Sunday, January 16, 2011

China's Military: More Control and More of a Role?

Contributed by Autumn Carter

In a Time article last week, Fareed Zakaria took a look back at the tensing of U.S.-China relations over the past few years. His piece focused on the political relations between the two current regimes and used the angle to frame the nations' bilateral military relations.

Zakaria asserted,
"Over the past two years, China has dealt with the Obama Administration in a puzzling manner. Barack Obama came into office talking about the importance of great-power relationships and the supreme importance of strategic ties with China. He traveled to China and marked the trip by accommodating the Chinese in various symbolic ways. Despite all this, China has been distinctly combative toward Obama."
While it is true that President Obama did make official statements about building the relationship between the U.S. and China, and while he did make a major visit to China early on in his term, his administration's approach to China has also been muddled with contradictory words and actions. In the same breath, administration officials could be heard assuring the Chinese that buying the dollar was not a gamble but also supporting the imposition of broad tariffs on Chinese imports into America. One can certainly argue that there have been confusing diplomatic gestures on both sides of the ocean.

But ultimately, Zakaria does not really seem to doubt that the CCP is moving more towards political cooperation with the U.S. and away from hostility towards the U.S. Zakaria does pose the question of whether the Chinese military has that same stance towards the U.S. military. He argues that as the Chinese military has become a stronger player within China, its influence may begin to bleed more into relations with the U.S. And the major fear put forth is that the CCP might be in the process of loosing control of the military, and he for support he offered the following, "During his recent trip to China, when meeting with President Hu Jintao, Gates mentioned the Chinese military's test of its new stealth fighter. Hu appeared not to know about the test flight."

It would be a leap to argue that this one instance proves that President Hu's administration is losing control of its geopolitical relations. But there is definitely a question of what role China's military will play in shaping the tone of discourse between China and the U.S. as both nations consider military implications in their short- and long-term bilateral strategies.

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