dialogue (SffED) in May 2011, with the PRC Deputy Chief of the General Staff representing the PLA. The annual Defense Policy Coordination Talks (DPCTs), a Disaster Management Exchange, and a working-level meeting pursuant to the Military Maritime Consultative Agreement (MMCA) were also held. The Strategic Security Dialogue (SSD), held for the first time on the margins of the SffED in May 2011, complements military-to-military exchanges by providing a key mechanism for senior civilian and military leaders from both countries to discuss critical issues of strategic significance in order to build mutual trust, increase communication, and decrease the chance that an inadvertent incident would lead to a larger crisis.
Following the September 2011 notification to Congress of the U.S. intent to sell arms to Taiwan, which included a retrofit package for Taiwan’s F-16 fighter aircraft, the PRC postponed several events scheduled for the remainder of the year. Working-level contacts and high-level dialogue were maintained, and in December 2011, the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy traveled to Beijing to participate in the annual U.S.-China Defense Consultative Talks. Despite U.S. intent for a healthy, stable, reliable, and continuous military-to-military relationship, this aspect continues to lag behind other aspects of the broader bilateral relationship.
U.S. Strategy For Military Engagement
DoD engagement with China focuses on three lines of effort:
> Improving cooperative capacity in areas of mutual interest, such as peacekeeping, HA/ DR missions, and counter-piracy operations;
> Fostering greater institutional understanding through contacts between armed forces, including military academic institutions and mid-and junior-grade officers; and
> Building common assessments of the regional security environment and related security challenges.
Over the long term, this strategy seeks to invest the PLA in a sustained military relationship, by showing its leadership sees logic and value in such an approach.
Other U.S.-China Engagement And Security Cooperation
Although areas of concern persist, in 2011, the United States and China worked together to improve the regional maritime and energy security environment. As President Obama has said, “the [U.S.-China] relationship has not been without disagreement and diffculty. But the notion that we must be adversaries is not pre-destined.” DoD will encourage China to improve transparency and openness in its military affairs, develop an approach that is commensurate with its regional and global status, and act in ways that support and strengthen the international political, economic, and security environment.
Consistent with its interests in, and dependence on, open Sea Lines of Communication (SLOCs), China has sent warships to patrol the Gulf of Aden (GOA) in coordination with international counter-piracy task forces on station there. China agreed to conduct a combined exercise with the United States in the GOA in the fourth quarter of 2011 to increase cooperative capacity to counter piracy, but the PLA postponed the exchange in response to the September 2011 announcement of U.S. arms sales to Taiwan.
Following on a commitment by President Hu at the 2010 Nuclear Security Summit, the United States and China also signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to expand existing bilateral cooperation through establishment of a Center of Excellence on Nuclear Security. The U.S. Departments of Energy and Defense are now collaborating with the China Atomic Energy Authority to design the center and determine requirements.
In January 2011, the United States also signed an MOU with China to promote cooperation in the clean energy and energy security fields.
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