Talks between chiefs of staff 'a good sign'

(China Daily) 10:22, July 09, 2022

Experts hail China-US video call, but say still long way to go in rebuilding ties

The latest video call between the chiefs of staff of the Chinese and US militaries has signaled clearly that both sides are willing to manage risks and avoid conflicts, especially a war, experts said.

They said that recent engagements between senior officials of both countries are a "good sign" given the current state of China-US relations, but said there is still a long way to go in "rebuilding" these ties given the current differences and some provocations by the US side.

In the video call on Thursday, General Li Zuocheng, chief of staff of China's Central Military Commission Joint Staff Department, told his United States counterpart General Mark Milley, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, that in the current situation, the two militaries should "further enhance dialogue, manage risks and promote cooperation with mutual respect and with an objective and rational attitude", according to a Defense Ministry statement released on Friday.

In the call, which was requested by the US side, Li, who is also a member of the CMC, said China and the US can make mutual achievements and achieve common development in accordance with the consensus reached by President Xi Jinping and President Joe Biden, adding that the two militaries should avoid deliberately creating confrontation, provoking trouble and mutual exclusion.

Both sides agreed that it serves their common interests to maintain a stable relationship between the two militaries and avoid conflict and confrontation, and for the two sides to maintain communications, according to the statement.

Zhou Bo, a senior fellow at the Center for International Security and Strategy at Tsinghua University, said the video call indicated that it is a consensus of both the Chinese and US militaries to avoid miscalculation and conflicts, and particularly a war.

An international politics researcher with the People's Liberation Army, who asked to be anonymous, also shared similar views and pointed out that Thursday's video call was more special than other Sino-US talks.

"The two communicators are both chiefs of staff, the top officials in charge of actual military command and operations during wartime," he said, stressing that they would be key officials handling emergencies if something happens between the two militaries.

"The ties between the Chinese and US armies are the bottom line of Sino-US relations," he said, adding that major military conflicts between the two sides would have irreversible consequences, unlike those in terms of trade, the economy and technology, which still have room for maneuver.

"Thus, the talks between the chiefs of staff are truly beneficial," the military researcher said, adding that this is particularly the case when risks exist across the Taiwan Straits and in the East and South China Seas, since the US side has been increasing its presence in those areas.

During the video talks, Li, the senior military official, told Milley that China will never compromise and concede when it comes to the nation's core interests, warning that the Chinese people will firmly fight back if someone makes wanton provocations.

He urged the US side to stop reversing historical trends and cease US-Taiwan military collusion. He also underscored that China's military will definitely safeguard the nation's sovereignty and territorial integrity.

The PLA recently conducted interservice joint patrols and combat exercises off Taiwan. Chinese Defense Ministry spokesman Wu Qian said on Friday that these moves were in response to "collusion and provocation" by the US and the island. US Senator Rick Scott started a three-day visit to Taiwan on Thursday.

"China firmly opposes the US action, which seriously violates the one-China principle and the three joint China-US communiques, and severely harms the political basis of China-US ties," Wu said, adding that the PLA remains on high alert and will take all necessary measures to thwart external forces and separatist provocations.

Zhu Fenglian, spokeswoman for the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council, on Friday also called the US action a "very dangerous" move in conniving with "Taiwan independence" separatist activities.

'A long way to go'

The Li-Milley talks followed video talks between Chinese Vice-Premier Liu He and US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen on Tuesday. Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi will also meet US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Indonesia soon.

The recent high-level exchanges showed that both sides have been strengthening communications in various fields and seek solutions since they have realized that the current receding China-US relationship could bring crisis in the future, said the military observer who would not be named.

"Although the floundering relations cannot be reversed in the short term, both sides are clear that communications are beneficial," he said.

Tao Wenzhao, a researcher on US affairs with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said the engagements between the high-ranking officials are a "positive sign", but there's still "a long way to go".

"China-US ties need to be rebuilt due to the policies of the Trump administration and many differences between the two countries, but it's certainly no easy job," he said, stressing that it requires persistent patience and efforts from both sides.

(Web editor: Wu Chaolan, Bianji)


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