US-China Defense Relationships Improving Despite National Tensions


A recently published piece in Defense One Magazine paints a picture of hope for increasingly positive interactions between the US and China on a military level. The author says that although the relationship may be complicated and certainly contains some levels of tension, both the US and Chinese administrations are optimistic about the potential of military-to-military exchanges between the US and China as a means to achieve stability and prevent misunderstandings from escalating.


Of course, there is room for improvement. Policies in both militaries make depth of military-to-military relationships difficult. Currently, the majority of interactions between the US and Chinese militaries are relegated to top level officials. Additionally, the short-term nature of these officials’ postings (according to the article usually two to three years in length) make forming meaningful bonds with Chinese officers difficult. The article explains how Ralph Jodice, a retired Air Force lieutenant general who served as the U.S. defense attache to China from 2004 to 2007, through conversations with Chinese officials came to discover how they viewed their foreign relationships: pengyou, hao pengyou, and lao pengyou (friend, good friend and old friend). “The first time a U.S. official visited, they were a pengyou; the second time they were hao pengyou, and the third time they were lao pengyou. The Chinese officials would say that one needed to become an old friend before substantive policy change could happen.”

The article goes on to list a few other ideological and logistical challenges to building the military relations between the US and China, but the takeaway is clear: the frequency of positive exchange between our two militaries is ramping up, despite significant cultural and ideological challenges. We hope this is a sign of a maturing bilateral relationship and dedication to work together for a common goal: peace.

All facts and images are sourced from the article, which can be read in full here: