By Yang Yi
News that Admiral Harry Harris, head of US Pacific Command, may be appointed as US ambassador to Australia has aroused people’s attention. Some experts believe that the US, by relying on Harris’ connections in Japan, India, and especially in the Australian government and military, wants to promote the establishment of an “Asia-Pacific NATO” that includes the US, Japan, Australia and India as its main members to contain China’s rise.
There are many precedents of senior US military officers becoming ambassadors to foreign countries after their retirement. But I question Harris’s China policy and the sensitivity of current Sino-US interaction in the Asia-Pacific region. In the process of making policy toward China, especially security policy, the influence of the Pacific Command commander is sometimes greater than the secretary of state.
Compared to previous US Pacific Command commanders in recent decades, Harris has a stronger Cold War mentality and favors more radical policy toward China. Even if Harris’ transfer becomes a reality, we should not exaggerate his role. However, if there is any possibility of the promotion of an “Asia-Pacific NATO,” we must pay due attention and make necessary preparations.
First, adopting a correct attitude toward the change in military strength of China and the US to avoid vicious competition. With the improvement of comprehensive national strength, China’s national defense and military strength continue to increase, triggering US strategic anxiety. China pursues a peaceful development strategy and a defensive military policy.
The improvement of China’s military power can not only safeguard China’s security and development interests, but also provide more public goods which are conducive to regional and world peace, stability and prosperity. Equal and non-threatening military relations between the US and China are the only acceptable option. Second, strengthening strategic communication to ensure security relations are benign.
Sino-US security and military relations have always been the “victims” of the fluctuations in country-to-country relations. Fortunately, with a sound dialogue mechanism and the increase of channels of dialogue, the Sino-US military relationship has been relatively stable. This has played a positive role in promoting mutual understanding and preventing strategic misjudgments. In the future, the two sides should have more communication in tactical objectives, military theory, strategic intentions and other areas.
Third, reducing the “hostile” atmosphere between the two militaries. As military powers, China’s and the US’ deployment of military forces, adjustment of combat theories and development of weapons and equipment are correlated. To maintain national unity and territorial integrity, China has developed and continues to develop military equipment and response programs shaped by preparations for an anti-Taiwan independence military struggle.
This does not aim to threaten the US, but is essential for China’s security interests. As the US believes that these moves hindered the normal operation of US military forces, it has replied in a tit-for-tat fashion: developing combat theories and forces like the Air Sea Battle operational concept and the Conventional Prompt Global Strike program to compete with “Anti-Access/Area Denial.” If China feels threatened by these US combat theories and forces and develops targeted confrontational power, the two countries will fall into a vicious cycle.
Fourth, improving the crisis control mechanism to reduce the risk of Sino-US military conflict. With the strengthening of US military forces in the Asia-Pacific region, the chances of warships and aircraft of the two countries being in the same water and airspace have increased, so the probability of accidents has also increased. In addition to adhering to the international rules and the bilateral code of conduct for military activities, the two sides should improve the crisis control mechanism.
Fifth, properly handling hot security issues to prevent third party factors from undermining the relationship between the two militaries. There are a lot of security hotspots in the Asia-Pacific region, especially around China, such as the Korean Peninsula, the Taiwan Straits, the East China Sea and the South China Sea.
These hot issues are directly related to China’s national interests, and even its core interests. China and the US have no direct territorial disputes in these areas, but if the US gets militarily involved in the disputes between China and other parties, it may trigger military conflict with China. Only by properly handling the above sensitive issues, can Sino-US security and military relations develop steadily and provide a positive support for the overall relationship between China and the US.
The author is a rear admiral of the Navy of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army.
‘Courtesy Global Times’