The military and China’s Army made their first close communication since Biden took office, after weeks of postponement. The focus of that discussion (which was carried out via video conferencing by the US-PRC Defense Telephone Link) was on keeping open channels of interaction between the different countries.
It’s a step in the right direction. Former chief US military officials, on the other hand, caution that greater and more consistent coordination is required to avoid a future conflict between the US and Chinese armed forces in the Indo-Pacific area.
Generals Would Like A More Urgent Approach to the Crisis
“There ought to be a feeling of immediacy here,” departed Adm. Scott Swift, former commander of the United States Pacific Fleet, said. Unforeseen “triggers,” according to Swift, might spark a military clash between the US and China; this could exceed existing diplomatic crisis communication mechanisms.
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The vulnerability of those ties has been demonstrated in the past. In the hours after Chinese troops were ordered to suppress Tiananmen Square, pro-democracy protesters massacred Beijing residents on June 4, 1989.
From here, George H.W. Bush attempted to contact China’s then-paramount dictator Deng Xiaoping. “However, he was unable to get through,” said Brent Scowcroft, Bush’s national security advisor.
As an admiral, Joseph W. Prueher (then the US envoy in Beijing) tried contacting China’s Foreign Office about the April 2001 accident of a Chinese military jet and a US Navy EP-3 observation plane off China’s Hainan Island. However, the past replayed itself.
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Prueher stated, “They didn’t answer my phone call.” They had not yet expressed an interest in speaking with America. Prueher had to wait an additional 12 hours for the Foreign Ministry to start talking about how to end the problem.
War Could Break Out, Due to Lack of Communication
Prueher is worried that a future crisis between the US and Chinese military personnel in the Pacific might “run rampant.” This is due to “non-existent” bilateral military communications lines, as he characterizes them.
Many former top US military personnel have expressed similar concerns, warning that military emergency communications channels between the US and China remain exceedingly unreliable.
Their deficiency creates a real and present threat of potential misunderstanding. This might lead to a disastrous military conflict between the United States and China at a time when bilateral tensions in the Strait and the South China Sea are rising.
China on Wednesday implemented a revised law to strengthen the power of its maritime safety authorities, amid concern that the move could escalate tensions with other countries. https://t.co/QSzEBLqIEc
— The Japan Times (@japantimes) September 1, 2021
There are worries about how hard it could be to avoid violence on one or both sides, said retired US Army Colonel Karl Eikenberry. In the Indo-Pacific area, there is a dangerous level of mistrust between the US and Chinese forces.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken actually warned of “rapidly deteriorating frictions with the Chinese Navy” in the South China Sea. He also said that an armed confrontation between the US and China would have major global ramifications for security and business.
China’s progressively aggressive posture towards the self-governing island of Taiwan (as well as China’s refusal to cooperate with a 2016 court decision rejecting China’s assertions of sovereign rights over vast swaths of the South China Sea) are the contributors of those tensions.