Mullen in China, Revisited

, China project manager and senior analyst | July 27, 2011, 11:42 am EDT
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In a recent post, I described the Chinese media’s coverage of US Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen’s visit to China. At the end of the post I expressed the hope that his comments to US audiences would be as positive and reassuring as his comments to the Chinese media. Yesterday, in an op-ed in the New York Times, that hope was realized.

The Chinese media coverage suggested military to military talks between the U.S. and China were difficult but worthwhile, frank but respectful. Admiral Mullen’s editorial conveys the same message.

Moreover, it seems Admiral Mullen now realizes what we at UCS have been saying for some time: there are serious misunderstandings on both sides that can be addressed through increased contact and dialog. Mullen writes:

Sometimes bluntness and honesty are exactly what’s needed to create strategic trust. And we will need more of it.

I’m not naïve. I understand the concerns of those who feel that any cooperation benefits China more than the United States. I just don’t agree. This relationship is too important to manage through blind suspicion and mistrust. We’ve tried that. It doesn’t work.

I’m not suggesting we look the other way on serious issues, that we abandon healthy skepticism, or that we change our military’s focus on the region. But we need to keep communication open and work hard to improve each interaction.

It’s a message that deserves a wider audience in the United States, especially in the halls of Congress.

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