Can Hope Triumph Over Experience?
Despite the vigorous efforts of several different U.S. administrations since 1990, little progress has been achieved in the military dialogue between the United States and the PRC during the past two decades. Since the early 1990s, the two defense communities have negotiated a series of bilateral security and confidence-building measures seeking to reduce mutual tensions and advance common interests. These agreements have promoted a better understanding of the other side’s security concerns, but they remain highly constrained and vulnerable to disruption from external shocks.
The two governments still fundamentally disagree regarding how to manage military relations in ways that eschew these acute confrontations. Incidents between PRC and U.S. military units operating in the international waters and airspace near China have repeatedly disrupted their bilateral relations. In addition, the PRC frequently suspends Sino-American defense ties due to disputes over Taiwan and other issues, making clear how little Beijing values the relationship between the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and the Pentagon.