HOW CHINA, US SEE EACH OTHER AT SEA
Talks between the US and Chinese militaries can be great. But dialogue can also reduce trust over maritime differences as well boosting it.
The Diplomat, May 29, 2011
Maritime security, especially in the East and South China Sea, remains high on the agenda of China, the United States, Japan and other regional actors. Incidents over the past two years have strained relations and then prompted official and unofficial dialogues, including a two-day conference of experts hosted by the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences in association with the Carnegie-Tsinghua Center for Global Policy. The debate emanating from here in Shanghai at once showed the value of dialogue, but also its limitations.
While Chinese and US officials attempt to build on the fragile edifice of maritime cooperation advanced earlier in May through high-level military and civilian talks, they might do well to reflect on the distinction between conflicts of national interest and conflicts based on insufficient understanding. As they know, dialogue won’t necessarily improve the former, but it does help to alleviate the latter.
Indeed, Prof. Nan Li of the US Naval War College believes that dialogue can actually reduce trust when the differences are over national interests. This may be the case with respect to China explaining its active defence or anti-access and area denial strategy. For example, when someone as knowledgeable as retired Rear Adm. Yang Yi claims that it applies only to ‘Taiwan battlefield’ scenarios, US and foreign audiences are sceptical if not incredulous.
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