Global Times: Military ties can shape Sino-US future

15:10, July 12, 2011      

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Top military officials from China and the US met in Beijing Monday, signaling another important step in the bilateral exchanges.

A handshake cannot hide the truth of how these militaries have studied to guard against each other.

Should even a sliver of the worst scenarios imagined actually happen, it would mean calamity for the Asia-Pacific region.

However, how to prevent this from happening is more important for the two militaries, and a key step for major powers in moving from a zero-sum game to win-win politics.

Despite suspicion and alertness, neither could form the determination to coerce the other through force. Peaceful coexistence without shunning problems is the mindset of both societies, a rarity among competing powers in the past.

The "neither friend nor foe" situation adopted by the two militaries is seen as fleeting by some. Whispers grow that a showdown is inevitable.

No doubt, the bilateral relationship is subject to many variables. Competition, either in economy or ideology, could evolve into hostility. Conflicts between China and its neighbors and the involvement of the US could turn into a China-US confrontation.

A direct military conflict would instantly disrupt the bilateral relationship. The spy plane collision over the South China Sea in 2001 stopped short of a serious military clash. Ten years ago, China was much weaker than today. The incident was soon forgotten due to the 9/11 attacks. Had the collision happened today, the consequences would be far more difficult to predict.

Public opinion on both sides favor positive military ties. Of course, if they choose conflict, there are numerous excuses. Military ties can be the defining barometer of the Sino-US relationship.

Military officials do not have to fake smiles when they meet. They can guide both the media and public opinion.

The Chinese military can make things better by being more direct, in addition to showing US counterparts around Chinese military facilities. The PLA's low-profile tradition unnecessarily compromises the intention it wants to display, and easily clashes with US curiosity.

The Chinese military is changing with the geopolitical landscape. It is also changing through more exchanges with US military officials such as US Admiral Mike Mullen.

Source: Global Times
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