The Unconventional Plan for Dealing With China

    Hugh Harsono

    Security, Asia

    Military delegates arrive for the fifth plenary session of the National People's Congress (NPC) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China March 17, 2018. REUTERS/Thomas Peter

    There are a variety of alternative ways that the U.S. military can influence Chinese foreign policy—ways that are not necessarily driven by the U.S. military.

    Military-to-military relationships continue to play an important role in foreign policy, though these roles have changed throughout time. Previously, these relationships were as simple as several military forces allying themselves to defeat a common enemy. In the present, the dynamics of soft power and hard power have changed the ways military forces interact, adding additional certain nuances to these relationships. Military relationships between the United States and China are particularly important, specifically because both nations are so closely aligned on economic fronts. However, because of differing and occasionally opposing viewpoints on foreign policy, America and China are simply limited when conducting traditional military-to-military techniques. Therefore, what steps can America—specifically America’s military—take to counter Chinese political and military responses? Also, how can U.S. forces influence cooperation with these Chinese counterparts to ensure lasting positive benefits for all?

    Limitations of Conventional Techniques to Building Nation-State Military Relationships

    The United States approach to improving U.S.-Chinese relationships currently lies in two direct military efforts: exchange programs and joint exercises. These methods are extremely limited in the benefits that they provide the United States and China due to the political and economic competition that the two nations have with one another. That is something particularly underlined in American legislation such as the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act, which defines an official American relationship with the Chinese-unrecognized Taiwan. Additionally, the 1991 Foreign Relations Authorization Act banned U.S. arms exports to China and the 2000 National Defense Authorization Act set specific rules governing U.S.-China military-to-military relations.

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