Published: 18:15, April 19, 2024
Sino-US military ties vital to stability
By Jiang Chenglong

China’s defense minister says interaction key to stable growth of bilateral relations

The Chinese defense minister urged his United States counterpart in a video call to “explore the way for the two militaries to get along,” with experts saying the high-level military talk was the latest effort by both sides to prevent military crises or conflicts against the backdrop of China-US tensions.

Dong Jun, minister of national defense, held a video call on April 16 night with US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, according to a statement released by the ministry on April 17.

It was the first official dialogue between the defense chiefs since the senior Chinese military official took office at the end of last year.

The previous talks between Chinese and US military chiefs were held in November 2022, during the ASEAN Defense Ministers’ Meeting-Plus in Cambodia.

Stressing that the leaders of both sides are committed to promoting the stability and improvement of bilateral ties, Dong said the military ties are crucial for implementing the consensus of the two heads of state, stabilizing the development of China-US relations, and preventing major crises.

In November, President Xi Jinping and US President Joe Biden reached consensus on a series of issues while meeting in San Francisco, including an agreement to resume high-level military communication on the basis of equality and respect.

Dong stressed that the Chinese and US militaries should explore ways to get along, proposing some basic principles that “put peace as the priority, stability as the key, and trust as the foundation”.

Based on equality and mutual respect, both sides should construct military ties that “feature nonconflict and nonconfrontation, conduct practical cooperation, and gradually accumulate mutual trust”, providing a cornerstone for stabilizing the development of bilateral relations, he added.

Zhou Bo, a senior fellow at Tsinghua University’s Center for International Security and Strategy, said the defense chiefs’ video call was in line with the consensus reached by the leaders of both countries during their San Francisco meeting.

However, the two countries and their militaries need to explore a suitable way of interaction, he said.

“Due to the current low level of mutual trust between the two militaries, trust must be built up step by step to prevent military conflicts between China and the US, which neither side desires,” he said.

A researcher at the People’s Liberation Army’s Academy of Military Sciences, who asked to remain anonymous, said that the US currently views China as a strategic competitor, which has led to sustained tension.

“In this context, China and the US need to find a way to prevent military conflicts or armed clashes,” he said.

However, the researcher underscored the significance of high-level defense talks, noting that the willingness of both sides to engage in dialogue has in itself demonstrated their desire to manage crises and avoid entering a state of war or conflict, which would not be in the interest of either side.

“If both sides have no contact, they will perceive each other from the worst possible scenario, making it very easy to enter a state of war or conflict,” he said.

Defense Minister Dong reiterated China’s positions on the Taiwan question and the South China Sea.

He underscored that the Taiwan question is a core interest of China and never brooks any infringement, saying that the PLA will not tolerate any “Taiwan independence” separatist activities or external indulgence and support.

Dong said the current situation in the South China Sea is generally stable, and countries in the region have the willingness, wisdom and capability to resolve issues.

The US should recognize China’s firm stance, respect China’s territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests in the South China Sea, and take concrete actions to maintain regional peace and the stability of China-US military relations, said the senior defense official.

Meanwhile, China and the United States are strengthening financial cooperation through the China-US Financial Working Group.

The China-US Financial Working Group held its fourth meeting on April 16 in Washington, DC.

The meeting was co-chaired by Xuan Changneng, deputy governor of the People’s Bank of China, and Brent Neiman, assistant secretary of the US Department of the Treasury, with financial regulators participating.

The PBOC, China’s central bank, said on April 17 that the two sides had “professional, pragmatic, candid and constructive” discussions on topics such as monetary policy and financial stability, financial supervision cooperation, institutional arrangements in financial markets, cross-border payment and data, sustainable finance, anti-money laundering efforts, countering the financing of terrorism and financial infrastructure.

The working group was established by the two sides in September to strengthen communication on financial topics.