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Thursday, 30 September 2010

Military Maneuvers

With the world economy forecasted to be more and more dependent on the dynamic between the United States and China in the future, it is in nearly everyone's interests to see Sino-Japanese relations on a long-term stable footing. Recent months have seen renewed tensions between Washington and Beijing over the People's Republic's valuations of the RMB, with the US Congress currently considering a bill to allow for economic sanctions against countries that undervalue their currencies. In addition, last month, relations were soured by the publication of a Pentagon report expressing concern over China's military capabilities and intentions. Unsurprisingly considering its efforts to cultivate an image of the PRC as a responsible political player on the international stage, Beijing was quick to denounce America's findings. This led to a startling counter-accusation by some Chinese academics that the US was over-exaggerating the Chinese threat to provide an excuse for enhancing its own military and cyber technologies.

In the last few weeks, Washington will have been eyeing the deterioration of China's relations with Japan with some concern, especially as it has close links with Tokyo (it is not unknown for the Chinese to jump the gun with respect to American loyalties and support). The fallout in Asia over the Diaoyu Islands affair will impact on the worldwide economic and diplomatic scene, and much of this is yet to be seen.

However, today has brought some positives. The decision of the People's Daily Online to frontpage a story about a resumption in the Sino-American military dialogue reflects the continued willingness in Beijing to work to lessen the tensions between the two nations. Perhaps as a follow-up from Premier Wen Jiabao's meetings with President Barack Obama last week on the sidelines of the United Nations, both sides have decided to end the freeze on military exchanges imposed by the PRC after the Obama administration took a new arms deal with Taiwan to Congress in January. As the People's Daily reported, Chinese and US officials will come to the table for maritime talks in October, with the prospect of higher level defence exchanges later this year.

Few would suggest that this is anything really more than the military and defence establishments of the two nations kick-starting talks again. Issues like North Korea's development of nuclear weapons and America's relations with Taiwan will continue to put pressure on communications between both sides. However, this news also demonstrates the fact that neither Washington or Beijing can afford to cold-shoulder the other for that long. The development of both China and the US is inextricably linked, making maintaining good relations between the two less of an option and more of a long-term necessity. The fact that each one realises this should be a source of much encouragement to the international community.

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