Search this site:

 

U.S.-China Military Contacts: Issues for Congress

CRS Report for Congress
Prepared for Members and Committees of Congress
U.S.-China Military Contacts:
Issues for Congress
Shirley A. Kan
Specialist in Asian Security Affairs
November 27, 2012
Congressional Research Service
7-5700
www.crs.gov
RL32496
U.S.-China Military Contacts: Issues for Congress
Congressional Research Service
Summary
This CRS report, updated as warranted, discusses policy issues regarding military-to-military
(mil-to-mil) contacts with the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and provides a record of major
contacts and crises since 1993. The United States suspended military contacts with China and
imposed sanctions on arms sales in response to the Tiananmen Crackdown in 1989. In 1993, the
Clinton Administration re-engaged with the top PRC leadership, including China’s military, the
People’s Liberation Army (PLA). Renewed military exchanges with the PLA have not regained
the closeness reached in the 1980s, when U.S.-PRC strategic cooperation against the Soviet
Union included U.S. arms sales to China. Improvements and deteriorations in overall bilateral
relations have affected military contacts, which were close in 1997-1998 and 2000, but marred by
the 1995-1996 Taiwan Strait crisis, mistaken NATO bombing of a PRC embassy in 1999, the EP-
3 aircraft collision crisis in 2001, and aggressive maritime confrontations (including in 2009).
Issues for Congress include whether the Obama Administration has complied with legislation
overseeing dealings with the PLA and pursued contacts with the PLA that advance a prioritized
set of U.S. security interests, especially the operational safety of U.S. military personnel.
Oversight legislation includes the Foreign Relations Authorization Act for FY1990-FY1991 (P.L.
101-246) and National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for FY2000 (P.L. 106-65). Skeptics
and proponents of military exchanges with the PRC have debated whether the contacts have
achieved results in U.S. objectives and whether the contacts have contributed to the PLA’s
warfighting capabilities that might harm U.S. security interests. Some have argued about whether
the value that U.S. officials place on the contacts overly extends leverage to the PLA. Some
believe talks can serve U.S. interests that include conflict avoidance/crisis management; militarycivilian
coordination; transparency and reciprocity; tension reduction over Taiwan; weapons
nonproliferation; nuclear/missile/space/cyber talks; counterterrorism; and POW/MIA accounting.
In 2010 and 2011, the PLA criticized U.S. arms sales to Taiwan and claimed to “suspend” U.S.-
PRC military contacts. Then, in 2011, the PLA hosted the Defense Secretary in January, and the
PLA Chief of General Staff visited in May. In May 2012, General Liang Guanglie visited as the
first PRC Defense Minister to do so since 2003. Defense Secretary Panetta visited in September.
Policymakers could review the approach to mil-to-mil contacts, given concerns about crises. U.S.
officials have faced challenges in cooperation from the PLA. The PLA has tried to use its
suspensions of exchanges while blaming U.S. “obstacles” (including arms sales to Taiwan, legal
restrictions on contacts, and the Pentagon’s reports to Congress on the PLA). The PRC’s
harassment of U.S. surveillance ships (in 2009) and increasing assertiveness in maritime areas
have shown the limits to mil-to-mil talks and PLA restraint. Still, at the Strategic and Economic
Dialogue (S&ED) in July 2009, President Obama called for military contacts to diminish disputes
with China. The U.S. military seeks to expand cooperation with the PLA. The NDAA for FY2010
(P.L. 111-84) amended P.L. 106-65 for the annual report on PRC military power to expand the
focus to security developments involving the PRC, add cooperative elements, and fold in another
report on mil-to-mil contacts. However, the Administration was late in submitting this report in
2010, 2011, and 2012. Enacted as P.L. 112-81 on December 31, 2011, the FY2012 NDAA
required reporting on cyber threats but did not require a change back to the original title, while
adding a requirement for a report from the Defense Secretary before any waiver of a ban on
defense procurement from PLA companies. H.R. 4310 and S. 3254, NDAA for FY2013, would
strengthen the annual reporting on military and security challenges and mil-to-mil engagement.
U.S.-China Military Contacts: Issues for Congress
Congressional Research Service
Contents
Overview of and Options for Policy ................................................................................................ 1
Cooperation in the Cold War in the 1980s ................................................................................. 1
Suspensions After the Tiananmen Crackdown of 1989 ............................................................. 1
Re-engagement and Recovery from Crises ............................................................................... 2
Re-evaluation ............................................................................................................................. 2
Resumption ................................................................................................................................ 3
Reappraisal ................................................................................................................................ 3
Options ...................................................................................................................................... 4
Policy Issues for Congress ............................................................................................................... 9
Congressional Oversight ......................................................................................................... 10
Arms Sales ........................................................................................................................ 11
Joint Defense Conversion Commission (JDCC) ............................................................... 12
Past Reporting Requirement .............................................................................................. 12
Programs of Exchanges ..................................................................................................... 13
Restrictions in the FY2000 NDAA ................................................................................... 13
Required Reports and Classification ................................................................................. 14
Prohibitions on Defense Procurement ............................................................................... 17
Foreign Aid ........................................................................................................................ 17
Leverage to Pursue U.S. Security Objectives .......................................................................... 17
Objectives .......................................................................................................................... 17
Debate ............................................................................................................................... 19
Perspectives ....................................................................................................................... 22
U.S. Security Interests ............................................................................................................. 25
Communication, Conflict Avoidance, and Crisis Management ........................................ 25
Civilian Control over PLA and Civil-Military Coordination ............................................ 30
Transparency, Reciprocity, and Information-Exchange .................................................... 32
Tension Reduction over Taiwan ........................................................................................ 34
Weapons Nonproliferation ................................................................................................ 38
Strategic Nuclear, Missile, Space, and Cyber Security ..................................................... 39
Counterterrorism ............................................................................................................... 42
Accounting for POW/MIAs .............................................................................................. 44
Figures
Figure 1. Map: China’s Military Regions ........................................................................................ 9
Tables
Table 1. The PLA’s High Command ................................................................................................ 7
Table 2. Summary of Senior-Level Military Visits Since 1994 ....................................................... 8
U.S.-China Military Contacts: Issues for Congress
Congressional Research Service
Appendixes
Appendix. Major Military Contacts and Incidents Since 1993 ...................................................... 47
Contacts
Author Contact Information........................................................................................................... 73
Acknowledgments ......................................................................................................................... 73
U.S.-China Military Contacts: Issues for Congress
Congressional Research Service 1
Overview of and Options for Policy
U.S. leaders have applied military contacts as one tool and point of leverage in the broader policy
toward the People’s Republic of China (PRC). The first part of this CRS Report discusses policy
issues regarding such military-to-military (mil-to-mil) contacts. The second part provides a record
of such contacts since 1993, when the United States resumed exchanges after suspending them in
response to the Tiananmen Crackdown in 1989. Congress has exercised important oversight of
the military relationship with China.
Cooperation in the Cold War in the 1980s
Since the mid-1970s, even before the normalization of relations with Beijing, the debate over
policy toward the PRC has examined how military ties might advance U.S. security interests,
beginning with the imperatives of the Cold War.1 In January 1980, Secretary of Defense Harold
Brown visited China and laid the groundwork for a relationship with the PRC’s military,
collectively called the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), intended to consist of strategic dialogue,
reciprocal exchanges in functional areas, and arms sales. Furthermore, U.S. policy changed in
1981 to remove the ban on arms sales to China. Secretary of Defense Casper Weinberger visited
Beijing in September 1983. In 1984, U.S. policymakers worked to advance discussions on
military technological cooperation with China.2 There were commercial sales to the PLA that
included Sikorsky Aircraft’s sale of 24 S-70C transport helicopters (an unarmed version of the
Black Hawk helicopter) and General Electric’s sale of five gas turbine engines for two naval
destroyers.3 Between 1985 and 1987, the United States also agreed to four programs of
government-to-government Foreign Military Sales (FMS): modernization of artillery ammunition
production facilities; modernization of avionics in F-8 fighters; sale of four Mark-46 antisubmarine
torpedoes; and sale of four AN/TPQ-37 artillery-locating radars.4
Suspensions After the Tiananmen Crackdown of 1989
The United States suspended mil-to-mil contacts and arms sales in response to the Tiananmen
Crackdown in June 1989. (Although the killing of peaceful demonstrators took place beyond just
Tiananmen Square in the capital of Beijing on June 4, 1989, the crackdown is commonly called
the Tiananmen Crackdown in reference to the square that was the focal point of the nationwide
pro-democracy movement.) Approved in February 1990, the Foreign Relations Authorization Act
for FY1990-FY1991 (P.L. 101-246) enacted into law sanctions imposed on arms sales and other
cooperation, while allowing for waivers in the general U.S. national interest. In April 1990, China
canceled the program (called “Peace Pearl”) to upgrade the avionics of the F-8 fighters.5 In
1 Michael Pillsbury, “U.S.-Chinese Military Ties?,” Foreign Policy, Fall 1975; Leslie Gelb, “Arms Sales,” Foreign
Policy, Winter 1976-77; Michael Pillsbury, “Future Sino-American Security Ties: The View from Tokyo, Moscow, and
Peking,” International Security, Spring 1977; and Philip Taubman, “U.S. and China Forging Close Ties; Critics Fear
That Pace is Too Swift,” New York Times, December 8, 1980.
2 Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for East Asian and Pacific Affairs James Kelly, Testimony before the House
Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asian and Pacific Affairs, “Defense Relations with the PRC,” June 5, 1984.
3 Wall Street Journal, August 6, 1984, and August 2, 1985. The helicopters lacked capability to fly low and fast.
4 Department of State and DSCA, “Congressional Presentation for Security Assistance, Fiscal Year 1992.”
5 Jane’s Defence Weekly, May 26, 1990.
U.S.-China Military Contacts: Issues for Congress
Congressional Research Service 2
December 1992, President Bush decided to close out the four cases of suspended FMS programs,
returning PRC equipment, reimbursing unused funds, and delivering sold items without support.6
Re-engagement and Recovery from Crises
In the fall of 1993, the Clinton Administration began to re-engage the PRC leadership up to the
highest level and across the board, including the PLA, after suspensions over the crisis in 1989.
However, results were limited and the military relationship did not regain the closeness reached in
the 1980s, when the United States and China cooperated strategically against the Soviet Union
and such cooperation included arms sales to the PLA. Improvements and deteriorations in overall
bilateral relations affected mil-to-mil contacts, which had close ties in 1997-1998 and 2000, but
were marred by the 1995-1996 Taiwan Strait Crisis, mistaken NATO bombing of the PRC
embassy in Yugoslavia in 1999, and the EP-3 aircraft collision crisis in 2001.
Re-evaluation
In 2001, the George W. Bush Administration continued the policy of engagement with the PRC,
while the Pentagon skeptically reviewed and cautiously resumed a program of mil-to-mil
exchanges. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld reviewed the mil-to-mil contacts to assess the
effectiveness of the exchanges in meeting U.S. objectives of reciprocity and transparency. Soon
after the review began, on April 1, 2001, a PLA Navy F-8 fighter collided with a U.S. Navy EP-3
reconnaissance plane over the South China Sea.7 Upon surviving the collision, the EP-3’s crew
made an emergency landing on China’s Hainan Island. The PLA detained the 24 U.S. Navy
personnel for 11 days. Instead of acknowledging that the PLA had started aggressive interceptions
of U.S. reconnaissance flights in December 2000 and apologizing for the accident, top PRC ruler
Jiang Zemin demanded an apology and compensation from the United States. Rumsfeld limited
mil-to-mil contacts after the crisis, subject to case-by-case approval, after the White House
objected to a suspension of contacts with the PLA as outlined in an April 30 Defense Department
memo. Rumsfeld told reporters on May 8, 2001, that he decided against visits to China by U.S.
ships or aircraft and against social contacts, because “it really wasn’t business as usual.” Deputy
Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz reported to Congress on June 8, 2001, that mil-to-mil
exchanges for 2001 remained under review by Secretary Rumsfeld and exchanges with the PLA
would be conducted “selectively and on a case-by-case basis.” The United States did not transport
the damaged EP-3 out of China until July 3, 2001.
The Bush Administration hosted PRC Vice President Hu Jintao in Washington in the spring of
2002 (with an honor cordon at the Pentagon) and President Jiang Zemin in Crawford, TX, in
October 2002. Afterwards, Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld, in late 2002, resumed the Defense
Consultative Talks (DCT) with the PLA (first held in 1997) and, in 2003, hosted General Cao
Gangchuan, a Vice Chairman of the Central Military Commission (CMC) and Defense Minister.
(The CMC under the Communist Party of China (CPC) commands the PLA. The Ministry of
Defense and its titles are used in contacts with foreign militaries.) General Richard Myers
(USAF), Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, visited China in January 2004, as the highest
6 Department of State, “Presidential Decision on Military Sales to China,” December 22, 1992.
7 CRS Report RL30946, China-U.S. Aircraft Collision Incident of April 2001: Assessments and Policy Implications, by
Shirley A. Kan et al.
U.S.-China Military Contacts: Issues for Congress
Congressional Research Service 3
ranking U.S. military officer to do so since November 2000. (See Table 1 on the PLA’s high
command and Table 2 on the summary of senior-level military visits.)
Visiting Beijing in January 2004, Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage met with PRC
leaders, including General Cao Gangchuan. Armitage acknowledged that “the military-to-military
relationship had gotten off to a rocky start,” but noted that the relationship had improved so that
“it’s come pretty much full cycle.” He said that “we’re getting back on track with the military-tomilitary
relationship.”8
Resumption
Still, mil-to-mil interactions remained “exceedingly limited,” according to the Commander of the
Pacific Command, Admiral William Fallon, who visited China to advance mil-to-mil contacts in
September 2005. He discussed building relationships at higher and lower ranks, cooperation in
responding to natural disasters and controlling avian flu, and reducing tensions. Fallon also said
that he would seek to enhance military-to-military contacts with China and invite PLA observers
to U.S. military exercises, an issue of dispute in Washington.9 In October 2005, Defense Secretary
Donald Rumsfeld visited China, the first visit by a defense secretary since William Cohen’s visit
in 2000. After Rumsfeld’s visit, which was long sought by the PLA for the perceived full
resumption of the military relationship, General Guo Boxiong, a CMC Vice Chairman and the
PLA’s highest ranking officer visited the United States in July 2006, the first such visit since
General Zhang Wannian’s visit in 1998.
Reappraisal
China’s rising power with greater assertiveness and aggressiveness (particularly in maritime
areas), refusal to discuss nuclear weapons, cyber threats, and repeated suspensions of visits
showed limitations of the results of mil-to-mil exchanges. Also, a need arose for a review of the
U.S. approach of a greater stress on cooperative contacts than the PLA’s antagonistic attitude and
leveraging of military contacts to influence U.S. policies. The PLA has repeatedly suspended milto-
mil contacts while blaming U.S. “obstacles” (including U.S. reconnaissance, arms sales to
Taiwan, legislated restrictions on contacts with the PLA, and the Pentagon’s annual report to
Congress on PRC Military Power). At a news conference on March 7, 2007, Defense Secretary
Robert Gates said that he did not see China as a “strategic adversary” of the United States, but “a
partner in some respects” and a “competitor in other respects.” Gates stressed the importance of
engaging the PRC “on all facets of our relationship as a way of building mutual confidence.”
Nonetheless, U.S. officials expressed concern about inadequate “transparency” from the PLA,
notably when it tested an anti-satellite (ASAT) weapon in January 2007. At a news conference in
China on March 23, 2007, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Marine General Peter Pace,
said the primary concern for the bilateral relationship is “miscalculation and misunderstanding
based on misinformation.” Deputy Under Secretary of Defense Richard Lawless testified to the
House Armed Services Committee on June 13, 2007, that “in the absence of adequate explanation
for capabilities which are growing dynamically, both in terms of pace and scope, we are put in the
8 Department of State, “Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage‘s Media Round Table,” Beijing, January 30, 2004.
9 U.S. Pacific Command, Adm. William J. Fallon, press conference, Hong Kong, September 11, 2005; and author’s
discussions with Pentagon officials.
U.S.-China Military Contacts: Issues for Congress
Congressional Research Service 4
position of having to assume the most dangerous intent a capability offers.” He noted a lack of
response from the PLA to an agreement at the U.S.-PRC summit in 2006 to discuss nuclear arms.
In November 2007, despite various unresolved issues, Secretary Gates visited China, and the PLA
agreed to a long-sought U.S. goal of a “hotline.” Later in the month, despite a number of senior
U.S. visits to China (particularly by U.S. Navy Admirals and Secretary Gates) to promote the milto-
mil relationship, the PRC denied port calls at Hong Kong for U.S. Navy minesweepers in
distress and for the aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk for the Thanksgiving holiday and family
reunions, according to the Pacific Command (PACOM)’s Commander and Chief of Naval
Operations (CNO), Admirals Timothy Keating and Gary Roughead. The Pentagon protested to
the PLA.10 Again after the President notified Congress about arms sales to Taiwan in October
2008 and January 2010, the PLA repeated cycles of suspensions of military exchanges in what the
Pentagon called “continued politicization” of such contacts. In spite of its goal of cooperative
engagement, the U.S. Navy faced the PRC’s dangerous harassment of U.S. surveillance ships in
March and May 2009. At the U.S.-PRC Strategic and Economic Dialogue (S&ED) in July 2009
in Washington, President Obama stressed military contacts to diminish disputes with China. Later
in 2009, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for FY2010 (P.L. 111-84) amended the
requirement in P.L. 106-65 for the report to Congress on PRC military power to expand the focus
to security developments, add cooperative elements, and fold in another requirement to report on
mil-to-mil contacts, including a new strategy on such contacts. Meanwhile, Admiral Robert
Willard, PACOM Commander, initiated in Honolulu in January 2010 reviews of approaches
toward the PRC and toward Taiwan (among other concerns like North Korea) by “Strategic Focus
Groups (SFGs)” under a Director of Strategic Synchronization.
Options
In a reassessment of the U.S. strategy toward and limitations of U.S. leverage in mil-to-mil
contacts to resolve disputes, policymakers have a number of options. The PRC’s reduced
appreciation for mil-to-mil exchanges has accompanied its rising assertiveness. Some say China’s
rising influence has reduced U.S. influence in relative terms. Others say U.S. power and
leadership remain dominant and valued by many countries to balance against China, with the
potential for the United States to shape China’s rise as a responsible and law-abiding power. In
this context, one option is to stay the course in urging a more mature relationship to reduce
miscalculations and misperceptions, while dealing with repeated cycles in which the PLA
suspends contacts and then leverages the timing when it chooses to “resume” talks. A critical
view questions whether the status quo can be sustainable for long without another confrontation
with China and urges stepping up substantive talks about mutual concerns and relaxing
restrictions on engagement with the PLA. A different critical view recognizes that over the longterm,
the military relationship has remained rocky and has reflected realistically not only the
antagonistic approach of the PLA but more broadly the PRC toward the United States. In this
view, the crux of the challenge for the U.S. military is not misunderstanding or misperception but
primarily competing (not common) interests. Alternatively, rather than either a major rise or
retrenchment in reaching out to the PLA, the U.S. military could recalibrate by reducing eager
requests and placing priority on the safety of U.S. military personnel in the air and at sea.
10 “Navy: China ‘Not Helpful’ on Thanksgiving,” Associated Press, November 28, 2007; White House press briefing,
November 28, 2007; Washington Post, November 29, 2007.
U.S.-China Military Contacts: Issues for Congress
Congressional Research Service 5
More specific options include a shift to stress multilateral settings for engagement with the PLA,
so that it has to engage with many countries which can amplify their concerns. However, U.S.-
PRC disputes could remain unaddressed and affect any effective cooperation in international
contexts. In its first long-distance operation, the PLA Navy has cooperated with the U.S. Navy
and others to fight piracy in the Gulf of Aden since December 2008. Partly to address concerns of
China’s Asian-Pacific neighbors, the U.S. military could engage the PLA along with the 10-
member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)11 and the ASEAN Regional Forum
(ARF). The International Institute for Strategic Studies has held the annual “Shangri-la Dialogue”
of defense ministers in Singapore since 2002. China’s absence from the forum until 2007 and
refusals until 2011 to send the appropriate representation of the defense minister raised questions
about China’s willingness to engage with others on military matters and at an equal level.
Indeed, Defense Secretary Gates attended the Shangri-la Dialogue in June 2010 and critically
declared that the United States will remain a power in the Pacific and that the South China Sea
became an area of growing concern regarding the use of force, challenges to freedom of
navigation, and intimidation of U.S. and other companies. Gates chastised the PLA for not
following up with the top-level commitment by President Obama and Hu Jintao in 2009 to
advance the mil-to-mil relationship. Hu is the CPC General-Secretary, CMC Chairman, and PRC
President. Gates defended arms sales to Taiwan as part of U.S. policy since 1979 in part because
of China’s accelerating military buildup that largely has focused on Taiwan. He reiterated that his
department sought sustained and reliable military contacts to reduce miscommunication,
misunderstanding, and miscalculation. Such contacts would support regional security and a U.S.-
PRC relationship that is positive in tone, cooperative in nature, and comprehensive in scope,
Gates emphasized.12 (President Obama has pursued a “positive, cooperative, and comprehensive”
relationship with the PRC, but the PRC has translated “positive” with a Chinese word meaning
“proactive.”) The PLA sent a lower-level official (PLA Deputy Chief of General Staff and Air
Force General Ma Xiaotian) to the meeting and declined to host Gates for a visit in China.
By early September 2010, PRC media reported General Ma as saying positive remarks about the
U.S.-PRC military relationship, but the Defense Department spokesman cautioned on September
9 that Secretary Gates was not interested in merely “engagement for the sake of engagement.”
Gates again visited Asia in attending in Hanoi on October 11-12 the first ASEAN Defense
Ministers’ Meeting Plus (ADMM-Plus) between ASEAN and dialogue partners (Australia, China,
India, Japan, Republic of Korea, New Zealand, Russia, and the United States). This time, the PLA
sent appropriate representation. A CMC Member and the Defense Minister, General Liang
Guanglie, spoke in a moderate tone even as several countries raised concerns about China’s
maritime claims. Further, Minister Liang invited Secretary Gates to visit in January 2011. On
June 3-5, 2011, the PLA finally dispatched for the first time the Defense Minister to the Shangrila
Dialogue. Defense Secretary Gates held a meeting with General Liang Guanglie. However, the
PLA refused to send Defense Minister Liang to the Shangri-la Dialogue in June 2012.
Another option is for mil-to-mil to be integrated further into the overall bilateral relationship,
pursued by the Obama Administration to shape China’s rise as a peaceful, responsible, and rulesbased
power. As Gates implied a civil-military divide, there could be useful reminders to the PLA
to respect the top PRC leadership’s commitment to U.S.-PRC military engagement, other aspects
of PRC external policies, and international laws and norms. (Also see section below on “Civilian
11 Brunei, Burma, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.
12 Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, speech at Shangri-la Hotel, Singapore, June 5, 2010.
U.S.-China Military Contacts: Issues for Congress
Congressional Research Service 6
Control over PLA and Civil-Military Coordination.”) Before Gates’ visit in January 2011, Deputy
Assistant Secretary of Defense Michael Schiffer said in a speech on January 6 that mil-to-mil
should be a critical component of bilateral engagement. However, any setbacks to the military
contacts could result in costs to the overall security, economic, and political relationship. There
also could be a risk that military mistrust could drive the bilateral relationship.
At the Strategic and Economic Dialogue (S&ED) in Washington in July 2009, President Obama
stressed that increased ties between our militaries could diminish causes for disputes while
providing a framework for cooperation. The Under Secretary of Defense for Policy and the
PACOM Commander attended that meeting, but the PLA reluctantly sent a lower-level official.
For the next S&ED in Beijing in May 2010, the Pentagon sent the Assistant Secretary of Defense
for Asian and Pacific Security Affairs and the PACOM Commander, even while the PLA
suspended some exchanges in claimed objection to U.S. arms sales to Taiwan. Assistant Secretary
of State Kurt Campbell asserted an “innovation” to include a senior PLA official (Deputy Chief of
General Staff Ma Xiaotian) at the 3rd S&ED in Washington on May 9-10, 2011. Still, the Chief of
General Staff planned his visit on May 15-22, days after the S&ED.
Specifically regarding the PLA’s objection to U.S. arms sales to Taiwan, U.S. options include
reconsidering the policy under the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA) of 1979, P.L. 96-8, to make
available arms for Taiwan’s self-defense. Others have called for breaking the cycles since 2008 in
which Presidents Bush and Obama waited on pending arms sales programs to notify Congress all
at one time, cycles that raised expectations in Beijing of changes in U.S. policy leading to
escalations in Beijing’s demands for compromises or negotiations. Another option would discuss
with the PLA how the United States has responded to the PLA’s threat posture against Taiwan.
Select Abbreviations
AMS Academy of Military Science
CMC Central Military Commission
COSTIND Commission of Science, Technology, and Industry for National Defense
CPC Communist Party of China
DCT Defense Consultative Talks
DPCT Defense Policy Coordination Talks
DPMO Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office
GAD General Armament Department
GLD General Logistics Department
GPD General Political Department
GSD General Staff Department
MR Military Region
MMCA Military Maritime Consultative Agreement
NDU National Defense University
PACOM Pacific Command
PLAAF People’s Liberation Army Air Force
PLAN People’s Liberation Army Navy
U.S.-China Military Contacts: Issues for Congress
Congressional Research Service 7
Table 1. The PLA’s High Command
Central Military Commission (CMC) of the CPC
Chairman
Vice Chm
Vice Chm
Member
Member
Member
Member
Member
Member
Member
Member
General
General, PLAAF
General
General
General
General
General
Admiral, PLAN
General, PLAAF
General
Xi Jinping
Fan Changlong
Xu Qiliang
Chang Wanquan
Fang Fenghui
Zhang Yang
Zhao Keshi
Zhang Youxia
Wu Shengli
Ma Xiaotian
Wei Fenghe
CPC General Secretary; likely to be PRC President in 2013
CPC Politburo Member
CPC Politburo Member
likely to succeed Liang Guanglie as Defense Minister in 2013
Chief of General Staff (GSD)
Director of GPD
Director of GLD
Director of GAD
Commander of the Navy
Commander of the Air Force
Commander of the 2nd Artillery
Notes: Jiang Zemin was installed as the previous chairman of the CPC’s CMC in November 1989 and remained in
this position after handing other positions as CPC General Secretary and PRC President to Hu Jintao. Jiang had ruled
as the General Secretary of the CPC from June 1989 until November 2002, when he stepped down at the 16th CPC
Congress in favor of Hu Jintao. Jiang concurrently represented the PRC as president from March 1993 until March
2003, when he stepped down at the 10th National People’s Congress (NPC). At the 4th plenum of the 16th Central
Committee in September 2004, Jiang resigned as CMC Chairman, allowing Hu to complete the transition of power.
At the same time, General Xu Caihou rose from a CMC Member to a Vice Chairman, and the Commanders of the
PLA Air Force, Navy, and 2nd Artillery rose to be CMC Members for the first time in the PLA’s history, reflecting new
appreciation and action to integrate the PLA as a joint force. Xi Jinping was named as a CMC Vice Chairman on
October 18, 2010, further indicating that he would succeed Hu Jintao as the next CPC General Secretary in 2012.
In November 2012, the 7th plenum of the 17th Central Committee announced the appointments of Fan Changlong
(though not a CMC Member) and Xu Qiliang to be Vice Chairmen, promoted respectively from positions as the
Commanders of the Jinan MR and PLAAF. PLA officers outside of the ground forces increased from three to four on
the CMC, further expanding joint representation. Contrary to Jiang Zemin, Hu Jintao transferred to Xi Jinping both
positions as CPC General Secretary and CMC Chairman at the leadership transition during the 18th Party Congress,
allowing General Secretary Xi to consolidate the CPC’s top control over the PLA and represent the PLA on the
seven-man Politburo Standing Committee.
The PRC Defense Minister is not equivalent to the U.S. Secretary of Defense in terms of authority or functions. The
Defense Minister has no operational command of forces and primarily performs in foreign relations. The Defense
Minister also is a government position under the State Council (like a Cabinet) and is concurrently a State Councilor.
U.S.-China Military Contacts: Issues for Congress
Congressional Research Service 8
Table 2. Summary of Senior-Level Military Visits Since 1994
Year Defense Secretary/Minister Highest Ranking Officer Defense Consultative Talks
1994 William Perry
1995
1996 Chi Haotian
1997 John Shalikashvili 1st DCT
1998 William Cohen Zhang Wannian 2nd DCT
1999
2000 William Cohen Henry Shelton 3rd DCT; 4th DCT
2001
2002 5th DCT
2003 Cao Gangchuan
2004 Richard Myers 6th DCT
2005 Donald Rumsfeld 7th DCT
2006 Guo Boxiong 8th DCT
2007
2008
2009
Robert Gates Peter Pace 9th DCT
10th DCT
2010 11th DCT
2011 Robert Gates Michael Mullen 12th DCT
2012 Liang Guanglie, Leon Panetta
U.S.-China Military Contacts: Issues for Congress
Congressional Research Service 9
Figure 1. Map: China’s Military Regions
Policy Issues for Congress
Skepticism in the United States about the value of military exchanges with China has increased
with the experiences in the 1990s; crises like the PLA’s missile exercises targeting Taiwan in
1995-1996, mistaken bombing of the PRC embassy in Belgrade in 1999, and the F-8/EP-3
collision crisis of 2001; and China’s confrontations over maritime areas. Still, Presidents and
some in Congress have striven to increase collaboration with the PLA. One long-standing issue
has concerned whether travel to Asia includes visits only to China or visits also to allies.
In 2002, President George W. Bush decided to pursue a closer relationship with the PRC. As the
Defense Department gradually resumed the mil-to-mil relationship in that context, policy issues
for Congress included whether the Administration complied with legislation and used leverage
effectively in its contacts with the PLA to advance a prioritized list of U.S. security interests,
while balancing security concerns about the PLA’s warfighting capabilities.
U.S.-China Military Contacts: Issues for Congress
Congressional Research Service 10
President Barack Obama met with Hu Jintao at the G-20 summit in London on April 1, 2009, and
they agreed to improve the mil-to-mil relationship and set up a Strategic and Economic Dialogue
(S&ED). (As seen in Table 1, Hu Jintao is the CPC General-Secretary, CMC Chairman, and PRC
President.) The S&ED combined the Bush Administration’s Strategic Economic Dialogue chaired
by the Secretary of the Treasury with the Senior Dialogue chaired by the Deputy Secretary of
State, used the PRC’s preferred term of “strategic” instead of “senior” dialogue, and elevated the
Secretary of State to a co-chair. Speaking at the 1st S&ED in Washington in July 2009, President
Obama stressed military contacts to diminish disputes with China, starting the integration of
military talks in the S&ED and mil-to-mil in the overall relationship. The Administration also has
raised attention to a need for the PLA to coordinate with the top leaders or civilian officials.
Congressional Oversight
Congress has exercised oversight of various aspects of military exchanges with China. Issues for
Congress include whether the Administration has complied with legislation overseeing dealings
with the PLA and has determined a program of contacts with the PLA that advances, and does not
harm, U.S. security interests. Section 902 of the Foreign Relations Authorization Act for FY1990-
FY1991 (P.L. 101-246) prohibits arms sales to China, among other stipulations, in response to the
Tiananmen Crackdown in 1989. Section 1201 of the National Defense Authorization Act for
FY2000 (P.L. 106-65) restricts “inappropriate exposure” of the PLA to certain operational areas
and requires annual reports on contacts with the PLA. Section 1211 of the National Defense
Authorization Act for FY2006 (P.L. 109-163) prohibits procurement from any “Communist
Chinese military company” for goods and services on the Munitions List, with exceptions for
U.S. military ship or aircraft visits to the PRC, testing, and intelligence-collection; as well as
waiver authority for the Secretary of Defense. The NDAA for FY2010 (P.L. 111-84) amended the
requirement in P.L. 106-65 for the annual report on PRC military power to expand the focus to
security developments involving the PRC, add cooperative elements, and fold in another
requirement to report on mil-to-mil contacts, including a new strategy for such contacts.
One issue for Congress in examining the military relationship with the PRC is the role of
Congress, including the extent of congressional oversight of the Administration’s policy.
Congress could, as it has in the past, consider the following options:
• Host PLA delegations on Capitol Hill or meet them at other venues
• Engage with the PLA as an aspect of visits by Codels to China
• Receive briefings by the Administration before and/or after military visits
• Hold hearings on related issues
• Investigate or oversee investigations of prisoner-of-war/missing-in-action
(POW/MIA) cases (once under the specialized jurisdiction of the Senate Select
Committee on POW/MIA Affairs)
• Write letters to Administration officials to express congressional concerns
• Require reports from the Pentagon, particularly in unclassified form
• Review interactions at the Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies (APCSS) of
the Pacific Command (PACOM) in Hawaii
• Fund or prohibit funding for certain commissions or activities
U.S.-China Military Contacts: Issues for Congress
Congressional Research Service 11
• Pass legislation on sanctions and exchanges with the PLA
• Assess the Administration’s adherence to laws on sanctions, contacts, and
reporting requirements
• Obtain and review the Department of Defense (DOD)’s plan for upcoming milto-
mil contacts, particularly proposed programs already discussed with the PLA
Arms Sales
Congress has oversight of sanctions imposed after the Tiananmen Crackdown of 1989 that were
enacted in Section 902 of the Foreign Relations Authorization Act for FY1990 and FY1991 (P.L.
101-246). The sanctions continue to prohibit the issuance of licenses to export Munitions List
items to China, including helicopters and helicopter parts, as well as crime control equipment.
The President has used the waiver authority, occasionally and on a case-by-case basis.
The U.S. ban on arms sales also shores up U.S. credibility in opposing an end to the European
Union’s arms embargo against China similarly imposed for the Tiananmen Crackdown as well as
in opposing Israel’s certain arms transfers to the PLA. In January 2004, the European Union (EU)
decided to reconsider whether to lift its embargo on arms sales to China. On January 28, 2004, a
State Department spokesman acknowledged that the United States has held “senior-level”
discussions with France and other countries in the EU about the issue of whether to lift the
embargo on arms sales to China. He said, “certainly for the United States, our statutes and
regulations prohibit sales of defense items to China. We believe that others should maintain their
current arms embargoes as well. We believe that the U.S. and European prohibitions on arms
sales are complementary, were imposed for the same reasons, specifically serious human rights
abuses, and that those reasons remain valid today.”13 At a hearing of the House International
Relations Committee on February 11, 2004, Representative Steve Chabot asked Secretary of State
Colin Powell about the EU’s reconsideration of the arms embargo against China, as supported by
France. Powell responded that he raised this issue with the foreign ministers of France, Ireland,
United Kingdom, and Germany, and expressed opposition to a change in the EU’s policy at this
time in light of the PLA’s missiles arrayed against Taiwan, the referendums on sensitive political
issues then planned in Taiwan, and China’s human rights conditions.14
In the most prominent cases concerning Israel, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak on July 10,
2000, responded to objections from President Clinton and Congress and told PRC ruler Jiang
Zemin in a letter that Israel canceled the nearly completed sale of the Phalcon airborne early
warning system to the PLA. Moreover, the PLA procured from Israel some Harpy anti-radiation
drones in 2002.15 In 2004, the United States demanded that Israel not return to China some
upgraded Harpy attack drones.
In addition, Section 6 of the Arms Export Control Act (P.L. 90-629) prohibits arms sales (through
letters of offer, credits, guarantees, or export licenses) governed by the act to any country that is
determined by the President to be engaged in a consistent pattern of intimidation or harassment
13 Department of State, press briefing by Richard Boucher, spokesman, January 28, 2004.
14 See CRS Report RL32870, European Union's Arms Embargo on China: Implications and Options for U.S. Policy,
by Kristin Archick, Richard F. Grimmett, and Shirley A. Kan.
15 Washington Times, July 2, 2002; Guangzhou Daily, July 4, 2002; Ha’aretz, Tel Aviv, July 25, 2002; Flight
International, November 5-11, 2002; and Defense Secretary’s report on “PRC Military Power,” submitted in July 2003.
U.S.-China Military Contacts: Issues for Congress
Congressional Research Service 12
directed against individuals in the United States. The President is required to report any such
determination to the House Speaker and Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
(As examples, as discussed elsewhere, in 2010, PRC diplomats harassed U.S. executives over
arms sales to Taiwan, and Defense Secretary Gates objected to PRC intimidation of U.S. firms.)
Joint Defense Conversion Commission (JDCC)
In China in 1994, Secretary of Defense William Perry and PLA General Ding Henggao, Director
of the Commission of Science, Technology, and Industry for National Defense (COSTIND),16 set
up the U.S.-China Joint Defense Conversion Commission (JDCC). Its stated goal was to facilitate
economic cooperation and technical exchanges and cooperation in the area of defense conversion.
However, on June 1, 1995, the House National Security Committee issued H.Rept. 104-131 (for
the National Defense Authorization Act for FY1996) and expressed concerns that this
commission led to U.S. assistance to PRC firms with direct ties to the PLA and possible subsidies
to the PLA. The committee inserted a section to prohibit the use of DOD funds for activities
associated with the commission. The Senate’s bill had no similar language. On January 22, 1996,
conferees reported in H.Rept. 104-450 that they agreed to a provision (§1343 in P.L. 104-106) to
require the Secretary of Defense to submit semi-annual reports on the commission. They also
noted that continued U.S.-PRC security dialogue “can promote stability in the region and help
protect American interests and the interests of America’s Asian allies.” Nonetheless, they warned
that Congress intends to examine whether that dialogue has produced “tangible results” in human
rights, transparency in military spending and doctrine, missile and nuclear nonproliferation, and
other important U.S. security interests. Then, in the National Defense Authorization Act for
FY1997 (P.L. 104-201), enacted in September 23, 1996, Congress banned DOD from using any
funds for any activity associated with the commission until 15 days after the first semi-annual
report is received by Congress. In light of this controversy, Secretary Perry terminated the JDCC
and informed Congress in a letter dated July 18, 1996. Chairman Floyd Spence of the House
Committee on National Security had the General Accounting Office (GAO) audit the activities of
the JDCC, as reported in GAO/NSIAD-96-230R of September 30, 1996.
Past Reporting Requirement
Also in 1996, the House National Security Committee issued H.Rept. 104-563 (for the National
Defense Authorization Act of FY1997) that sought a “full accounting and detailed presentation”
of all DOD interaction with the PRC government and PLA, including technology-sharing,
conducted during 1994-1996 and proposed for 1997-1998, and required a classified and
unclassified report by February 1, 1997. DOD submitted the unclassified report on February 21,
1997, and did not submit a classified version, saying that the unclassified report was
comprehensive and that no contacts covered in the report included the release of classified
material or technology sharing.
16 CRS Report 96-889, China: Commission of Science, Technology, and Industry for National Defense (COSTIND) and
Defense Industries, by Shirley A. Kan.
U.S.-China Military Contacts: Issues for Congress
Congressional Research Service 13
Programs of Exchanges
Certain Members of Congress have written to the Secretary of Defense to express concerns that
mil-to-mil exchanges have not adequately benefitted U.S. interests. In early 1999, under the
Clinton Administration, the Washington Times disclosed the existence of a “Gameplan for 1999
U.S.-Sino Defense Exchanges,” and Pentagon spokesperson Kenneth Bacon confirmed that an
exchange program had been under way for years.17 Representative Dana Rohrabacher wrote a
letter to Secretary of Defense William Cohen, saying that “after reviewing the ‘Game Plan,’ it
appears evident that a number of events involving PLA logistics, acquisitions, quartermaster and
chemical corps representatives may benefit PLA modernization to the detriment of our allies in
the Pacific region and, ultimately, the lives of own service members.” He requested a detailed
written description of various exchanges.18
In December 2001, under the Bush Administration, Senator Bob Smith and Representative Dana
Rohrabacher wrote to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, expressing concerns about
renewed military contacts with the PRC. They contended that military exchanges failed to reduce
tensions (evident in the EP-3 crisis), lacked reciprocity, and provided militarily-useful
information to the PLA. They charged that the Clinton Administration “largely ignored” the spirit
and intent of legislation governing military exchanges with the PLA, including a “violation” of
the law by allowing the PLA to visit the Joint Forces Command in August 2000, and, as initiators
of the legislation, they “reminded” Rumsfeld of the congressional restrictions.19
Restrictions in the FY2000 NDAA
Enacted on October 5, 1999, based on an amendment introduced by Representative Tom DeLay,
the FY2000 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) set parameters to contacts with the
PLA. Section 1201(a) of the NDAA for FY2000 (P.L. 106-65) prohibits the Secretary of Defense
from authorizing any mil-to-mil contact with the PLA if that contact would “create a national
security risk due to an inappropriate exposure” of the PLA to any of the following 12 operational
areas (with exceptions granted to any search and rescue or humanitarian operation or exercise):
• Force projection operations
• Nuclear operations
• Advanced combined-arms and joint combat operations
• Advanced logistical operations
• Chemical and biological defense and other capabilities related to weapons of
mass destruction
• Surveillance and reconnaissance operations
• Joint warfighting experiments and other activities related to transformations in
warfare
• Military space operations
17 Bill Gertz, “Military Exchanges with Beijing Raises Security Concerns,” Washington Times, February 19, 1999.
18 Dana Rohrabacher, letters to William Cohen, March 1, 1999 and March 18, 1999.
19 Bob Smith and Dana Rohrabacher, letter to Donald Rumsfeld, December 17, 2001.
U.S.-China Military Contacts: Issues for Congress
Congressional Research Service 14
• Other advanced capabilities of the Armed Forces
• Arms sales or military-related technology transfers
• Release of classified or restricted information
• Access to a DOD laboratory
Section 1201(d) of the FY2000 NDAA required the Secretary of Defense—rather than an
authority in Congress or an objective observer outside of the Defense Department—to submit an
annual written certification by December 31 of each year as to whether any military contact with
China that the Secretary of Defense authorized in that year was a “violation” of the restrictions.
On May 26, 2011, the House passed H.R. 1540, the FY2012 NDAA, with Section 1071(s) to
remove subsection (d) that required the certification. The final bill did not keep the section.
The PLA has objected to the U.S. law as an “obstacle” to the mil-to-mil relationship, blaming the
U.S. side. Under the Bush and Obama Administrations, the Pentagon cautioned that it would not
be necessary to change or lift the law to enhance exchanges, while the law contains prudent
parameters that do not ban all contacts. A third option would be for Congress or the Secretary of
Defense to clarify what type of mil-to-mil contact with the PLA would “create a national security
risk due to an inappropriate exposure.” At a hearing of the House Armed Services Committee on
March 9, 2006, Admiral Fallon, Commander of the Pacific Command (PACOM), raised with
Representative Victor Snyder the issue of whether to modify this legislation to relax restrictions
on contacts with the PLA.20 At a hearing of the House Armed Services Committee on June 13,
2007, Deputy Under Secretary of Defense Richard Lawless contended that limitations in the law
should not change. The PACOM Commander, Admiral Robert Willard, testified that he agreed
with Secretary Gates that “no exchanges today approach the point where the provisions would
prohibit the activity,” at a hearing of the House Armed Services Committee on January 13, 2010.
Required Reports and Classification
Section 1201(f) of the NDAA for FY2000 (P.L. 106-65) required an unclassified report by March
31, 2000, on past military-to-military contacts with the PRC. The Office of the Secretary of
Defense submitted this report in January 2001.
Section 1201(e) required an annual report, by March 31 of each year starting in 2001, from the
Secretary of Defense on the Secretary’s assessment of the state of mil-to-mil exchanges and
contacts with the PLA, including past contacts, planned contacts, the benefits that the PLA
expects to gain, the benefits that DOD expects to gain, and the role of such contacts for the larger
security relationship with the PRC. The law did not specify whether the report shall be
unclassified and/or classified. In the report submitted in January 2001 (on past mil-to-mil
exchanges), the Pentagon stated that “as a matter of policy, all exchange activities are conducted
at the unclassified level. Thus, there is no data included on the section addressing PLA access to
classified data as a result of exchange activities.” On June 8, 2001, Deputy Secretary of Defense
Paul Wolfowitz signed and submitted an unclassified report on the mil-to-mil exchanges in 2000
under the Clinton Administration and did not provide a schedule of activities for 2001, saying that
the 2001 program was under review by the Secretary of Defense.
20 House Armed Services Committee, hearing on the FY2007 Budget for PACOM, March 9, 2006. Adm. Fallon also
discussed a consideration of modifying the law in an interview: Tony Capaccio, “Fallon Wants to Jumpstart Military
Contacts between U.S., China,” Bloomberg, March 13, 2006.
U.S.-China Military Contacts: Issues for Congress
Congressional Research Service 15
However, concerning contacts with the PLA under the Bush Administration, Secretary of Defense
Donald Rumsfeld submitted reports on military exchanges with China in May 2002, May 2003,
and May 2005 (for 2003 and 2004) that were classified “Confidential” and not made public.21 In
July 2006, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld submitted an unclassified report on contacts in
2005.22 Secretary of Defense Robert Gates submitted an unclassified report in June 2007 for
2006.23 In March 2008, Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England submitted an unclassified
report to Congress for 2007.24
Under President Obama, Defense Secretary Gates submitted an unclassified report to Congress on
March 31, 2009.25 On June 25, 2009, the House passed H.R. 2647, NDAA for FY2010, with
Section 1233 to change the requirement in Section 1202(a) of P.L. 106-65 for an annual report
(required by Congress by March 1 each year) on “PRC military power” to expand the focus to
security developments involving the PRC, add cooperative elements, fold in the separate
requirement to report on mil-to-mil contacts (in §1201 of P.L. 106-65), and require a new
comprehensive and coordinated strategy for such contacts. On July 23, the Senate passed its
version that did not include such changes to the reporting requirements. Reconciling differences,
the Senate receded. On October 7, 2009, Members issued the conference report that retained the
House-passed section and encouraged the Defense Secretary to examine further the implications
of China’s psychological, media, and legal warfare on U.S. military affairs. In this legislation,
enacted as P.L. 111-84 on October 28, 2009, Congress changed the title of the report to “Annual
Report on Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China.”
However, the Defense Department was late in submitting the report in 2010, 2011, and 2012,
while arguing it was in inter-agency coordination.26 The Pentagon also has contended that a report
that has the backing of the full Administration after coordination becomes a more authoritative
U.S. report. Moreover, P.L. 111-84 required consultation with the Secretaries of Energy and State.
Still, inter-agency coordination could start earlier for the process to meet the required deadline.
In June 2010, the Senate Armed Services Committee reported (S.Rept. 111-201 on S. 3454) the
NDAA for FY2011 that expressed its displeasure with the Defense Department for failing to
submit the annual report by the deadline of March 1. In July, five Senators wrote to Defense
Secretary Gates to express “serious concern” over the “failure” of the Department of Defense
(DoD) to submit the 2010 report on PRC Military Power and to ask him to submit it to Congress
21 Bill Gertz and Rowan Scarborough, “Inside the Ring,” Washington Times, May 17, 2002; author’s discussions with
the Defense Department and Senate Armed Services Committee.
22 Secretary of Defense, “Report to Congress Pursuant to Section 1201(e) of the FY2000 National Defense
Authorization Act (P.L. 106-65),” July 19, 2006.
23 Secretary of Defense, “Report to Congress Pursuant to Section 1201(e) of the FY2000 National Defense
Authorization Act (P.L. 106-65),” June 22, 2007.
24 Deputy Secretary of Defense, “Report to Congress Pursuant to Section 1201(e) of the FY 2000 National Defense
Authorization Act (P.L. 106-65),” March 31, 2008.
25 Robert Gates, “Annual Report on the Current State of U.S. Military-to-Military Exchanges and Contacts with the
People’s Liberation Army, 2008,” March 31, 2009.
26 In some other delays related to policy toward the PRC, President Obama did not notify Congress of major pending
Foreign Military Sales to Taiwan in 2009, submitting his first notifications all on one day on January 29, 2010. In
September 2009, President Obama sent his advisor, Valerie Jarrett, and Under Secretary of State Maria Otero to
Dharamsala, India, to talk to the Dalai Lama about putting off his visit to the White House until after the President’s
visit to the PRC in November 2009. President Obama met with the Dalai Lama in the White House on February 18,
2010. Into its second year, the Administration did not appoint commissioners to the Congressional-Executive
Commission on China (CECC) until mid-December 2010, after an annual report of October 10, 2010.
U.S.-China Military Contacts: Issues for Congress
Congressional Research Service 16
immediately with an explanation as to the “significant delay.” They noted that the report was then
almost five months overdue and that a draft report was already completed with the department
several months ago. The Senators stressed that “since the responsibility for this report lies within
the DoD alone, we ask for your assurance that White House political appointees at the National
Security Council or other agencies have not been allowed to alter the substance of the report in an
effort to avoid the prospect of angering China.”27 The Secretary submitted the unclassified report
on August 16, 2010, incorporating reports on PRC military power and on military contacts.28
Assistant Secretary of Defense Wallace Gregson wrote to Congress on February 25, 2011, that the
Pentagon needed additional time for inter-agency coordination of the annual report. On May 3,
Representative Randy Forbes of the House Armed Services Committee and Congressional China
Caucus wrote to Secretary Gates, expressing concern for the Defense Department’s “continued
disregard” of the deadline for the annual report on China and that the department failed to inform
Congress with timely reports on needs and threats in the Pacific. Under Secretary of Defense for
Policy Michele Flournoy responded on May 23 and cited “inter-agency coordination” for the
continued delay. On August 22, Representative Forbes wrote to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta,
suggesting that the continued delay was not caused by inter-agency or analytical challenges, but
rather the Administration’s willingness to let its compliance with laws be superseded by the
diplomatic calendar with the PRC. The Secretary finally submitted the report on August 24.29
On May 11, 2011, at the mark-up of H.R. 1540, the NDAA for FY2012, the House Armed
Services Committee adopted Representative Forbes’ amendment to change the name of the report
back to “Military Power of the People’s Republic of China” and require information on cyber
threats to the Pentagon. On May 26, the House passed H.R. 1540 with the language, but on June
22, the Senate Armed Services Committee reported S. 1253 without such language. Enacted as
P.L. 112-81 on December 31, 2011, the final legislation required reporting on cyber threats
against the Defense Department but did not require the change back to the original title.
In 2012, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta submitted the report late again, on May 17, 2012, after a
visit by PRC Defense Minister Liang Guanglie on May 4-10.30 On May 18, the House passed
H.R. 4310 (McKeon), NDAA for FY2013, that included an amendment proposed by
Representative Forbes to the annual report to require PACOM to assess any gaps in intelligence
and capabilities that limit the ability to address PRC challenges. H.R. 4310 also would require
assessments of the PRC’s space and cyber capabilities and limit funds to no more than $7 million
for the Center of Excellence on Nuclear Security in China. S. 3254 (Levin), NDAA for FY2013,
would strengthen the annual report to cover the PLA’s cyber, space, nuclear, anti-access/area
denial, and other capabilities. On July 11, Chairman Howard McKeon of the House Armed
Services Committee wrote to Secretary Panetta to express concerns that the annual report was
submitted after the statutory deadline, was “wholly inadequate,” and “minimizes the uncertainty
and challenges posed by China’s military build-up.” He also called for the Secretary to rescind a
policy of limiting the length of all reports to Congress. That day, the Defense Department issued a
statement denying an intent to restrict information to Congress. The next day, a spokesman said
the department rescinded the guidance to restrict the page limit on reports to Congress.
27 John Cornyn, John McCain, James Risch, Pat Roberts, and James Inhofe, letter to Robert Gates, July 23, 2010.
28 Secretary of Defense, “Military and Security Developments Involving the PRC 2010,” August 16, 2010.
29 Secretary of Defense, “Military and Security Developments Involving the PRC 2011,” August 24, 2011.
30 Secretary of Defense, “Military and Security Developments Involving the PRC 2012,” May 17, 2012.
U.S.-China Military Contacts: Issues for Congress
Congressional Research Service 17
Prohibitions on Defense Procurement
Section 1211 of the NDAA for FY2006 (signed into law as P.L. 109-163 on January 6, 2006)
prohibits procurement from any “Communist Chinese military company” for goods and services
on the Munitions List, with exceptions for U.S. military ship or aircraft visits to the PRC, testing,
and intelligence-collection; as well as waiver authority for the Secretary of Defense. Original
language reported by the House Armed Services Committee in H.R. 1815 on May 20, 2005,
would have prohibited the Secretary from any procurement of goods or services from any such
company. S. 1042 did not have similar language. During conference (H.Rept. 109-360), the
Senate receded after limiting the ban to goods and services on the Munitions List; providing for
exceptions for procurement in connection with U.S. military ship or aircraft visits, testing, and
intelligence-collection; and authorizing waivers.
In May 2011, the House adopted an amendment to H.R. 1540, the NDAA for FY2012, proposed
by Representatives Rosa DeLauro and Frank Wolf, to broaden the ban against procurement of
PRC defense articles to include all entities owned or controlled by the PLA, the PRC government,
or an entity affiliated with PRC defense industries. Enacted as P.L. 112-81 on December 31,
2011, the final bill did not keep the House’s broadened definition of “Communist Chinese
military company” but adopted the requirement (in §1243) for a report from the Defense
Secretary not less than 15 days before any waiver of the ban in P.L. 109-163.
In related action, on February 18, 2011, Representative Rosa DeLauro introduced H.Res. 106 to
express the sense of the House that defense systems, including the Presidential helicopters, should
not be procured from a PRC entity. On July 22, Representatives Randy Forbes and Madeleine
Bordallo led 17 Members to write to the Secretary of the Air Force to seek an explanation for the
procurement of T-53A trainers from Cirrus Aircraft, which was acquired by the Aviation Industry
Corporation of China (AVIC). The Senate Armed Services Committee held a hearing on
November 8 on China’s counterfeit electronic parts getting in the U.S. defense supply chain.
Foreign Aid
Section 620(h) of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 (P.L. 87-195) requires the President to
ensure that U.S. foreign aid is not used to promote or assist the foreign aid projects or activities of
any Communist country. Section 7071(g) of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2010 (P.L.
111-117) stipulated that Section 620(h) shall apply to foreign aid projects or activities of the PLA,
including those by any entity owned or controlled by or an affiliate of the PLA. The Consolidated
Appropriations Act for FY2012 (P.L. 112-74) continued this ban for the PLA.
Leverage to Pursue U.S. Security Objectives
Objectives
At different times, under successive Administrations, DOD has pursued exchanges with the PLA
to various degrees of closeness as part of the policy of engagement in the relationship with China.
The record of the mil-to-mil contacts can be used to evaluate the extent to which those contacts
provided tangible benefits to advance U.S. security goals and deterrence has been effective.
The Pentagon’s last East Asia strategy report, issued by Secretary of Defense Cohen in November
1998, placed “comprehensive engagement” with China in third place among nine components of
U.S.-China Military Contacts: Issues for Congress
Congressional Research Service 18
the U.S. strategy. It said that U.S.-PRC dialogue was “critical” to ensure understanding of each
other’s regional security interests, reduce misperceptions, increase understanding of PRC security
concerns, and build confidence to “avoid military accidents and miscalculations.” While calling
the strategic non-targeting agreement announced at the summit in June 1998 a “symbolic” action,
it asserted that the action “reassured both sides and reaffirmed our constructive relationship.” The
report further pointed to the presidential hotline set up in May 1998, Military Maritime
Consultative Agreement (MMCA), and Defense Consultative Talks (DCT) as achievements.31
Under the Bush Administration, in a report to Congress on June 8, 2001, required by the NDAA
for FY2000, P.L. 106-65, Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz wrote that military
exchanges in 2000 sought to:
• foster an environment conducive to frank, open discussion;
• complement the broader effort to engage the PRC;
• reduce the likelihood of miscalculations regarding cross-strait issues.
Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz told reporters on May 31, 2002, that “we believe that the contact
between American military personnel and Chinese military personnel can reduce
misunderstandings on both sides and can help build a better basis for cooperation when
opportunities arise. So we’d like to enhance those opportunities for interaction but we believe that
to be successful we have to have principles of transparency and reciprocity. It’s very important
that there’s mutual benefit to both sides.... The more each country knows about what the other one
is doing, the less danger is there, I believe, of misunderstanding and confrontation.”32 In agreeing
to discuss a resumption of mil-to-mil contacts, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld told
reporters on June 21, 2002, that Assistant Secretary of Defense Peter Rodman would talk to the
PLA about the principles of transparency, reciprocity, and consistency for mil-to-mil contacts that
Rumsfeld stressed to Vice President Hu Jintao at the Pentagon in May 2002.
In March 2008, Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon England defined these principal U.S.
objectives in the annual report to Congress on contacts with the PLA:
• support the President’s overall policy goals regarding China;
• prevent conflict by clearly communicating U.S. resolve to maintain peace and
stability in the Asia-Pacific region;
• lower the risk of miscalculation between the two militaries;
• increase U.S. understanding of China’s military capabilities and intentions;
• encourage China to adopt greater openness and transparency in its military
capabilities and intentions;
• promote stable U.S.-China relations;
• increase mutual understanding between U.S. and PLA officers;
31 Secretary of Defense, The United States Security Strategy for the East Asia-Pacific Region, 1998.
32 Department of Defense, “Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz’s Interview with Phoenix Television,” May 31, 2002.
U.S.-China Military Contacts: Issues for Congress
Congressional Research Service 19
• encourage China to play a constructive and peaceful role in the Asia-Pacific
region; to act as a partner in addressing common security challenges; and to
emerge as a responsible stakeholder in the world.
As discussed above on the required report, the NDAA for FY2010, P.L. 111-84, required the
Defense Secretary to address the U.S. strategy for engagement with the PLA. In his report
submitted on August 16, 2010, Secretary Gates told Congress that “sustainable and reliable”
military-to-military ties are an important component of the overall U.S.-China relationship and
are “necessary” for the relationship to be “comprehensive.” Gates also cautioned that such
military contacts are “not ends in and of themselves” and that “a sustained exchange program has
been difficult to achieve.” He sought to expand practical cooperation in areas in which U.S. and
PRC national interests converge and to discuss candidly those areas in which there is
disagreement. He noted the challenges for the risk that “misapprehension or miscalculation”
could lead to crisis or conflict. In laying out priorities, the Defense Department identified these:
• build cooperative capacity (based on international anti-piracy operations in the
Gulf of Aden),
• foster institutional understanding (particular in nuclear, space, and cyber
strategies and policies), and
• develop common views (on international security like nuclear nonproliferation in
North Korea and Iran, and stability in Afghanistan and Pakistan, but also
“respectful discussion” of differences over China’s claim to Exclusive Economic
Zones and harassment of U.S. ships and aircraft exercising international freedom
of navigation, while the United States remains “vigilant” in watching for PRC
behavior that puts at risk the safety of U.S. military personnel).33
In August 2011, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta submitted an annual report on the PLA, which
specified the mil-to-mil relationship as a critical part of the Administration’s strategy to shape
China’s rise in a way that maximizes cooperation and mitigates risks. One policy issue concerns
the effectiveness of such a strategy of shaping PRC behavior. In testimony to the Senate Armed
Services Committee on February 28, 2012, the PACOM Commander, Admiral Robert Willard,
specified areas in which the U.S. military seeks engagement with the PLA: multilateral exercises,
counter-piracy operations, and peacekeeping operations. In June-July 2012, on the topic of the
multilateral RIMPAC exercise based in Hawai’i to which the PLA was not invited, Chairman of
the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey, pointed out that that PLA was not willing to
participate at the Shangri-la meeting at the appropriate level of defense ministers. The Pacific
Fleet Commander, Admiral Cecil Haney, indicated that looking for operational exchanges with
the PLA included its potential invitation to the humanitarian assistance/disaster relief (HA/DR)
part of a future RIMPAC, with China’s role as a responsible nation.
Debate
U.S. security objectives in mil-to-mil contacts with China have included gaining insights about
the PLA’s capabilities and concepts; deterrence against a PLA use of force or coercion against
Taiwan or U.S. allies; reduction in tensions in the Taiwan Strait; strategic arms control; weapons
33 Secretary of Defense, “Annual Report to Congress: Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s
Republic of China 2010,” August 16, 2010.
U.S.-China Military Contacts: Issues for Congress
Congressional Research Service 20
nonproliferation in countries such as like North Korea, Iran, and Pakistan; closer engagement
with top PRC leaders; freedom of navigation and flight; preventing dangers to U.S. military
personnel operating in proximity to the PLA; minimizing misperceptions and miscalculations;
and accounting for American POW/MIAs.
Skeptics of U.S.-PRC mil-to-mil contacts say they have had little value for achieving these U.S.
objectives. Instead that they contend that the contacts served to inform the PLA as it builds its
warfighting capability against the United States, viewed by the PLA as a potential adversary.
There was concern that exchanges seemed to reward belligerence. They oppose rehabilitation of
PLA officers involved in the Tiananmen Crackdown. They question whether the PLA has shown
transparency and reciprocated with equivalent or substantive access, and urge greater attention to
U.S. allies over China. From this perspective, the ups and downs in the military relationship
reflect its use as a tool in the political relationship, in which the PRC at times had leverage over
the United States. Thus, they contend, a realistic appraisal of the nature of the PLA threat would
call for caution in military contacts, perhaps limiting them to exchanges such as strategic talks
and senior-level talks, rather than operational areas that involve military capabilities.
A former U.S. Army Attache in Beijing wrote in 1999 that under the Clinton Administration,
military-to-military contacts allowed PLA officers “broad access” to U.S. warships, exercises,
and even military manuals. He argued that “many of the military contacts between the United
States and China over the years helped the PLA attain its goals [in military modernization].” He
called for limiting exchanges to strategic dialogue on weapons proliferation, Taiwan, the Korean
peninsula, freedom of navigation, missile defense, etc. He urged policymakers not to “improve
the PLA’s capability to wage war against Taiwan or U.S. friends and allies, its ability to project
force, or its ability to repress the Chinese people.”34 He also testified to Congress in 2000 that the
PLA conceals its capabilities in exchanges with the United States. For example, he said, the PLA
invited General John Shalikashvili, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to see the capabilities of
the 15th Airborne Army (in May 1997), but it showed him a highly scripted routine. Furthermore,
the PLA allowed Secretary of Defense Cohen to visit an Air Defense Command Center (in
January 1998), but it was “a hollow shell of a local headquarters; it was not the equivalent of
America’s National Command Center” that was shown to PRC leaders.35
In 2000, Randy Schriver, a former official in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, discussed
lessons learned in conducting military exchanges during the Clinton Administration and argued
for limiting such exchanges. Schriver assessed senior-level talks as exchanges of talking points
rather than real dialogue, but nonetheless helpful. He considered the MMCA a successful
confidence-building measure (not knowing the EP-3 aircraft collision crisis would occur less than
one year later in April 2001). He also said it was positive to have PLA participation in multilateral
fora and to expose younger PLA officers to American society. However, Schriver said that the
United States “failed miserably” in gaining a window on the PLA’s modernization, gaining
neither access as expected nor reciprocity; failed to shape China’s behavior while allowing China
to shape the behavior of some American “ardent suitors”; and failed to deter the PLA’s aggression
while whetting the PLA’s appetite in planning against a potential American adversary. He
disclosed that the Pentagon needed to exert control over the Pacific Command’s contacts with the
34 Larry Wortzel, “Why Caution is Needed in Military Contacts with China,” Heritage Foundation Backgrounder,
December 2, 1999.
35 Larry Wortzel, Director of the Asian Studies Center at the Heritage Foundation, testimony on “China’s Strategic
Intentions and Goals” before the House Armed Services Committee, June 21, 2000.
U.S.-China Military Contacts: Issues for Congress
Congressional Research Service 21
PLA, with the Secretary of Defense issuing a memo to set guidelines. He also called for
continuing consultations with Congress.36
Warning of modest expectations for military ties and that such exchanges often have been
suspended to signal messages or retaliate against a perceived wrong action, former Deputy
Assistant Secretary of Defense Kurt Campbell contended in late 2005 that security ties can only
follow, not lead, the overall bilateral relationship.37 After serving as Deputy Assistant Secretary of
State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs in the Bush Administration, Randy Schriver observed in
2007 that military engagement with China has continued to pursue the “same modest, limited
agenda that has been in place for close to 20 years,” despite a visit by Secretary of Defense
Robert Gates in November 2007. In 2011, Schriver called for reducing military contacts.38
Proponents of military exchanges with the PRC point out that contacts with the PLA cannot be
expected to equal contacts with allies in transparency, reciprocity, and consistency. They argue
that the mil-to-mil contacts nonetheless promote U.S. interests and allow the U.S. military to gain
insights into the PLA, including its top leadership, that no other bilateral contacts provide. U.S.
military attaches, led by the Defense Attache at the rank of brigadier general or rear admiral, have
contacts at levels lower than the top PLA leaders and are subject to strict surveillance in China. In
addition to chances for open intelligence collection, the military relationship can minimize
miscalculations and misperceptions, and foster pro-U.S. leanings and understanding, particularly
among younger officers who might lead in the future. Proponents caution against treating China
as if it is already an enemy, since the United States seeks China’s cooperation on international
security issues. There might be benefits in cooperation in military medicine to prevent pandemics
of diseases, like avian flu. During the epidemic of SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) in
2003, it was a PLA doctor, Dr. Jiang Yanyong, who revealed the PRC leadership’s coverup of
SARS cases at premier PLA hospitals.39 Rather than bilateral exchanges, the U.S. military could
engage with the PLA in multilateral venues. On October 28, 2010, the PLA hosted in Beijing the
first “Pan Asian-Pacific Conference on Military Medicine.” Further, since the early 1990s,
Congress and the Defense Department have viewed China as the key to getting information to
resolve the cases of POW/MIAs from the Korean War 1950-1953.
Citing several exchanges in 1998 (Commander of the Pacific Command’s visit that included the
first foreign look at the 47th Group Army, a U.S. Navy ship visit to Shanghai, and naval
consultative talks at Naval Base Coronado), the U.S. Naval Attache in Beijing wrote that “the
process of mutual consultation, openness, and sharing of concerns and information needed to
preclude future misunderstandings and to build mutual beneficial relations is taking place
between the U.S. and China’s armed forces, especially in the military maritime domain.” He
36 Randy Schriver, former Country Director for China in the Office of the Secretary of Defense during the Clinton
Administration, and later Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs during the Bush
Administration, discussed military contacts with China at an event at the Heritage Foundation on July 27, 2000. See
Stephen Yates, Al Santoli, Randy Schriver, and Larry Wortzel, “The Proper Scope, Purpose, and Utility of U.S.
Relations with China’s Military,” Heritage Lectures, October 10, 2000.
37 Kurt Campbell (Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for East Asia and the Pacific in 1995-2000) and Richard
Weitz, “The Limits of U.S.-China Military Cooperation: Lessons From 1995-1999,” Washington Quarterly, Winter
2005-2006.
38 Randall Schriver, “The Real Value in Gates’ Asia Trip,” Taipei Times, November 16, 2007; “Bound to Fail,”
Washington Times, July 26, 2011.
39 John Pomfret, “Doctor Says Health Ministry Lied About Disease,” Washington Post, April 10, 2003; “Feature: A
Chinese Doctor’s Extraordinary April in 2003,” People’s Daily, June 13, 2003.
U.S.-China Military Contacts: Issues for Congress
Congressional Research Service 22
stressed that “the importance of progress in this particular area of the Sino-American relationship
cannot be overestimated.”40
Two former U.S. military attaches posted to China maintained in a report that “regardless of
whether it is a high-level DoD delegation or a functional exchange of medical officers, the U.S.
military does learn something about the PLA from every visit.” They advocated that “the United
States should fully engage China in a measured, long-term military-to-military exchange program
that does not help the PLA improve its warfighting capabilities.” They said, “the most effective
way to ascertain developments in China’s military and defense policies is to have face-to-face
contact at multiple levels over an extended period of time.” Thus, they argued, “even though the
PLA minimizes foreign access to PLA facilities and key officials, the United States has learned,
and can continue to learn, much about the PLA through its long-term relationship.”41
Another former U.S. military attache in Beijing (from 1992 to 1995) acknowledged that he saw
many PLA drills and demonstrations by “showcase” units and never any unscripted training
events. Nonetheless, he noted that in August 2003, the PLA arranged for 27 military observers
from the United States and other countries to be the first foreigners to observe a PLA exercise at
its largest training base (which is in the Inner Mongolia region under the Beijing Military
Region). He wrote that “by opening this training area and exercise to foreign observers, the
Chinese military leadership obviously was attempting to send a message about its willingness to
be more ‘transparent’ in order to ‘promote friendship and mutual trust between Chinese and
foreign armed forces.’”42 However, in a second PLA exercise opened to foreign observers, the
“Dragon 2004” landing exercise at the Shanwei amphibious operations training base in
Guangdong province in September 2004, only seven foreign military observers from France,
Germany, Britain, and Mexico attended, with no Americans (if invited).43
A retired admiral and PACOM Commander, Dennis Blair, co-chaired a task force on the U.S.-
China relationship. Its report of April 2007 recommended a sustained high-level military strategic
dialogue to complement the “Senior Dialogue” started by the Deputy Secretary of State in 2005
and the “Strategic Economic Dialogue” launched by the Secretary of the Treasury in 2006.44 After
visiting China in 2011 as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Michael Mullen argued
for sustained dialogue in the face of disputes and potential common interests.45
Perspectives
Aside from a debate about how to engage with the PLA, some officials and observers warn about
challenges that stem from the different perspectives between the U.S. military and PLA. A stillsalient
study prepared for the Defense Department’s Office of Net Assessment in 1997 focused on
a long-standing concern about China’s misperceptions that could pose dangers to U.S. security
40 Captain Brad Kaplan, USN, “China and U.S.: Building Military Relations,” Asia-Pacific Defense Forum, Summer
1999.
41 Kenneth Allen and Eric McVadon, “China’s Foreign Military Relations,” Stimson Center, October 1999.
42 Dennis Blasko, “Bei Jian 0308: Did Anyone Hear the Sword on the Inner Mongolian Plains?” RUSI Chinese Military
Update, October 2003.
43 Xinhua, September 2; Liberation Army Daily, September 3; Jane’s Defence Weekly, September 22, 2004.
44 Dennis Blair and Carla Hills, Task Force of the Council on Foreign Relations, “U.S.-China Relations: An
Affirmative Agenda, A Responsible Course,” April 10, 2007.
45 Mike Mullen, “A Step Toward Trust with China,” New York Times, July 25, 2011.
U.S.-China Military Contacts: Issues for Congress
Congressional Research Service 23
interests.46 In particular, the study focused on five “dangerous misperceptions:” (1) overestimating
U.S. hostility; (2) over-estimating U.S. weakness; (3) over-estimating U.S. decline; (4)
under-estimating costs of war; and (5) under-estimating fears of neighbors to China’s rising
military power. As implications for U.S. contacts with the PLA, the study suggested that the
Defense Department review past exchanges and plan future exchanges to rebut more directly and
effectively the most dangerous misperceptions held by China’s military. Nonetheless, the study
cautioned that while U.S. engagement with China softened its hostility and suspicion of the
United States in the 25 years after the “Shanghai Communique,” it was remarkable how little
China’s fundamental perceptions of world politics changed. U.S. policymakers would have to
consider prudently that another 25 years of “strategic dialogue” and military exchanges would not
eliminate completely the PRC’s dangerous misperceptions. U.S. policy might need to anticipate
the persistence of such misperceptions and potential miscalculations (including China’s use of
force) that could surprise the United States and the failure of U.S. efforts to deter the PLA.
In 1999, the Center for Naval Analyses found in a study that U.S. and PRC approaches to military
exchanges were “diametrically opposed,” thus raising tension at times. While the United States
has pursued a “bottom-up” effort starting with lower-level contact to work toward mutual
understanding and then strategic agreement, the PRC has sought a “trickle-down” relationship in
which agreement on strategic issues results in understanding and then allows for specific
activities later. The study said that “the PLA leadership regards the military relationship with the
U.S. as a political undertaking for strategic reasons—not a freestanding set of military initiatives
conducted by military professionals for explicitly military reasons. Fundamentally, the military
relationship is a vehicle to pursue strategic political ends.” While recognizing that using the
military relationship to enhance military modernization is extremely important to the PLA, the
study contended that “it is not the key motive force driving the PLA’s engagement with DOD.”
The report also argued that because the PLA suspects the United States uses the military
relationship for deterrence, intelligence, and influence, “it seems ludicrous for them to expose
their strengths and weaknesses to the world’s ‘sole superpower.’” It noted that using “reciprocity”
as a measure of progress was “sure to lead to disappointment.”47
In August 2011, the Defense Intelligence Officer for East Asia and a former Army Attache in
Beijing wrote about multiple lessons learned that the PRC’s cultural approach to relations or
friendships treats them as tough business negotiations. He warned U.S. officials that “the key is to
conclude all negotiations with a true win-win solution, not the promise of favor in the future.”48
After decades of U.S. efforts to engage the PLA, including increasing “habits of cooperation,” the
U.S. military has continued to face challenges in mil-to-mil engagement with the PRC.
Perspectives of the U.S. military and the PLA have remained critically divergent. Contrary to
some expectations in the 1990s, mil-to-mil engagement has failed to deter the PRC from robust,
rapid PLA modernization and what some officials have observed as assertive actions in maritime
areas of dispute. Some participants in the mil-to-mil engagement have observed that the PLA has
reduced the value placed on engaging with the United States, even as the PLA’s modernization,
roles, and interaction in the world increased. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral
Mike Mullen, issued strategic guidance for 2011 that placed priority on U.S. security interests in
46 Michael Pillsbury, “Dangerous Chinese Misperceptions: the Implications for DOD,” 1997.
47 David Finkelstein and John Unangst, “Engaging DoD: Chinese Perspectives on Military Relations with the United
States,” CNA Corporation, October 1999.
48 Col. (retired) Frank Miller, “Negotiating with the Chinese,” International Affairs, FAO Association, August 2011.
U.S.-China Military Contacts: Issues for Congress
Congressional Research Service 24
the Middle East, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. Still, he noted an increased focus on Asia-Pacific in
balancing risks from an “aggressive” North Korea and a “more assertive” China and in defending
international freedom of navigation. Others, however, have noted that China has been assertive in
various cycles over many years. (See the Appendix on confrontations with the U.S. military.)
Even if the PLA has not increased assertive actions, its capabilities and range have improved.
Even on relatively innocuous and cooperative efforts such as the parallel anti-piracy naval
operations in the Gulf of Aden since late 2008, the PLA has not described them as useful for milto-
mil engagement or cooperation with the U.S. Navy (at odds with U.S. goals and views). U.S.
engagement with the PLA in anti-piracy included hosting the commander of the PLA Navy’s task
force at the Headquarters of the U.S. Fifth Fleet in Bahrain in December 2010. In February 2011,
Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, issued the National Military
Strategy in which he stated the goals of a deeper military relationship to “expand areas of mutual
interest and benefit, improve understanding, reduce misperception, and prevent miscalculation”
as well as promotion of “common interests through China’s cooperation in countering piracy and
proliferation of WMD, and using its influence with North Korea to preserve stability on the
Korean peninsula.” However, on March 31, 2011, the PLA issued its 2010 Defense White Paper
which included a new discussion of the PLA Navy’s anti-piracy operation but did not portray this
area as one for U.S.-PRC military cooperation. Indeed, the Defense White Paper did not even
mention contact with the U.S. military in discussing contacts with various foreign navies. In July
2012, the commander of the PLAN’s “naval escort” task force held only an “informal exchange”
in Oman at the “temporary request” of the multinational Combined Task Force (CTF) 151.
At the release of that Defense White Paper, a key researcher of the PLA’s Academy of Military
Science (AMS), Chen Zhou, candidly highlighted a key difference between China and others. He
said that unlike “Western” militaries that seek transparency as the premise for military mutual
trust, the PLA saw trust as the requirement for transparency. He called for first developing
common interests and respecting each other’s strategic interests.49
Recognizing the challenges in cooperation and divergent perspectives with the PLA, the Obama
Administration has tried to apply lessons learned to mil-to-mil engagement with China. While the
United States has sought to build confidence in avoiding crises, the PLA has avoided giving
confidence. On the eve of Secretary Gates’ visit in January 2011, Deputy Assistant Secretary of
Defense Michael Schiffer acknowledged some distance before achieving a deep and real
“strategic understanding” between our two countries. He presented the U.S. view that mil-to-mil
should be a “critical component” of the U.S.-PRC relationship; mil-to-mil should be sustained,
reliable, and continuous; mil-to-mil should not be used as a “reward or favor” or “punishment or
a penalty” to the United States; and mil-to-mil should not be viewed as separate from the overall
bilateral relationship. The U.S. approach sought a framework to institutionalize mil-to-mil and
integration of the PLA into the stated goal of “comprehensive” cooperation with China.50
49 Interview in Jiefangjun Bao [Liberation Army Daily], April 1, 2011.
50 Author’s consultations; Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for East Asia, “Building Greater Cooperation in the
U.S.-China Military-to-Military Relationship in 2011,” Institute for International Strategic Studies, Washington, DC,
January 6, 2011.
U.S.-China Military Contacts: Issues for Congress
Congressional Research Service 25
U.S. Security Interests
With lessons learned, a fundamental issue in overall policy toward China is how to use U.S.
leadership and leverage in pursuing a prudent program of military contacts that advances, and
does not harm, a prioritized list of U.S. security interests. The Pentagon could pursue such a
program with focused control by the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD); with consultation
with Congress and public disclosures; and in coordination with allies and partners, such as Japan,
South Korea, Australia, Singapore, and Taiwan. Such a program might include these objectives.
Communication, Conflict Avoidance, and Crisis Management
Confrontations and Safety
The various crises of direct confrontation between the U.S. military and PLA might call for
greater cooperation with China to improve communication, conflict avoidance, and crisis
management. Given confrontations in the maritime areas (particularly in 2001 and 2009), some
stress that the foremost U.S. interest would be to safeguard the safety of U.S. military personnel.
There are increasing concerns that options pursued thus far still leave critical challenges.
Analysts in China have studied the government’s strengths and weaknesses in crisis management
in light of the EP-3 crisis in 2001.51 Nonetheless, the crisis over the EP-3 aircraft collision and
subsequent confrontations have shown the limits in benefits to the United States of pursuing
personal relationships with PLA leaders, the consultations under the Military Maritime
Consultative Agreement (MMCA), as well as the presidential hotline. From the beginning of the
crisis, PRC ruler Jiang Zemin pressed the United States with a hard-line stance, while PLA
generals followed without any greater inflammatory rhetoric.52 (See the Appendix for text boxes
that summarize the major bilateral tensions in crises or confrontations.)
Telephones
During his second visit to China as PACOM Commander in December 1997, Admiral Prueher
said that “I remember wishing I had your telephone number,” in response to a PLA naval officer’s
question about Prueher’s thinking during the Taiwan Strait crisis in 1995-1996.53 After becoming
ambassador to China in December 1999, Prueher was nonetheless frustrated when the Ministry of
Foreign Affairs and the PLA would not answer the phone or return phone calls in the immediate
aftermath of the EP-3 collision crisis in April 2001.54 Personal ties were not useful in crises.55
51 Author’s discussions with government-affiliated research organizations in China in 2002.
52 CRS Report RL30946, China-U.S. Aircraft Collision Incident of April 2001: Assessments and Policy Implications,
by Shirley A. Kan et al.
53 LTC Frank Miller (U.S. Army ), “China Hosts Visit by the U.S. Commander in Chief, Pacific,” Asia Pacific Defense
Forum, Spring 1998. The article ended by saying that “perhaps the most important result of Adm. Prueher’s December
1997 trip to China is that, should there be another crisis like the March 1996 Taiwan Strait Missile Crisis, Adm.
Prueher now has the phone number.”
54 John Keefe, “Anatomy of the EP-3 Incident, April 2001,” Center for Naval Analyses report, January 2002.
55 CDR Thomas Henderschedt and LTC Chad Sbragia, “China’s Naval Ambitions,” Armed Forces Journal, September
2010.
U.S.-China Military Contacts: Issues for Congress
Congressional Research Service 26
Still, some continue to believe there could be benefits in fostering relationships with PLA
officers, both at the senior level and with younger, future leaders. While in Beijing in January
2004, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Myers, said that “it’s always an
advantage to be able to pick up a telephone and talk to somebody that you know fairly well. The
relationship that I have with General Liang [Chief of General Staff], the relationship that Defense
Secretary Rumsfeld has with his counterpart, General Cao, is going to be helpful in that regard.”56
Likewise, visiting Beijing in September 2005, Admiral William Fallon, PACOM Commander,
hoped for the value for his regional responsibilities to “pick up the telephone and call someone I
already know.”57 During his visit to Beijing in July 2011, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of
Staff, Admiral Michael Mullen, still said he wished that he could “pick up the phone” in a crisis.58
MMCA
Much attention has been on the MMCA for resolving tension and preventing crisis or conflict.
The MMCA, initialed at the first DCT in December 1997 and signed by Secretary Cohen in
Beijing in January 1998, only arranged meetings to discuss maritime and air safety (i.e., to talk
about talking). There was no agreement on communication during crises or rules of engagement.
Despite the 2001 crisis, the Defense Department encountered difficulties with the PLA in
discussions under the MMCA, including simply setting up meetings and PLA objections to U.S.
activities in China’s claimed 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ) (even beyond the
territorial sea up to 12 nautical miles from the coast).59 In spite of the MMCA meetings since the
late 1990s, the U.S. Navy and Air Force have faced increasing challenges to operational safety
and freedom of navigation. The Defense Secretary told Congress in an annual report submitted in
August 2010 that “the United States and China continue to have differences over the rights of
coastal states in their exclusive economic zones, and the appropriate response to such
differences.” The report also emphasized that “the United States remains vigilant in its watch for
behavior that puts at risk the safety of U.S. soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines, or is in clear
violation of international norms. The Department will continue to use all available channels, in
particular an invigorated MMCA and Defense Policy Coordination Talks process, to
communicate the U.S. Government position on these and other matters to the PLA, while taking
advantage of opportunities for the two sides to discuss practical ways to reduce the chances for
misunderstanding and miscalculation between our armed forces.”60
However, another assessment is that not only have dangerous confrontations occurred despite the
MMCA but that the tension have been based on different national interests rather than any
misperception or misunderstanding. The PLA has tried purposefully to keep U.S. military
operations farther from China and restrict them even beyond the PRC’s territorial seas. The
Defense Secretary reported to Congress in August 2010 that his department did not observe a
resurgence of harassment by PRC fishing vessels of U.S. naval auxiliary ships conducting routine
and lawful military operations beyond the PRC’s territorial seas that occurred in spring 2009.
Still, he warned that such harassment could occur again. Moreover, two months after the
56 Jim Garamone, “China, U.S. Making Progress on Military Relations,” AFPS, January 15, 2004.
57 Pacific Command, Adm. William J. Fallon, “Roundtable at Embassy PAS Program Room,” Beijing, September 7,
2005. Fallon also said he consulted “extensively” with retired Adm. Prueher, former Commander of PACOM.
58 Admiral Michael Mullen, Media Roundtable, Beijing, China, July 10, 2011.
59 Chris Johnson, “DOD Will Urge China to Conduct Joint Search and Rescue Exercise,” Inside the Navy, March 13,
2006.
60 Secretary of Defense, “Military and Security Developments Involving the PRC 2010,” August 16, 2010.
U.S.-China Military Contacts: Issues for Congress
Congressional Research Service 27
Secretary’s report to Congress, at an annual meeting of the MMCA in Honolulu in October 2010,
the U.S. military raised concerns to the PLA about several recent incidents involving unsafe and
unprofessional actions by PRC ships as well as aircraft that risked the lives of U.S. sailors and
airmen in the Navy and Air Force. The PLA repeated complaints about U.S. maritime and air
reconnaissance by U.S. ships and planes. Critically, the PLA rejected the possibility of accidents,
blaming continued U.S. operations for any risks, so that another collision would be only the
United States’ fault. The PLA also has limited its primary representation to the PLAN in attending
MMCA meetings, while the U.S. side has interacted with the PLA at a joint level led by PACOM.
In 2010, PLA fighters conducted unusually close intercepts of U.S. military aircraft operating in
international airspace, in addition to harassment by PRC ships of U.S. survey ships operating
outside of PRC territorial seas, reported the Secretary of Defense to Congress in August 2011.
Still, some progress might have been made in the U.S. stress on safety and preventing accidents.
At the end of 2010, PLA General Liang Guanglie (a CMC Member and PRC Defense Minister)
acknowledged the risk of accidents. He used the phrase “an accidental discharge of gunfire in
cleaning a gun” to refer to inadvertent accidents that could lead to military tension.61 Even if there
might be better mutual understanding, however, the 7th Fleet Commander, Vice Admiral Scott Van
Buskirk, said in February 2011 that the PLAN ignores ship-to-ship communication in the Asian
region, even if it agrees to such contact in anti-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden.62
On June 29, 2011, Taiwan’s F-16 fighters flew to intercept PLA Air Force Su-27 fighters that
crossed a median line in the Taiwan Strait to confront a U.S. reconnaissance aircraft. Then, on
July 22, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton issued a statement that stressed respect for freedom of
navigation as well as over-flight in the South China Sea, and three days later, met with PRC State
Councilor Dai Bingguo in Shenzhen and stressed freedom of navigation. In August, the two sides
held an MMCA working group meeting in Qingdao and discussed disputes over the PLA’s
complaints against U.S. reconnaissance flights. Again, there was no MMCA plenary in 2011.
Policy issues have included how to reinvigorate the MMCA talks and how to include the actions
of the PRC’s civilian, official maritime enforcement ships, such as the China Maritime
Surveillance (CMS) ships that have coordinated with the PLAN. A plenary meeting of the
MMCA was held in September 2012, but the PLAN blocked adoption of a Code for Unalerted
Encounters at Sea (CUES) at a meeting of the Western Pacific Naval Symposium in Malaysia.63
DPCT
In early 2005, U.S. defense and PLA officials held a Special Policy Dialogue to discuss policy
disputes and end an impasse in talks over safety and operational concerns under the MMCA. The
separate discussions continued in the first Defense Policy Coordination Talks (DPCT) held in
Washington in December 2006. The first combined exercise held under the MMCA, a search and
rescue exercise (SAREX), did not take place until the fall of 2006, after eight years of talks. By
2007, the MMCA’s status and value were in greater doubt, and no MMCA working groups or
plenary meetings took place that year.
61 Interview with Defense Minister Liang Guanglie published in Renmin Ribao [People’s Daily], December 29, 2010.
62 Wall Street Journal, February 21, 2011; and South China Morning Post, Hong Kong, February 22, 2011.
63 Jane’s Defense Weekly, September 28, 2012.
U.S.-China Military Contacts: Issues for Congress
Congressional Research Service 28
On February 25-26, 2008, in Qingdao, PACOM’s Director for Strategic Planning and Policy (J-5),
USMC Major General Thomas Conant, and PLA Navy Deputy Chief of Staff Zhang Leiyu led an
annual meeting under the MMCA, the first since 2006. The PLA sought to amend the MMCA.
The U.S. side opposed PLA proposals to discuss policy differences at the MMCA meetings and to
plan details of future military exercises.64 The PLA and U.S. military have clashed over the PRC’s
disputes with foreign countries over the freedom of navigation in the high seas.
By 2011, the PLA seemed to downgrade the DPCT as merely “working-level” talks between the
U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense and the Director of the PLA’s Foreign Affairs Office.
The practice was at odds with the reaffirmation during Secretary Gates’ visit in early 2011, when
Defense Minister Liang Guanglie agreed that the DCT, DPCT, and MMCA were important talks.
INCSEA
For his nomination hearing to be the PACOM Commander on March 8, 2007, Admiral Timothy
Keating answered questions from the Senate Armed Services Committee by claiming that a
dangerous incident similar to the EP-3 crisis would be “less likely.” He also proposed negotiating
with the PLA an “Incidents at Sea” (INCSEA) protocol, like the 1972 one with the Soviet Union.
After the Pentagon reported in March 2009 that PRC ships were aggressively harassing U.S.
ocean surveillance ships (including the USNS Impeccable) in the Yellow Sea and South China
Sea, some observers raised again the issue of whether to agree with the PLA on an INCSEA. For
example, retired Rear Admiral Eric McVaden suggested that an INCSEA could compel China’s
top leaders to agree to avoid collisions or escalations of tensions, as well as provide rules and a
safety valve. However, skeptics said that the question was not whether there was an agreement or
dialogue. For example, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Randy Schriver pointed out
that the MMCA would have been called an INCSEA (but the United States wanted to avoid “Cold
War connotations”) and that the MMCA had limited usefulness because China has more interest
in stopping U.S. reconnaissance than any interest in the agreement that it had signed. Thus, he
contended that the MMCA already has provided the mechanism for dealing with incidents at sea.
The problem has been that the PLA is not interested in a “rules-based, operator-to-operator
approach to safety on the high seas.”65 In early 2011, Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Gary
Roughead explained another opposition to an INCSEA. Admiral Roughead said that an INCSEA
with only the PLAN would result in a separate and exclusive agreement, set the PLA apart when
all militaries ought to adhere to the same international “rules of the road,” and define the
relationship with the PLA as abnormal, aggressive, and a specter of that with the Soviet Union.66
Hotline, or Defense Telephone Link (DTL)
After staff-level preliminary discussions in 2003, Under Secretary of Defense Douglas Feith
formally proposed a hotline for crisis management and confidence building with the PLA at the
DCT in February 2004. However, the PLA did not give a positive signal until a defense
64 Major General Thomas Conant and Rear Admiral Zhang Leiyu, “Summary of Proceedings of the Annual Meeting
Under the Agreement Between the Ministry of National Defense of the People’s Republic of China and the Department
of Defense of the United States of America on Establishing a Consultative Mechanism to Strengthen Military Maritime
Safety,” Qingdao, February 26, 2008.
65 Quoted in the “Nelson Report,” March 11, 2009.
66 Quoted in an interview with the Financial Times, January 18, 2011.
U.S.-China Military Contacts: Issues for Congress
Congressional Research Service 29
ministerial conference in Singapore in June 2007, when Lt. General Zhang Qinsheng, Deputy
Chief of General Staff, said that the PLA would discuss such a hotline. During Defense Secretary
Robert Gates’ visit to China in November 2007, the PLA agreed in principle to set up a defense
telephone link (DTL) with the Pentagon. The two sides signed an agreement in February 2008.
Then, in May 2008, PACOM’s Commander, Admiral Keating, used the hotline in its first
operational use to communicate with PLA Deputy Chief of General Staff Ma Xiaotian about the
U.S. Air Force’s use of two C-17 transports to deliver earthquake relief supplies to Sichuan.
However, during the confrontation in March 2009 when PRC ships aggressively harassed the
U.S. surveillance ships, Secretary Gates told reporters on March 18, 2009, that he did not use the
hotline. Indeed, not until May 2011 did the PLA agree to actually use the DTL, as promised by
visiting Chief of General Staff Chen Bingde, according to Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
Mullen (remarks on July 10, 2011). Further, some observers urged that PACOM and the Pentagon
prepare transcripts of all uses of the DTL as records of communication with the PLA. An issue
has concerned whether to use the DTL for more regular communication (e.g., for senior visits).
ATC
Another area for possible improved communication and prevention of accidents is air traffic
control in China, which is controlled by the PLA Air Force. In December 2006, the PLA suddenly
shut down the busy Pudong International Airport near Shanghai and at least three other airports
under the Nanjing Military Region, ostensibly for training.67 In December 2010, PRC media
revealed the set up of a new national air traffic control system and that it was one of the highpriority,
militarily-significant, and centrally-directed “863 Projects.”
Sanya Initiative and Other Informal Talks
Some believe that more dialogue, even unofficial talks involving U.S. retired senior generals and
admirals or nongovernmental “track two” researchers, could be useful to build understanding and
avoid conflict with the PLA.68 Others question the use of private channels that could undermine
or influence U.S. policies, send mixed messages, and confuse unofficial with official work,
particularly since the PLA would have only ostensibly unofficial representatives. In January 2010,
a delegation from the China Foundation for International and Strategic Studies (CFISS) visited
Washington with a delegation that included PLA major generals and other officers. They got
meetings with Under Secretaries of Defense, the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense
for Asian and Pacific Security Affairs, Deputy Secretary of State, Assistant Secretary of State for
East Asian and Pacific Affairs, and National Security Council officials.69
Even for dealing with possible crises, Admiral Keating revealed in 2007 that he used an unofficial
network of retired Admirals who had commanded PACOM and met with PLA commanders.70 The
PLA has pursued this track, including a visit to Beijing in November 2010 of a group led by
retired PACOM Commander and Admiral Thomas Fargo. Their host, General Li Jinai, a CMC
67 Bruce Stanley, “China’s Congested Skies,” Wall Street Journal, February 16, 2007.
68 Michael Swaine (Carnegie Endowment), “Avoiding U.S.-China Military Rivalry,” Diplomat, February 16, 2011.
69 The National Committee on U.S.-China Relations hosted the Track II Dialogue on Northeast Asian Security.
70 Forum on “Evolving and Enhancing Military Relations,” George Bush U.S.-China Relations Conference 2007,
Washington, DC, October 24, 2007.
U.S.-China Military Contacts: Issues for Congress
Congressional Research Service 30
Member and Director of the GPD, asked the visitors to use their “personal influence” on mil-tomil
ties. The China Association for International Friendly Contact (CAIFC) sponsored the group.
In addition, a “Sanya Initiative” (a dialogue first held at the Sanya resort on Hainan Island) began
in February 2008. Xiong Guangkai (President of the China Institute for International Strategic
Studies and former Deputy Chief of General Staff in charge of intelligence) led the PLA side. Bill
Owens (retired admiral and former Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff) led the U.S. side.
The PLA side asked the U.S. participants to help with PRC objections to U.S. policies and laws:
namely the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA), Pentagon’s report to Congress on PRC Military Power,
and legal restrictions on military contacts in the NDAA for FY2000.71 A second meeting was held
on October 16-22, 2009, at PACOM in Honolulu, Washington, and New York. Despite the
unofficial talks, PACOM Commander (Admiral Tim Keating), Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of
Staff (Admiral Mike Mullen), Vice Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff (General James
Cartwright), Deputy Secretary of Defense William Lynn, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and
Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell met with the Sanya group. Afterwards, Bill Owens
published an opinion to oppose the TRA as harming the relationship with China that has rising
wealth and influence.72 Observers noted Owen’s business interests in China as a Managing
Director of AEA Investors in Hong Kong. In May 2010, Owens told the press that he was
“grieved” by mil-to-mil suspensions over arms sales to Taiwan, including postponement of
another meeting of his Sanya Initiative, when he met with CMC Vice Chairman Xu Caihou in
Beijing.73 Owens and his group went to Beijing for a third round of the Sanya talks in October
2010, and they met with CMC Member and GPD Director Li Jinai. In June 2012, Owens led six
retired generals and admirals to meet with retired PLA generals (without Xiong Guangkai) in
Annapolis, MD, and Washington, DC. They met with Senators Carl Levin and John McCain of
the Senate Armed Services Committee; Representatives Charles Boustany and Rick Larsen of the
U.S.-China Working Group in the House; Assistant Secretary of Defense Mark Lippert and
Lieutenant General Terry Wolff at the Pentagon; and Assistant Secretary of State Campbell.74
Civilian Control over PLA and Civil-Military Coordination
Related to the U.S. security interest in preventing inadvertent or predictable conflict or crises with
China, the Obama Administration has sought “comprehensive” engagement and bilateral
dialogues that advance coordination between the PLA and the PRC’s top leadership or its civilian
officials in foreign affairs, including through the structure of the S&ED (as discussed above on
“Options”). Another goal has been the expansion of cooperation in overlapping interests.
As mentioned above, when the PLA declined to host Defense Secretary Gates in 2010, he implied
a divide between the PLA and the top PRC leadership. Then, on July 20, 2010, the United States
and Republic of Korea (ROK) announced combined military exercises in the seas to the west and
east of the ROK, commonly called the Yellow Sea and Sea of Japan, in response to North Korea’s
attack on the South Korean naval ship Cheonan on March 26 that killed 46 sailors. However,
even before the announcement and even though the exercises were not about China, PLA General
71 People’s Daily, February 24, 2008; Sanya Initiative, “Key Outcomes and Summary Report,” March 2008; Jennifer
Harper, “Retired U.S. Brass to Defend Chinese Military,” Washington Times, April 4, 2008; CSIS, “A Briefing on the
Sanya Initiative,” June 6, 2008; author’s consultations, March 2009.
72 Bill Owens, “America Must Start Treating China as a Friend,” Financial Times, November 17, 2009.
73 South China Morning Post, May 23, 2010; Xinhua, May 26, 2010.
74 “Fostering U.S.-China Military-to-Military Relations,” East West Institute (EWI), New York, June 28, 2012.
U.S.-China Military Contacts: Issues for Congress
Congressional Research Service 31
Ma Xiaotian on July 1 expressed “opposition” to the expected U.S.-ROK exercises in the Yellow
Sea. A week after that, the Foreign Ministry shifted from “concern” to “opposition” to any foreign
military ships and aircraft entering or flying over the Yellow Sea. The PRC especially objected to
the aircraft carrier USS George Washington joining exercises in the Yellow Sea, even off the coast
of South Korea. Still, while more assertive in its voice on policy, the PLA’s resistance or
opposition might not be a constant or dominant voice in PRC policymaking, as seen in the belated
invitation to Gates for his visit in January 2011. After North Korea again attacked South Korea on
November 23, 2010, launching artillery on Yeonpyeoung Island that killed two South Korean
marines and even two civilians, the PLA was relatively quiet in public after the prompt U.S. and
ROK announcement the next day that the USS George Washington would exercise with the ROK
navy in the Yellow Sea from November 28 to December 1, as first indicated back in July.
Meanwhile, the PRC Foreign Ministry shifted its stance from “taking note” of the U.S.-ROK
exercise to “opposing” any military action in “China’s” EEZ without China’s permission.
Secretary Gates pointedly asked Hu Jintao about a test of a J-20 stealth fighter conducted during
Gates’ visit in January 2011, and Gates said that Hu seemed surprised when asked about the test.
Gates clarified on June 2 that he did not believe that the PLA was not responsive to PRC leaders.
He said that the PLA did not seem to go out of its way to inform regularly the political leadership.
In the two U.S.-PRC Joint Statements of November 2009 and January 2011, top PRC leader Hu
Jintao agreed to state with President Obama that “China welcomes the United States as an Asia-
Pacific nation that contributes to peace, stability, and prosperity in the region.” In contrast, the
PLA in March 2011 issued the 2010 Defense White Paper that did not include that sentiment but
did print implied and explicit criticism of the United States. The Joint Statement of January 2011
did not note a “strategic dialogue” that Gates proposed earlier that month during his visit.
However, questions were not new about the PLA’s actions separate from top PRC policymaking.
A more crucial concern about Hu Jintao’s command of the PLA already was raised after the
summit in April 2006 at which he discussed with President Bush about starting a strategic nuclear
dialogue, but the Commander of the PLA Second Artillery has declined to visit. Then, in January
2007, the PLA conducted its first successful, direct-ascent anti-satellite (ASAT) weapon test, but
the Foreign Ministry remained silent to the world about it for 12 days.75 There could have been a
division of labor where PLA and CPC leaderships pursued parallel relationships with foreign
countries, not only with the United States. For example, in May 2003, PLA General Cao
Gangchuan (a CMC Vice Chairman and Defense Minister) and PRC President Hu Jintao
simultaneously visited Moscow, Russia, but PRC media reported their visits separately with no
joint meetings. There could have been a lack of coordination between the PLA and civilian
officials in the weaker Foreign Ministry, though the CMC Chairman and CPC General-Secretary
remained in ultimate control of the PLA. Moreover, the PLA’s priority programs for military
modernization, including ASAT weapons, have been coordinated and controlled by a top-level
military-civilian Central Special Committee (CSC) in line with the PRC’s long-standing stress on
“Military-Civilian Integration.”76 Another assessment focused on the lack of coordination at the
lower levels between the PLA and civilian officials, especially on foreign policy.77 In any case, by
75 See CRS Report RS22652, China’s Anti-Satellite Weapon Test, by Shirley A. Kan.
76 Tai Ming Cheung, Fortifying China (Cornell University Press, 2009); Trefor Moss, “Rumours of PLA Dissent Are
Greatly Exaggerated,” Jane’s Defence Weekly, February 23, 2011. A PRC researcher close to the PLA conceded the
need for improved coordination in foreign policy to manage crises, Zhang Tuosheng, in Shijie Zhishi in January 2011.
77 Michael Swaine, “China’s Assertive Behavior; Part Three: The Role of the Military in Foreign Policy,” China
Leadership Monitor, Winter 2011.
U.S.-China Military Contacts: Issues for Congress
Congressional Research Service 32
2010, U.S. officials have noted the PLA’s stronger voice and capabilities, when established
international laws and norms matter.
The PLA can coordinate with civilian authorities when it chooses to do so. In March 2009, PRC
Y-12 maritime surveillance aircraft, a PLAN frigate, PRC patrol and intelligence collection ships,
and trawlers coordinated in increasingly aggressive and dangerous harassment of unarmed U.S.
ocean surveillance ships, the USNS Victorious and USNS Impeccable, during routine operations
in international waters in the Yellow Sea and South China Sea. In January 2011, Wu Shengli,
CMC Member and PLAN Commander, spoke at a meeting on the PLAN’s “escort” mission, or
anti-piracy operations, in the Gulf of Aden and referred to “close coordination” between the
PLAN and shipping companies, and Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Transportation. In another
example, in April 2011, the PLAN held a military-civilian exercise in the South China Sea. The
next month, the Deputy Director of the civilian China Marine Surveillance (CMS) forces referred
to facing foreign “naval exercises” in 2010 in the Yellow Sea.78 The PLA’s 2010 Defense White
Paper of March 2011 asserted coordination and control between the PLA and other authorities.
Secretary of State Clinton gave a speech on April 10, 2012, stressing that “China is not the Soviet
Union,” “we are not on the brink of a new Cold War in Asia,” and “this is not 1912 when friction
between a declining Britain and a rising Germany set the stage for global conflict.” Apparently
responding positively at the S&ED on May 3 in Beijing, PRC leader Hu Jintao called for a “new
type of great power relationship” that is reassuring to both countries and to others. Hu promptly
dispatched General Liang Guanglie as the Defense Minister to visit the United States on May 4-
10, where he echoed Hu by saying that “China and the United States should build a new type of
state-to-state relationship that is not in the stereotype that the two major powers are predestined to
engage into confrontation or conflict.” The PLA supports a positive tone for U.S.-PRC ties.
Transparency, Reciprocity, and Information-Exchange
Critics of military exchanges with China have charged that the United States gained limited
information about the PLA, while granting greater access to the PLA than the access we received.
A related question in the debate has concerned the extent to which the issues of reciprocity and
transparency should affect or impede efforts to increase mutual understanding with the PLA.
According to the Pentagon’s report submitted to Congress in January 2001, in 1998, the PLA
denied requests by the U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff, General Ryan, to fly in an SU-27 fighter, see
integration of the SU-27s into units, and see progress in development of the F-10 fighter. Also in
1998, the PLA denied a U.S. request for Secretary of Defense Cohen to visit China’s National
Command Center. Still, the PLA requested access to U.S. exercises showing warfighting
capabilities, with two cases of denial by the Pentagon in 1999: PLA requests to send observers to
the U.S. Army’s premier National Training Center (NTC) at Fort Irwin in California and to the
Red Flag air combat training exercise at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada (see Table 2 on PLA
delegation’s visit in March 1999).
Regarding controversial access to the U.S. Army’s NTC, visits by the PLA in the 1990s included
those in November 1994 and December 1997.79 Then, in December 1998, the Army reportedly
78 Jiefangjun Bao, January 15, 2011; “Military Report,” CCTV-7, April 23, 2011; China Daily, May 2, 2011.
79 The PLA’s visit to the NTC in November 1994 was not the first time that the PLA observed U.S. military training at
Fort Irwin. In August 1985, the United States allowed the PLA to observe military training at Fort Benning, GA; Fort
(continued...)
U.S.-China Military Contacts: Issues for Congress
Congressional Research Service 33
resisted a PLA request for greater, unprecedented access to the NTC in 1999, because the PLA
asked for access greater than that granted to other countries, the PLA would gain information to
enhance its warfighting, and the PLA was unlikely to reciprocate with similar access for the U.S.
military. The PLA wanted to observe, with direct access, the 3rd Infantry Division (Mechanized)
and the 82nd Airborne Division in a training exercise. Army officials reportedly felt pressured by
Admiral Prueher at PACOM and Secretary Cohen to grant the request. In the end, the Pentagon
announced on March 17, 1999, that it denied the PLA’s request.80
The Defense Department’s 2003 report to Congress on PRC military power charged that “since
the 1980s, U.S. military exchange delegations to China have been shown only ‘showcase’ units,
never any advanced units or any operational training or realistic exercises.”81 However, a Rand
study in 2004 argued that the DOD’s statement “appears to be inaccurate.” Rand reported that
between 1993 and 1999, U.S. visitors went to 51 PLA units. (PLA delegations visited 71 U.S.
military units between 1994 and 1999.) The report recommended that “the best way of dealing
with the reciprocity and transparency issue is to remove it as an issue.” It called for proper
planning and a focus on educational exchanges.82 Still, reciprocal exchanges at military
educational institutions has been challenged by the PLA’s separation of foreign military and PLA
students, with foreign students grouped in their own classes and facilities, while U.S. schools
tended to integrate U.S. and foreign students. It was not until March 2009, that the PLA
reportedly started to follow international practice to mix foreign and PLA students in the same
class, at the Air Force Command College of the PLAAF.83
In 2005, the PRC did not allow U.S. forces to observe the major combined PLA-Russian military
exercise, “Peace Mission 2005,” and prohibited U.S. participation in the multilateral humanitarian
exercise in Hong Kong, in which U.S. forces had joined for years in the past.84 Still, PACOM
Commander, Admiral Fallon, invited PLA observers to the U.S. “Valiant Shield” exercise that
brought three aircraft carriers to waters off Guam in June 2006. In August 2007, U.S. observers
were not invited to monitor the PRC-Russian combined exercise “Peace Mission 2007.”
Nonetheless, U.S. participants in contacts with the PLA have reported gaining insights into PLA
capabilities and concepts. The record of military contacts since 1993 (in the Appendix of this
report) showed some instances when the PLA allowed U.S. officials to be first-time foreign
visitors with first-time “unprecedented access.” These examples included the following:
• Satellite Control Center in Xian (1995)
• Guangzhou Military Region headquarters (1997)
• Beijing Military Region’s Air Defense Command Center (1998)
(...continued)
Bragg, NC; and Fort Irwin, CA. See Colonel Jer Donald Get, “What’s With the Relationship Between America’s Army
and China’s PLA?” Army War College monograph, September 15, 1996.
80 Sean Naylor, “Chinese Denied Full Access to the NTC,” Army Times, March 29, 1999.
81 Department of Defense, “Report on PRC Military Power,” July 2003.
82 Kevin Pollpeter, “U.S. China Security Management: Assessing the Military-to-Military Relationship,” RAND
Corporation, 2004.
83 Jiefangjun Bao [Liberation Army Daily], July 16, 2010.
84 Assistant Secretary of Defense Peter Rodman, remarks to the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review
Commission, March 16, 2006.
U.S.-China Military Contacts: Issues for Congress
Congressional Research Service 34
• 47th Group Army (1998)
• Armored Force Engineering Academy (2000)
• Training base in Inner Mongolia (2003), with multinational access
• Zhanjiang, homeport of the PLAN’s South Sea Fleet (2003)
• Beijing Aerospace Control Center (2004)
• 2nd Artillery (missile corps) headquarters (2005)
• 39th Group Army (2006)
• FB-7 fighter at 28th Air Division (2006)
• Su-27 fighter and T-99 tank (2007)
• Jining Air Force Base (2007)
• Song-class submarine and Luzhou-class destroyer (2007)
• CSS-7 (M-11) short-range ballistic missile and Yuan-class submarine (2011)
• GZMR’s 121st Infantry Division of the 41st Group Army (2012).
Tension Reduction over Taiwan
Tensions over Taiwan have continued to flare since the mid-1990s, with many observers fearing
the possibility of war looming between the United States and China—two nuclear powers. In
April 2004, Assistant Secretary of State James Kelly testified to Congress that U.S. efforts at
deterring China’s coercion “might fail” if Beijing becomes convinced that it must stop Taiwan
from advancing on a course toward permanent separation from China.85 Kelly also noted that the
PRC leadership accelerated the PLA buildup after 1999. The Pentagon reported to Congress in
May 2004 that the PLA has “accelerated” modernization, including a missile buildup, in response
to concerns about Taiwan.86
Under the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA), P.L. 96-8, that has governed U.S. policy toward Taiwan
since 1979, Congress has oversight of the President’s management of the cross-strait situation
under the rubric of the “one China” policy.87 While considering contacts with the PLA, the United
States, after the 1995-1996 Taiwan Strait Crisis, has increased arms sales to and ties with
Taiwan’s military.88 Policy considerations include offering arms sales and cooperation to help
Taiwan’s self-defense; securing leverage over Beijing and Taipei; deterring aggression or
coercion; discouraging provocations from Beijing or Taipei; and supporting cross-strait dialogue
and confidence-building measures (CBMs). In educational exchanges with the PLA, questions
have concerned whether to allow PLA officers to attend U.S. military academies, colleges, or
85 Testimony at a hearing on “The Taiwan Relations Act: The Next 25 Years,” before the House International Relations
Committee, April 21, 2004.
86 Defense Department, “Annual Report on PRC Military Power,” May 29, 2004.
87 See CRS Report RL30341, China/Taiwan: Evolution of the “One China” Policy—Key Statements from Washington,
Beijing, and Taipei, by Shirley A. Kan.
88 See CRS Report RL30957, Taiwan: Major U.S. Arms Sales Since 1990, by Shirley A. Kan.
U.S.-China Military Contacts: Issues for Congress
Congressional Research Service 35
universities, and how that change could affect attendees from Taiwan’s military; and whether to
allow attendees from Taiwan at PACOM’s Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies (APCSS).
Concerning the APCSS courses in Honolulu, the Bush Administration’s policy change to allow
attendance from Taiwan affected the PLA’s attendance and interactions among the U.S., PRC, and
other Asian militaries. In November 2001, the Department of Defense directed APCSS to allow
people from Taiwan to participate in courses and conferences. Acknowledging the potential
difficulty for continuing participation by the PLA, the policy called for alternating invitations to
the PRC and Taiwan. In the summer of 2002, three fellows from Taiwan attended the Executive
Course, the first time that Taiwan sent students to APCSS. Ostensibly objecting to alternating
attendance with Taiwan’s representatives, the PLA stopped sending representatives to APCSS,
after attending courses from 1999 to mid-2002. Nonetheless, by 2010, the U.S. military assessed
that Taiwan’s attendance was a convenient excuse and complaint, even as the PRC has sent non-
PLA students to APCSS since 2008 (and APCSS has complied with the PRC’s goals and control
of attendance by a PRC organization). Moreover, the PLA’s NDU had set up its own International
Symposium Course (ISC) in 1999 modeled after APCSS to “train” foreign military officers such
that the PLA controls discussions between its officers and foreign counterparts.89
While the Mutual Defense Treaty of 1954 terminated at the end of 1979 and the TRA does not
commit the United States to defend Taiwan, the TRA states that it is U.S. policy, inter alia:
• to consider any non-peaceful efforts to determine the future of Taiwan, including
boycotts or embargoes, a threat to the peace and security of the Western Pacific
region and of “grave concern” to the United States;
• to provide Taiwan with arms of a defensive character (making available to
Taiwan such defense articles and defense services in such quantity as may be
necessary to enable Taiwan to maintain a sufficient self-defense capability);
• to maintain the U.S. capacity to resist any resort to force or other forms of
coercion that would jeopardize the security, or the social or economic system, of
the people on Taiwan.
There is a question about the extent of the U.S. role in supporting cross-strait dialogue. In
Shanghai in July 2000, visiting Secretary of Defense Cohen said that the Clinton Administration
viewed the newly elected President Chen Shui-bian of Taiwan as offering hope for cross-strait
reconciliation. Cohen stepped out of the narrow mil-to-mil context and met with Wang Daohan,
chairman of the PRC’s Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait (ARATS). This meeting
raised questions about the U.S. role in more actively encouraging cross-strait talks. Cohen said
that Chen showed flexibility after becoming president and that there was a window of opportunity
for changes.90 In contrast, in Beijing in February 2004, visiting Under Secretary of Defense Feith
said he did not discuss the contentious issue raised by PLA leaders “at length” concerning
referendums in Taiwan—an issue over which the PRC threatened to use force. Feith said he did
not discuss the issue because it was not defense-related.91
89 Consultation at the Biennial Conference at APCSS on July 16-18, 2002, and with former PACOM staff; Colonel
(retired) Frank Miller’s presentation at Army War College, October 2010; consultation at PACOM, November 2010.
90 Department of Defense, “Secretary Cohen’s Press Conference at the Shanghai Stock Exchange,” Shanghai, China,
July 14, 2000.
91 Joe McDonald (AP), “Feith Voices Concern Over Chinese Missiles,” Army Times, February 11, 2004.
U.S.-China Military Contacts: Issues for Congress
Congressional Research Service 36
There are complications in consideration of the question of Taiwan in the U.S.-PRC military
relationship. Not discussing Taiwan leaves the primary dispute subject to misperception or
miscalculation. However, linking the Taiwan question can raise tensions and frustrations over a
disagreement that military exchanges cannot solve. A 2007 study co-authored by former PACOM
Commander Dennis Blair called for discussion of the PLA’s missile buildup against Taiwan and
greater efforts to reduce tensions across the Taiwan Strait.92
The PLA has suspended military exchanges in retaliation for steps in U.S. policy toward Taiwan,
especially continued arms sales. However, even as the PLA signaled its displeasure and urged
U.S. cooperation in “peace and stability” in the Taiwan Strait, cutting off exchanges played a
counterproductive role by raising U.S.-PRC tension. Moreover, the PRC’s implicit linkage has
targeted the U.S. Navy in particular, precisely the service advocating engagement with the PLA.
After Taiwan’s President Chen Shui-bian proposed in June 2007 that Taiwan hold a referendum
on membership in the U.N. under the name “Taiwan” on the day of the next presidential election
(scheduled for March 22, 2008), Beijing opposed it as a step toward Taiwan’s de jure
independence. While joining the PRC in opposing the referendum, the Bush Administration
continued the U.S. policy of providing some security assistance to Taiwan. After notifications to
Congress of arms sales to Taiwan in September and November 2007, the PRC protested by
refusing to hold military-to-military exchanges, including an annual MMCA meeting scheduled
for October 2007. The PRC also denied port visits at Hong Kong in November 2007 by U.S.
Navy minesweepers in distress (USS Patriot and USS Guardian) and by the carrier group led by
the USS Kitty Hawk for the Thanksgiving holiday and family reunions, leading to official protests
by the Pentagon to the PLA.
After sailing away from the denied port call in Hong Kong toward Japan, the USS Kitty Hawk
sailed through the Taiwan Strait, raising objections in China with claims in PRC media of the
strait as China’s “internal waterway.” When asked at a news conference in Beijing on January 15,
2008, visiting PACOM Commander, Admiral Keating said, “we don’t need China’s permission to
go through the Taiwan Strait. It’s international water. We will exercise our free right of passage
whenever and wherever we choose as we have done repeatedly in the past and we’ll do in the
future.” Two days later, when asked whether ships need the PRC’s permission to sail through the
Taiwan Strait, China’s foreign ministry spokesperson did not reject the idea of permission from
Beijing while claiming the strait as a “highly sensitive area.”
After the Bush Administration notified Congress of some pending arms sales to Taiwan on
October 3, 2008, the PLA suspended some but not all military exchanges and nonproliferation
talks. The Defense Department spokesman said that the PRC canceled or postponed several
meetings in “continued politicization” of the military-to-military exchanges.93
After tentative support in 2008 in both Beijing and Taipei for cross-strait confidence building
measures (CBMs), PACOM’s Admiral Keating raised the question of a U.S. role when he offered
in February 2009 to host talks between the PLA and Taiwan’s military.94 However, Reagan’s “Six
Assurances” to Taiwan in 1982 included one of not “mediating” between Beijing and Taipei.
92 Dennis Blair and Carla Hills, co-chairs of a task force at the Council on Foreign Relations, “U.S.-China Relations:
An Affirmative Agenda, A Responsible Course,” April 10, 2007.
93 Statement quoted in “China Cancels Military Contacts with U.S. in Protest,” AP, October 6, 2008.
94 Quoted in “Optimism Grows for U.S.-China Military Talks,” New York Times, February 19, 2009.
U.S.-China Military Contacts: Issues for Congress
Congressional Research Service 37
Meanwhile, President Obama did not notify Congress of any major Foreign Military Sales (FMS)
to Taiwan in 2009. After President Obama’s five notifications on January 29, 2010, the PRC
threatened the next day to respond in four ways: postpone “partial” military-to-military
exchanges; postpone deputy ministerial level meetings on international security, arms control, and
weapons nonproliferation; impose sanctions on U.S. defense firms involved in the arms sales to
Taiwan; and react in interactions on international and regional problems. The State Department
issued a statement, regretting that the PRC government announced plans to curtail military-tomilitary
and other security-related exchanges and to take action against U.S. firms that supply
defensive articles to Taiwan, because U.S. policy contributes to stability and security.95 The
PRC’s immediate response was the postponement of Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg’s
meetings in Beijing in February (that later took place in early March). The threat to U.S. firms
was new in public but already existed and remained vague (with possible, partial impact on two
companies, Boeing and General Electric) and risked backfiring on Beijing (in trade or other ties).
Further, the PRC Embassy in Washington even called at least one U.S. defense firm’s executive
directly on a personal phone on a weekend in early February with an implied warning. The
company countered that the PRC already had a “blacklist” against some U.S. firms, the embassy’s
contact was highly inappropriate, and the senior diplomat should direct the PRC’s messages
instead to the State Department. The firm informed State of the harassment of U.S. executives.
The impact on mil-to-mil meetings was mixed, since there were tentative major mutual visits in
discussion but they were not scheduled and then canceled by the PLA. As the Chairman of the
Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen said at a press conference on February 22, he was not
aware of any mil-to-mil activities that had been ongoing and then called off. The PRC allowed a
ship visit (by the USS Nimitz) to Hong Kong in February. In the spring, there were minor
meetings at which the PLA declined to participate (such as a conference at the Naval War
College) or host (such as visits by the students of the National War College and CAPSTONE
class for flag/general officers). Yet, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for POW/MIA
Personnel Affairs Bob Newberry visited Beijing in April to discuss with PLA officials accounting
for missing personnel. In May, PACOM Commander Admiral Robert Willard and Assistant
Secretary of Defense Wallace Gregson visited Beijing for the Strategic and Economic Dialogue
and met with PLA Deputy Chief of General Staff Ma Xiaotian (Air Force General) and Rear
Admiral Guan Youfei who blasted the U.S. side for numerous faults.96 In June, when Secretary
Gates traveled to Singapore for the “Shangri-la Dialogue” of defense ministers, the PLA sent a
lower-level official (Ma) to the meeting and declined to host Gates for a visit. Still, while the PLA
and others pointed to U.S. arms sales as the reason for the PLA’s snub, another factor could have
been the timing of a visit, right after South Korea announced on May 20 the finding that North
Korea sank the South Korean naval ship Cheonan on March 26. The PRC continued to support
North Korea and could have found it useful also to blame U.S. arms sales to Taiwan. PRC
Defense Minister Liang Guanglie later attributed timing difficulties in not hosting Gates in June.97
Also in June, a PLA attaché with the rank of Senior Colonel based in Washington spoke officially
and in uniform at the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) in Virginia.
Finally, if the PLA believed that U.S. arms sales to Taiwan actually countered PRC interests, the
PLA or the broader PRC authorities have not retaliated against Taiwan for requesting or buying
defense items. PRC threats or steps have been directed against the United States but not Taiwan.
95 Quoted by Reuters, January 30, 2010.
96 John Pomfret, “In Chinese Admiral’s Outburst, a Lingering Distrust of U.S.,” Washington Post, June 8, 2010.
97 Nihon Keizai Shimbun, Tokyo, June 12, 2010.
U.S.-China Military Contacts: Issues for Congress
Congressional Research Service 38
Meanwhile, the Obama Administration resurrected an approach from the Clinton Administration,
as discussed above, whereby the mil-to-mil relationship involved PRC/CPC officials on Taiwan.
In September 2010, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Michael Schiffer visited Beijing to
discuss military exchanges but also included a meeting at the Taiwan Affairs Office (TAO). At the
same time, the PLA expressed the desire to resume all military-to-military exchanges.
After President Obama notified Congress of major arms sales to Taiwan on September 21, 2011,
the PLA postponed the visits of the PACOM Commander (Admiral Robert Willard) and U.S.
Army Band (to reciprocate for the PLA band’s visit); a combined anti-piracy naval drill in the
Gulf of Aden; and a combined medical rescue exercise with the PLA’s naval hospital ship. That
PLAN ship, named “Peace Ark,” conducted an emergency medical drill in the Pacific Ocean on
September 22, as it sailed to visit Latin American countries. Nonetheless, by December 2011, the
PLA hosted in Beijing the 12th round of the Defense Consultative Talks (DCT).
Weapons Nonproliferation98
Despite long-term engagement with the PLA to seek cooperation in weapons nonproliferation, the
United States continues to have concerns about PRC entities and repeatedly has imposed
sanctions. China has close relationships with Pakistan, Iran, and the Democratic People’s
Republic of Korea (DPRK). China did not join in the U.S.-led Proliferation Security Initiative
(PSI) announced by President Bush in May 2003 (to interdict dangerous shipments).
There is a debate about the policy of engaging China—and the PLA—in a multilateral effort to
achieve the dismantlement of North Korea’s nuclear weapons and nuclear programs. In April
2003, China hosted trilateral talks among the United States, China, and North Korea. Then, China
hosted the first round of Six-Party Talks in August 2003 that also included Japan, South Korea,
and Russia. The following month, PLA units replaced paramilitary People’s Armed Police (PAP)
units along China’s border with North Korea, apparently to signal to Pyongyang the seriousness
of the tensions and warn against provocative actions. After the third round of the Six-Party Talks,
PRC leaders hosted North Korea’s defense minister in July 2004. There have been questions
about whether China has been adequately assertive in using its economic and political leverage
over North Korea and whether China shares the U.S. priority of the complete, verifiable, and
irreversible dismantlement—not just a freeze—of North Korea’s nuclear weapons programs.
China has stated the common goal of a nuclear-free Korean peninsula and demonstrated its
displeasure with North Korea after its missile and nuclear tests in 2006, including when CMC
Vice Chairman Guo Boxiong visited Washington in 2006. However, China has shifted from
pressuring North Korea with the military relationship to buttressing the DPRK regime’s security
and survival for stability. Beijing last hosted the “Six-Party Talks” on December 8-11, 2008.
A related issue has arisen about how to discuss the PRC’s military relationship with the DPRK,
including any PLA contingency planning in the event of a crisis or collapse of the DPRK regime.
China supported the DPRK even after it attacked South Korea’s naval ship and island in 2010. A
related issue concerns the challenge in talking with the PLA about contingencies that also could
involve the U.S. and allied militaries. Other key questions concern the PLA’s knowledge of the
DPRK’s missile and nuclear programs, plans to secure weapons and nuclear material, willingness
to share intelligence with the United States and U.S. allies, and aim to exert control that could
98 For further discussion, see CRS Report RL31555, China and Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction and
Missiles: Policy Issues, by Shirley A. Kan.
U.S.-China Military Contacts: Issues for Congress
Congressional Research Service 39
complicate U.S. and Republic of Korea (ROK) operations. The PLA has seen the DPRK as a
buffer, keeping U.S. and ROK forces below the 38th parallel. PLA General Ma Xiaotian, in July
2010, expressed “opposition” to even U.S.-ROK exercises in the Yellow Sea.
Involving potential cooperation in nuclear nonproliferation, nuclear security, and counterterrorism,
the Departments of Energy and Defense agreed to establish a Center of Excellence on
Nuclear Security in China during the visit of PRC leader Hu Jintao in January 2011. The PRC
agency in implementing the agreement is the China Atomic Energy Authority (CAEA). One issue
concerns compliance with restrictions in the FY2000 NDAA.
Strategic Nuclear, Missile, Space, and Cyber Security
As for a strategic nuclear dialogue, the Clinton Administration had included nuclear forces as a
priority area for expanded military discussions, including during the visits to China in 1998 of
Secretary of Defense Cohen and President Clinton. In his visit to China in 1998, President
Clinton announced a bilateral “agreement” not to target strategic nuclear weapons against each
other. However, the short statement was symbolic and lacked implementation.
Since then, concerns have increased about China’s modernizing strategic nuclear force and its
“No First Use” policy, including whether it is subject to debate. In July 2005, PLA Major General
Zhu Chenghu, a dean at the PLA’s National Defense University, told western journalists in
Beijing that “if the Americans draw their missiles and position-guided ammunition into the target
zone on China’s territory, I think we will have to respond with nuclear weapons,” and he included
the PLA’s naval ships and fighters as China’s “territory.” Zhu added that if the United States is
determined to intervene in a Taiwan scenario, “we will be determined to respond, and we Chinese
will prepare ourselves for the destruction of all cities east of Xian [an ancient capital city in northcentral
China]. Of course, the Americans will have to be prepared that hundreds of, or two
hundreds of, or even more cities will be destroyed by the Chinese.” Zhu also dismissed China’s
“No First Use” policy, saying that it applied only to non-nuclear states and could be changed.
China’s experts argued that Zhu’s comments reflected China’s concerns about the challenges
presented by U.S. defense policy and nuclear strategy for China’s policy.99 Aside from such
sensationalistic statements, the Defense Department’s 2011 report to Congress on the PLA noted
that “some PLA officers have written publicly of the need to spell out conditions under which
China might need to use nuclear weapons first; for example, if an enemy’s conventional attack
threatened the survival of China’s nuclear force, or of the regime itself. However, there has been
no indication that national leaders are willing to attach such nuances and caveats to China’s ‘no
first use’ doctrine.”
Moreover, there has been a challenge to engage with the Commander of the Second Artillery.
When Defense Secretary Rumsfeld visited China in October 2005, the PLA accorded him the
honor of being the first foreigner to visit the Second Artillery’s headquarters. Its commander,
General Jing Zhiyuan, assured Rumsfeld that China would not be the first to use nuclear
weapons.100 General Jing later hosted the Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee,
Representative Ike Skelton, at the Second Artillery’s headquarters in August 2007.101
99 Jason Dean, “Chinese General Lays Nuclear Card on U.S.’ Table,” Wall Street Journal, July 15, 2005; Danny
Gittings, “General Zhu Goes Ballistic,” Wall Street Journal, July 18, 2005; World Security Institute China Program,
“Opening the Debate on U.S.-China Nuclear Relations,” China Security, Autumn 2005.
100 General Jing’s reiteration of the “no first use” pledge was cited by one official PRC media report: “Rumsfeld Visits
(continued...)
U.S.-China Military Contacts: Issues for Congress
Congressional Research Service 40
The Bush Administration invited General Jing to visit the Strategic Command (STRATCOM), as
discussed during a summit between Presidents Bush and Hu Jintao in Washington in April 2006.
Two months later, Assistant Secretary of Defense Peter Rodman visited Beijing for the DCT and
discussed the invitation to the 2nd Artillery Commander. In October 2006, the STRATCOM
commander, General James Cartwright (USMC), expressed interest in engaging with the PLA on
space issues, including how the two sides could avoid and handle collisions or interference
between satellites, and perceptions of attacks on satellites.102 However, General Jing declined to
schedule a visit.103 On January 11, 2007, the PLA conducted its first successful direct ascent antisatellite
(ASAT) weapons test by launching a missile with a kinetic kill vehicle to destroy a PRC
satellite.104 On June 13, 2007, Deputy Under Secretary of Defense Richard Lawless testified to
the House Armed Services Committee that the PLA would not set a date to hold a dialogue on
nuclear policy, strategy, and doctrine. Lawless said that PLA strategic forces have improved the
capability to target the U.S. mainland.105 General Jing Zhiyuan has traveled outside of China, but
not to the United States, including a trip to Sweden and Bulgaria in November 2007. The PLA’s
refusal raised questions about China’s intentions and Hu Jintao’s control over the PLA.
The PLA took some modest steps in December 2007, when the PLA delegation to the 9th DCT
included 2nd Artillery Deputy Chief of Staff Yang Zhiguo. In April 2008, the PLA and the Defense
Department held talks in Washington on nuclear strategy at the “experts” level, indirectly
involving the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA). The DTRA-sponsored talks have
continued. The PLA proposed to change the Pentagon-PLA defense policy talks into a “Strategic
Dialogue,” that would include nuclear policy. In early 2009, the National Security Council’s
Senior Director for Asia, Dennis Wilder, said that the PLA was intentionally being mysterious to
have an advantage and expressed concerns about miscalculation and doubts China would engage
in arms control.106 General Jing Zhiyuan visited Tanzania and Uganda in October 2008, but not
the United States. In July 2009, General Jing visited Serbia and Ukraine.
Under the Obama Administration, at a summit in Beijing in November 2009, President Obama
repeated what President Clinton said about non-targeting of nuclear arms. In the first U.S.-PRC
“Joint Statement” since 1997, Obama and Hu Jintao issued a “Joint Statement” which reaffirmed
the U.S-PRC “commitment” of June 27, 1998, “not to target at each other the strategic nuclear
weapons under their respective control.” The two countries also claimed “common interests” in
promoting the peaceful use of outer space.
While in India in January 2010, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said that the United States
sought to start a routine, in-depth dialogue with the PRC on strategic intentions and plans, in
order to avoid miscalculations or misunderstandings and safeguard global stability. He cited his
experience with the value of strategic arms talks with the Soviet Union. In April, Assistant
Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Kurt Campbell also lamented that lagging
(...continued)
China; The Chinese Side Reiterates It Will Not Use Nuclear Weapons First,” Zhongguo Tongxun She [New China
News Agency], October 20, 2005.
101 Xinhua and Associated Press, August 27, 2007.
102 Jeremy Singer, “Cartwright Seeks Closer Ties with China, Russia,” Space News, October 16, 2006.
103 Bill Gertz, “Chinese General’s U.S. Visit for Nuke Talks Deferred,” Washington Times, January 15, 2007.
104 See CRS Report RS22652, China’s Anti-Satellite Weapon Test, by Shirley A. Kan.
105 House Armed Services Committee, hearing on China: Recent Security Developments, June 13, 2007.
106 Quoted in “Bush Official Urges China to Lift Nuclear Secrecy,” AP, January 14, 2009.
U.S.-China Military Contacts: Issues for Congress
Congressional Research Service 41
behind a number of dialogues with the PRC has been the military dialogue, and lagging further
beyond overall military talks has been a nuclear dialogue. The next month, Campbell said that the
U.S. side proposed that Defense Department officials going to the S&ED in Beijing brief the PLA
on the Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) and Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) (of February and
April 2010).107 However, the PLA did not accept such DOD briefings on the agenda of the S&ED.
The NPR called for a dialogue with China on “strategic stability”108 to provide a mechanism for
each side to communicate its views about the other’s strategies, policies, and programs on nuclear
weapons and other strategic capabilities, thereby enhancing confidence, improving transparency,
and reducing mistrust. A model for U.S.-PLA discussion could be the PRC-Russian agreement of
October 2009, on mutual notifications of launches of ballistic missiles and space launch vehicles.
The Defense Secretary reported to Congress in August 2010 that after the first round of talks on
nuclear policy and strategy in April 2008, the PLA has not agreed to further talks. Secretary Gates
raised this concern with CMC Vice Chairman General Xu Caihou, when he visited in October
2009. General Chilton hosted General Xu for a brief visit at STRATCOM. Further, the report
named as a priority a strategic dialogue in nuclear, space, and cyber topics. However, the U.S.
proposal has met resistance from the PLA. Meanwhile, General Jing of the 2nd Artillery visited
Hungary and Belarus in July 2010, but not the United States. After that in 2010, there were some
PLA occasions in Beijing at which General Jing was the only one of the CMC who was absent.
During his visit in early 2011, Secretary Gates again proposed a Strategic Dialogue and invited
General Jing to visit. The PLA agreed to “study” the proposal. However, even before Gates met
with Jing, the PLA issued a press statement to sum up Gates’ visit. Moreover, the U.S.-PRC Joint
Statement of January 19, 2011, issued at Hu Jintao’s state visit did not note a “strategic dialogue”
or a PLA visit to STRATCOM. Indeed, on April 27, the PLA’s spokesman failed to acknowledge
even consideration of a strategic dialogue or a visit by General Jing.
Still, at the 3rd S&ED in Washington on May 9-10, 2011, the Defense and State Departments
started the first Strategic Security Dialogue (SSD) with the PRC that brought together the PLA
and the Foreign Ministry. The Defense Department contended that this SSD stemmed from Gates’
proposal for strategic talks. The SSD discussed cyber and maritime disputes. Subsequently, the
U.S. side has found a challenge in continuing the SSD outside the occasion of the annual S&ED.
The Defense Secretary’s 2011 report on the PLA told Congress that the PLA’s writings have
covered capabilities for cyber warfare. Meanwhile, General Jing traveled to Mexico and Peru in
August 2011, but not the United States. In May 2012, the Commander of the STRATCOM said he
would like to talk with the PLA and does not see its strategic deterrent as a direct threat to the
United States, because it is not an enemy. The next month, Jing visited Indonesia and Thailand.
107 Department of Defense, “Press Conference with Secretary Gates from India,” January 20, 2010; “China and Nuclear
Talks,” Washington Times, April 29, 2010; State Department, “Briefing on the Upcoming U.S.-China Strategic and
Economic Dialogue,” May 19, 2010.
108 On “strategic stability,” see, for example: Brad Roberts, “Strategic Deterrence Beyond Taiwan,” in Beyond the
Strait: PLA Missions Other Than Taiwan (Army War College, April 2009); Li Bin and Nie Hongzhen, “An
Investigation of China-U.S. Strategic Stability,” Union of Concerned Scientists, May 2009; M. Taylor Fravel and Evan
Medeiros, “China’s Search for Assured Retaliation,” International Security, Fall 2010; Dean Cheng, “Chinese Views
on Deterrence,” Joint Forces Quarterly, 1st Quarter 2011; Lora Saalman, “China and the U.S. Nuclear Posture
Review,” Carnegie-Tsinghua Center for Global Policy, February 2011; Christopher Castelli, “Draft Report Urges
Accepting Mutual Nuclear Vulnerability With China,” Inside Defense, July 25, 2012.
U.S.-China Military Contacts: Issues for Congress
Congressional Research Service 42
Since the first SSD, the Defense Department issued, in July 2011, the first Strategy for Operating
in Cyberspace. In fall of 2011, the National Counterintelligence Executive (NCIX) submitted the
first unclassified report to Congress since 2008 on economic espionage and the first to focus on
cyber espionage. The NCIX reported that China’s actors are the world’s most active and
persistent perpetrators of economic espionage and that there has been an onslaught of computer
network intrusions that originated in China, though that report (on an unclassified basis) claimed
an inability to confirm the attackers. However, a later news report stressed that the National
Security Agency (NSA) indeed has tracked cyber attacks to groups connected to the PLA and that
such attacks have targeted U.S. defense programs. Then, a former Director of National
Intelligence, Secretary of Homeland Security, and Deputy Secretary of Defense wrote that the
PRC has a national policy of economic espionage in cyberspace.109 The PACOM Commander,
Admiral Robert Willard, testified to the Senate Armed Services Committee on February 28, 2012,
that China’s active development of cyber and space capabilities fell within its military
modernization. Still, China has claimed to be a “victim” of cyber crime, and this claim could
form a basis for cooperation. In May, visiting Defense Minister Liang Guanglie denied that cyber
attacks originate from China but offered to talk about cyber security. U.S. officials cited cyber
behavior that appears to originate in China.
Members of Congress have raised concerns about China’s use of cyber espionage to advance the
PLA’s power as well as the economy’s growth. In May 2012, the Defense Department’s annual
report on the PLA reported to Congress that PRC telecommunications companies, such as
Huawei, Datang, and Zhongxing (ZTE), have ties to the PRC government and PLA entities.
Moreover, on October 8, after an investigation and hearing, the House Intelligence Committee
warned of risks to U.S. national security from using Huawei or ZTE products. The next day, the
State Department’s spokesperson referred to the SSD for raising concerns about cyber threats.
Days later, Defense Secretary Panetta warned in a speech about a “cyber Pearl Harbor.” He said
he raised concerns when he was in Beijing in September about communication and transparency
to avoid miscalculation or misunderstanding about advanced cyber capabilities.110
Counterterrorism
The PRC’s cooperation in counterterrorism after the attacks on September 11, 2001, has not
included military cooperation with the U.S. military. The U.S. Commanders of the Central and
Pacific Commands, General Tommy Franks and Admiral Dennis Blair, separately confirmed in
April 2002 that China did not provide military cooperation (nor was it requested) in Operation
Enduring Freedom against Al Qaeda in Afghanistan (e.g., basing, staging, or overflight) and that
China’s shared intelligence was not specific enough. Also, the Pentagon issued a report in June
2002 on the international coalition fighting terrorism and did not include China among the
countries providing military contributions. China has provided diplomatic support, cited by the
State Department. U.S.-PRC counterterrorism cooperation has been limited, while U.S. concerns
have increased about the PRC’s increased influence in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization
109 NCIX, “Foreign Spies Stealing U.S. Economic Secrets in Cyberspace,” October 2011; Siobhan Gorman, “U.S.
Homes in On China Spying,” Wall Street Journal, December 13, 2011; Mike McConnell, Michael Chertoff, William
Lynn, “China’s Cyber Thievery is National Policy–And Must be Challenged,” Wall Street Journal, January 27, 2012.
110 Representatives Mike Rogers and Dutch Ruppersberger, Chairman and Ranking Member of the House Intelligence
Committee, “China’s Cyber Trade War Against the U.S.,” Politico, April 26, 2012, and “Investigative Report on the
U.S. National Security Issues Posed by Chinese Telecommunications Companies Huawei and ZTE,” October 8, 2012;
Defense Department, “Remarks by Secretary Panetta on Cybersecurity to the Business Executives for National
Security,” New York City, October 11, 2012.
U.S.-China Military Contacts: Issues for Congress
Congressional Research Service 43
(SCO) and its call for U.S. withdrawals from Central Asia, and about PRC-origin small arms and
anti-aircraft missiles found in Afghanistan and Iraq.111
Some have urged caution in military cooperation with China on this front, while others see
benefits for the U.S. relationship with China and the war on terrorism. Senator Bob Smith and
Representative Dana Rohrabacher wrote Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld in late 2001, to express
concerns about renewed military contacts with China. In part, they argued that “China is not a
good prospect for counterterrorism cooperation,” because of concerns that China has practiced
internal repression in the name of counterterrorism and has supplied technology to rogue regimes
and state sponsors of terrorism.112 In contrast, a report by Rand in 2004 urged a program of
security management with China that includes counterterrorism as one of three components.113
As preparations intensified for the summer Olympic Games in Beijing in 2008, a policy issue
concerned the extent to which the United States, including the U.S. military, should support
security at the games to protect U.S. citizens and should cooperate with the PLA and the
paramilitary PAP. With concerns about internal repression by the PRC regime in the Tiananmen
Crackdown of June 1989 and after, U.S. sanctions (in §902 of the Foreign Relations
Authorization Act for FY1990-FY1991, P.L. 101-246) have denied the export to China of defense
articles/services, including helicopters, as well as crime control equipment. Presidential waivers
are authorized. A precedent was set in 2004, when various U.S. departments, including the
Department of Defense, provided security assistance for the Olympic games in Athens, Greece, in
2004. On June 22, 2006, at a hearing of the House Armed Services Committee, Brigadier General
John Allen, the Principal Director for Asian and Pacific Affairs at the Office of the Secretary of
Defense, testified that the Pentagon started discussions with China regarding security cooperation
for the 2008 Olympics. However, Deputy Under Secretary of Defense Richard Lawless testified
to the House Armed Services Committee on June 13, 2007, that China did not accept offers from
the Defense Department to assist in Olympic security.
In February 2009, U.S. policymakers proposed a non-lethal supply route from China to
Afghanistan, partly due to worry about the vulnerable route through Pakistan. The proposal did
not see progress, but seemed less urgent after Kyrgyzstan in June reversed its threat in February
to evict U.S. forces from Manas air base. Speaking at the annual Shangri-la Dialogue in
Singapore in May 2009, Defense Secretary Gates said that he would welcome China’s help in
Afghanistan, including for security assistance of civilian efforts there.114
Any military cooperation with China would involve stark differences on human rights. The
United States takes into account the role of the PRC’s armed forces, including the paramilitary
PAP, in internal security (including against Tibetan and Uighur peoples in the western regions).
After an earthquake in Port-Au-Prince, Haiti, in January 2010, the Army’s 82nd Airborne had
soldiers conduct the first U.S. combined patrol with U.N. peacekeepers there. However, the U.N.
unit was a PAP unit deployed in police uniforms of the Ministry of Public Security (MPS).115
111 See CRS Report RL33001, U.S.-China Counterterrorism Cooperation: Issues for U.S. Policy, by Shirley A. Kan.
112 Senator Bob Smith and Representative Dana Rohrabacher, letter to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld,
December 17, 2001.
113 Rand, “U.S.-China Security Management: Assessing the Military-to-Military Relationship,” July 2004.
114 Vijay Joshi, “U.S. Urges Europe, China to Step up Afghan Help,” AP, May 30, 2009.
115 “China, U.S. Peacekeepers Conduct Joint Patrol in Haiti,” Xinhua, January 29, 2010. Dennis Blasko, ex-Army
Attache, noted that this MPS unit belonged to the PAP Yunnan Border Defense unit and may wear MPS uniforms.
U.S.-China Military Contacts: Issues for Congress
Congressional Research Service 44
Accounting for POW/MIAs
For humanitarian reasons or to advance the broader U.S.-PRC relationship, the PLA has been
helpful in U.S. efforts to resolve POW/MIA cases from World War II, the Vietnam War, and the
Cold War. In February 2001, the Defense Department characterized PRC assistance to the United
States in recovering remains from World War II as “generous,” citing the missions in 1994 in
Tibet and in 1997-1999 in Maoer Mountain in southern China.116
However, for 16 years—even as the survivors of those lost in the Korean War were aging and
dying—the United States faced a challenge in securing the PLA’s cooperation in U.S. accounting
for POW/MIAs from the Korean War. Despite visits by the Director of the Defense POW/MIA
Office (DPMO) and other military officials to China and improved bilateral relations, the United
States was not able to announce progress in obtaining cooperation from the PLA until 2008.
In April 1992, a military official in Eastern Europe supplied a report to then Secretary of Defense
Dick Cheney, alleging that “several dozen” American military personnel captured in the Korean
War (1950-1953) were sent to a camp in the Northeastern city of Harbin in China where they
were used in psychological and medical experiments before being executed or dying in
captivity.117 In May 1992, the State Department raised the issue of POW/MIAs with the PRC,
saying it was a “matter of the highest national priority,” and in June 1992, the Senate Select
Committee on POW/MIA Affairs received information from the Russian government indicating
that over 100 American POWs captured in the Korean War were interrogated by the Soviet Union
and possibly sent to China.118 The United States also presented to the PRC a list of 125 American
military personnel still unaccounted for since the Korean War, who were believed to have been
interrogated in the Soviet Union and then sent to China. China responded to the United States that
it did not receive anyone on that list from the former Soviet Union.119 But that response
apparently did not address whether China received American military personnel from North
Korea or China itself transferred them.
Upon returning from North Korea and Southeast Asia in December 1992, Senator Robert Smith,
Vice Chairman of the Select Committee on POW/MIA Affairs, disclosed that officials in
Pyongyang admitted that “hundreds” of American POWs captured in the Korean War were sent to
China and did not return to North Korea. According to Smith, North Korean officials said that
China’s PLA operated POW camps in North Korea during the Korean War and the Cold War and
detained Americans in China’s northeastern region. Moreover, North Korean officials told Smith
that some American POWs could have been sent to the Soviet Union for further interrogations.
Smith advocated that the U.S. government press the PRC government for information on POWs
rather than accept the PRC’s denials that it had POWs or information about them, saying “this is
where the answers lie.”120 (The Senate created the Select Committee on POW/MIA Affairs in
August 1991, chaired by Senator John Kerry. It concluded in December 1992, after gaining
“important new information” from North Korea on China’s involvement with U.S. POWs.121)
116 Department of Defense, news release, “China Provides World War II U.S. Aircraft Crash Sites,” February 8, 2001.
117 Melissa Healy, “China Said to Have Experimented on U.S. POWs,” Los Angeles Times, July 4, 1992.
118 Mark Sauter, “POW Probe Extends to Korea, China,” Tacoma News-Tribune, June 21, 1992.
119 “No U.S. POWs in China,” Beijing Review, July 27-August 2, 1992.
120 Carleton R. Bryant, “N. Korea: POWs Sent to China: Senator Says U.S. Must Prod Beijing,” Washington Times,
December 23, 1992.
121 Report of the Select Committee on POW/MIA Affairs, S.Rept. 103-1, January 3, 1993.
U.S.-China Military Contacts: Issues for Congress
Congressional Research Service 45
Secretary of Defense Cohen visited China in 1998 and stressed cooperation on POW/MIA cases
one of four priorities in exchanges with the PLA. After visiting China in January 1999 to seek the
PLA’s cooperation in opening its secret archives on the Korean War, the Director of DPMO,
Robert Jones, said that “we believe that Chinese records of the war may hold the key to resolving
the fates of many of our missing servicemen from the Korean War.” DPMO’s spokesman, Larry
Greer, reported that the PRC agreed to look into the U.S. request to access the archives.122
In March 2003, DPMO Director Jerry Jennings visited China and said that PRC records likely
hold “the key” to resolving some POW/MIA cases from the Korean War.123 Just days after the
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Myers, visited Beijing in January 2004, PRC
media reported on January 19, 2004, that the government declassified the first batch of over
10,000 files in its archives on the PRC’s foreign relations from 1949 to 1955. However, this step
apparently excluded wartime records, and General Myers did not announce cooperation by China
in providing information in its archives related to American POW/MIAs from the Korean War.124
The PRC later announced in July 2004 the declassification of a second batch of similar files. In
February 2005, DPMO acknowledged that PRC cooperation on Korean War cases remained the
“greatest challenge.”125
Visiting Beijing with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in October 2005, Pentagon officials
again raised the issue of access to China’s Korean War archives believed to hold documents on
American POWs.126 In July 2006, General Guo Boxiong (the top PLA officer) visited the United
States and agreed to open PLA archives on the Korean War. However, in his June 2007 report to
Congress on military contacts, Secretary Gates reported that the PLA’s help “yielded mixed
results.” PLA cooperation with DPMO was “limited” in 2006, despite General Guo’s promise.
There was some progress in February 2008, when China finally agreed to allow access to the PLA
archives on the Korean War. However, the PLA did not grant direct U.S. access to the records, as
asked by the Defense Department. The DPMO would have to request searches done by PRC
researchers at the archives, and the PLA would control and turn over deemed acceptable records.
The two sides also had to negotiate the frequency, amount, and expenses of the PLA’s searches.
Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for POW/MIA Affairs Charles Ray signed an initial
Memorandum in Shanghai on February 29, 2008, which was followed by a detailed memorandum
on April 24, 2008.127 Despite the PRC’s refusal to cooperate for many years, a PRC Foreign
122 Sue Pleming, “U.S. Asks China for Access to Korean POW Files,” Reuters, February 4, 1999.
123 Department of Defense, “U.S., China Agree to Enhanced Cooperation on POW/MIA Matters,” March 29, 2003.
124 Author’s consultation with DPMO, January 29, 2004.
125 DPMO, “Personnel Accounting Progress in China as of February 4, 2005,” February 2005.
126 Robert Burns, “Pentagon Seeking Access to Chinese Records on War MIAs,” AP/Arizona Republic, October 23,
2005; and author’s discussions with DPMO.
127 “Pentagon Cites MIA Deal With China,” AP, February 25, 2008, quoting DPMO spokesman Larry Greer; and
Defense Department, “U.S. and China Sign POW/ MIA Arrangement,” news release, February 29, 2008. DPMO signed
two memoranda with the PLA and its Archives Department: “Memorandum of Arrangement Between the Department
of Defense, the United States of America, and the Ministry of National Defense, the People’s Republic of China, to
Establish and Develop Military Archives Cooperation Activities to Search for Information Relating to U.S. Military
Personnel Missing in Action Before, During, and After the Korean War,” February 29, 2008; and “Memorandum of
Arrangement on Developing Military Archive Cooperation Between the U.S. Department of Defense Prisoner of
War/Missing Personnel Office and the People’s Liberation Army Archives Department on Information Relating to U.S.
Military Personnel Missing in Action Before, During, and After the Korean War,” April 24, 2008.
U.S.-China Military Contacts: Issues for Congress
Congressional Research Service 46
Ministry spokesman claimed China agreed out of “humanitarianism.”128 The United States also
has had a challenge in seeking information on POW camps run by the PLA in North Korea.
DPMO agreed to pay the PLA for its research in the amount of $75,000 semi-annually, at no more
than $150,000 each fiscal year. Under the agreed arrangement, the two sides have held annual
meetings in the United States and the PRC, and the PLA has provided progress reports and annual
reports. On July 10, 2008, the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Military Personnel held a
hearing on POWs and MIAs, with discussion of POW/MIAs taken to China during the Korean
War, including Sergeant Richard Desautels who was buried in China in 1953. In mid-2009, the
PLA finally provided to the DOD initial information, but that report consisted of 25 pages of
summaries of supposedly classified documents on U.S. POW/MIAs from the Korean War (and
not the documents), after the United States paid the PLA $150,000.129 Still, DPMO has gotten
some progress from the PLA in its willingness over cooperation since 2008. During CMC Vice
Chairman General Xu Caihou’s visit in October 2009, he provided information to Defense
Secretary Gates about a site in Guangdong province where a U.S. aircraft crashed, part of new
insights for the Defense Department which had thought the plane crashed into the sea. The PLA
also provided new information on five cases of aircraft that crashed in China and North Korea.
The PLA Archives Department provided its second annual report in 2010, but there was a gap of
five months (April-September 2009) between the first and second reports. The DPMO has
continued to rely on the PLA’s reporting of its archival research, with a third written report
submitted to the U.S. side in September 2011, again for $150,000, but with no meeting.130 The
Memorandum signed in April 2008 expired in April 2011 and required a revised agreement. The
DPMO signed a new technical arrangement on May 17, 2012, for a period until May 16, 2015.
The arrangement agreed to the same amount of $150,000 per year and expanded coverage of the
PLA’s archival research to include World War II, Cold War, and Vietnam War. The DPMO still
would not have direct access to the archive.
128 “PRC Will Continually Help Look for Remains of U.S. Soldiers Killed in Korean War,” Xinhua, February 28, 2008.
129 “Inside the Ring,” Washington Times, July 16, 2009; PLA Archives Department, “Achievement Document of
Military Archives Cooperation Between the People’s Republic of China and the United States of America, October
2008 – April 2009.”
130 DPMO, “Personnel Accounting Progress in China,” September 30, 2011; PLA Archives Department, “The
Achievement Document of Military Archives Cooperation Between the People’s Republic of China and the United
States of America, September 2009-August 2010”; and report for August 2010-August 2011.
U.S.-China Military Contacts: Issues for Congress
Congressional Research Service 47
Appendix. Major Military Contacts and Incidents
Since 1993
The scope of this record of mil-to-mil contacts focuses on senior-level visits, strategic talks,
functional exchanges, agreements, commissions, and training or exercises. This compiled record
does not provide a detailed list of all mil-to-mil contacts (that also include confidence building
measures (CBMs), educational exchanges that include visits by students at U.S. military colleges
and the Capstone educational program for new U.S. general/flag officers, the numerous port calls
in Hong Kong that continued after its hand-over from British to PRC control in July 1997,
disaster relief missions, and multilateral conferences). There is no security assistance, as U.S.
sanctions against arms sales have remained since 1989. Sources include numerous official
statements, reports to Congress, documents, news stories, consultations, and observations.
Specific dates are provided to the extent possible, while there are instances in which just the
month is reported. Text boxes summarize major bilateral tensions in crises or confrontations as a
context for the alternating periods of enthusiastic and skeptical contacts.
1993
In July 1993, the Clinton Administration suspected that a PRC cargo ship, called the Yinhe, was going to Iran with
chemicals that could be used for chemical weapons and sought to inspect its cargo. In an unusual move, on August 9,
China first disclosed that it protested U.S. “harassment” and finally allowed U.S. participation in a Saudi inspection of
the ship’s cargo on August 26, 1993. Afterward, the State Department said that the suspected chemicals were not
found on the ship at that time. The PRC has raised this Yinhe incident as a grievance against the United States and the
credibility of U.S. intelligence in particular.
November 1-2 Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs Chas Freeman visited China,
renewing mil-to-mil ties for the first time since the Tiananmen Crackdown in June 1989. Freeman
met with General Liu Huaqing (a Vice Chairman of the CMC), General Chi Haotian (Defense
Minister), Lieutenant General Xu Huizi (Deputy Chief of General Staff), and Lieutenant General
Huai Guomo (Vice Chairman of COSTIND).
1994
January 17-21 Lieutenant General Paul Cerjan, President of the National Defense University (NDU), visited
China to advance professional military exchanges with the PLA’s NDU. Cerjan visited the Nanjing
MR and saw the 179th Infantry Division.
March 11-14 Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Frank Wisner visited China, along with Secretary of State
Warren Christopher.
July 6-8 Commander of the Pacific Command (PACOM), Admiral Charles Larson, visited China and held
talks with PLA Deputy Chief of General Staff, General Xu Huizi.
August 15-18 The Director of the PRC’s National Bureau of Surveying and Mapping (NBSM) visited the United
States and signed an agreement for a cooperative program with the Defense Mapping Agency, the
predecessor of the National Imagery and Mapping Agency (NIMA), regarding the global
positioning system (GPS). The agreement refers to the “Protocol for Scientific and Technical
Cooperation in Surveying and Mapping Studies Concerning Scientific and Technical Cooperation
in the Application of Geodetic and Geophysical Data to Mapping, Charting, and Geodetic
(MC&G) Programs.”
August 15-25 Deputy Chief of General Staff, General Xu Huizi, visited the United States and met with Defense
Secretary William Perry and General John Shalikashvili, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in
Washington, DC, and PACOM Commander, Admiral Richard Macke, in Hawaii.
September 7-29 In a POW/MIA operation, a U.S. Army team traveled to Tibet with PLA support to recover the
U.S.-China Military Contacts: Issues for Congress
Congressional Research Service 48
remains of two U.S. airmen whose C-87 cargo plane crashed into a glacier at 14,000 feet in Tibet
on December 31, 1944, during a flight over the “hump” back to India from Kunming, China, in
World War II.
September 19-24 Chief of Staff of the U.S. Air Force, General Merrill McPeak, visited China and met with PLA Air
Force Commander, General Cao Shuangming.
October 16-19 Secretary of Defense William Perry visited China and met with Generals Liu Huaqing (CMC Vice
Chairman) and Chi Haotian (Defense Minister). On October 17, Perry and PLA General Ding
Henggao, Director of COSTIND, conducted the first meeting of the newly-established U.S.-China
Joint Defense Conversion Commission. They signed the “U.S.-China Joint Defense Conversion
Commission: Minutes of the First Meeting, Beijing, October 17, 1994.”
In a confrontation in the Yellow Sea on October 27-29, 1994, the U.S. aircraft carrier battle group led by the USS Kitty
Hawk discovered and tracked a Han-class nuclear attack submarine of the PLA Navy. In response, the PLA Air Force
sent fighters toward the U.S. S-3 Viking aircraft tracking the submarine. Although no shots were fired by either side,
China followed up the incident with a warning, issued to the U.S. Naval Attache over dinner in Beijing, that the PLA
would open fire in a future incident.
November 5-10 The Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), Lieutenant General James Clapper, visited
China. He met with the GSD’s Second Department (Intelligence) and the affiliated China Institute
for International Strategic Studies (CIISS), saw the 179th Division in Nanjing, and received a
briefing on tactical intelligence.
November 11-15 The Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration, David Hinson, and the Defense
Department’s Executive Director of the Policy Board on Federal Aviation, Frank Colson, visited
China to formulate the “U.S.-China 8-Step Civil-Military Air Traffic Control Cooperative Plan”
agreed to during establishment of the Joint Defense Conversion Commission.
November 19-26 The PLA sent a delegation of new general and flag officers to the United States (similar to the U.S.
Capstone program), led by Lieutenant General Ma Weizhi, Vice President of the NDU. They
visited: Fort Irwin (including the National Training Center); Nellis Air Force Base (and observed a
Red Flag exercise); Washington, DC (for meetings at NDU and Pentagon, including with the Vice
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral William Owens); and Norfolk Naval Base (and
toured an aircraft carrier).
December A delegation from NIMA visited China to sign a GPS survey plan and discuss provision of PRC
data on gravity for a NIMA/NASA project on gravity modeling and establishment of a GPS
tracking station near Beijing.
December 10-13 Assistant Secretary of Defense for Strategy and Requirements Ted Warner visited China to brief
on the U.S. defense strategy and budget as part of a defense transparency initiative, based on an
agreement between Secretary Perry and General Chi Haotian in October 1994.
1995
January 28-
February 10
PLA Major General Wen Guangchun, Assistant to the Director of the General Logistics
Department (GLD), visited at the invitation of the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for
Acquisition and Technology. The U.S. military briefed on logistics doctrine and systems and
allowed the PLA visitors to observe U.S. military logistics activities and installations.
February 6-10 U.S. Air Force Deputy Chief of Staff for Plans and Operations, Lieutenant General Joseph Ralston,
led a delegation of officials from the Department of Defense, Federal Aviation Administration, and
Department of Commerce to visit China. They studied the PRC’s civil-military air traffic control
system and discussed future cooperation.
In early February 1995, the PLA Navy occupied Mischief Reef in the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea, although
Mischief Reef is about 150 miles west of the Philippines’ island of Palawan but over 620 miles southeast of China’s
Hainan Island off its southern coast. China seized a claim to territory in the South China Sea against a country other
than Vietnam for the first time and challenged the Philippines, a U.S. treaty ally. Some Members of Congress
introduced resolutions urging U.S. support for peace and stability. Three months later, on May 10, 1995, the Clinton
U.S.-China Military Contacts: Issues for Congress
Congressional Research Service 49
Administration issued a statement opposing the use or threat of force to resolve the competing claims, without
naming China.
February 24-
March 7
President of the PLA’s NDU, Lieutenant General Zhu Dunfa, visited West Point in New York;
NDU and Pentagon in Washington, DC; Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama; Naval Air Station
North Island (and boarded an Aegis-equipped cruiser), Marine Recruit Depot, and Camp
Pendleton Marine Corps Base in California; and PACOM in Hawaii.
March 22-24 The USS Bunker Hill (Aegis-equipped, Ticonderoga-class cruiser) visited Qingdao, in the first U.S.
Navy ship visit to China since 1989. The senior officer aboard, Rear Admiral Bernard Smith,
Commander of Carrier Group Five, met with Vice Admiral Wang Jiying, Commander of the PLA
Navy (PLAN)’s North Sea Fleet.
March 25-28 A Deputy Director of COSTIND, Lieutenant General Huai Guomo, visited Washington to meet
with officials at the Department of Commerce, Department of Defense, and people in the private
sector to discuss possible projects for the Joint Defense Conversion Commission.
March 26-April 2 Lieutenant General Xiong Guangkai, PLA Assistant Chief of General Staff (with the portfolio of
military intelligence), visited the United States, reciprocating for Assistant Secretary of Defense
for Strategy and Requirements Ted Warner’s visit to Beijing in December 1994. Xiong provided
briefings on the PLA’s defense strategy and budget, and the composition of the armed forces, and
received briefings on U.S. national and global information infrastructures.
March 28-April 4 A delegation from the PRC’s National Bureau of Surveying and Mapping visited the United States
to hold discussions with NIMA and release PRC gravity data for analysis.
April 19 Vice Minister of the PRC’s General Administration of Civil Aviation (CAAC) Bao Peide visited the
United States to meet with the Federal Aviation Administration and U.S. companies. U.S. Air
Force Deputy Chief of Staff for Plans and Operations, Lieutenant General Ralph Eberhart, briefed
the PRC delegation on U.S. Air Force air traffic control programs.
April 25-30 PACOM Commander, Admiral Richard Macke, visited China, hosted by PLA Deputy Chief of
General Staff, General Xu Huizi.
May 17-22 PLA Air Force Commander, Lieutenant General Yu Zhenwu, visited the United States, hosted by
the U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff. Originally scheduled to last until May 27, the PLA ended the visit
on May 22 to protest the Clinton Administration’s decision to grant a visa to Taiwan’s President
Lee Teng-hui to visit his alma mater, Cornell University.
On July 21-28, 1995, after the Clinton Administration allowed Taiwan’s President Lee Teng-hui to make a private visit
to give a speech at Cornell University on June 9, the PLA launched M-9 short-range ballistic missiles in “test-firings”
toward target areas in the East China Sea. The PLA held other exercises directed against Taiwan until November.
On August 3, 1995, China expelled two U.S. Air Force attaches stationed in Hong Kong who were detained in China.
China accused them of collecting military intelligence in restricted military areas along the southeastern coast.
August 31-
September 2
PLA Commander of the Guangzhou MR, Lieutenant General Li Xilin, visited Hawaii to participate
in a ceremony to commemorate the 50th anniversary of victory in the Pacific in World War II. Li
met with Secretary of Defense Perry, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Shalikashvili,
and PACOM Commander, Admiral Macke.
September 7-16 Two NIMA teams visited China to establish GPS satellite tracking stations and discuss plans for a
GPS survey in China in 1996.
U.S.-China Military Contacts: Issues for Congress
Congressional Research Service 50
October 15-25 Lieutenant General (USAF) Ervin Rokke, President of the NDU, visited China and held talks with
Lieutenant General Xing Shizhong, President of the PLA’s NDU, about professional military
educational exchanges. The PLA arranged for Rokke to visit the 196th Infantry Division under the
Beijing MR, the Satellite Control Center in Xian (the first U.S. access), the Guilin Army Academy
in Guilin, and the Guangzhou MR.
November 14-18 Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs Joseph Nye visited Beijing and
met with General Chi Haotian. Nye said that “nobody knows” what the United States would do if
the PLA attacked Taiwan.
1996
On January 19, 1996, China expelled the U.S. Assistant Air Force Attache and the Japanese Air Force Attache, after
detaining them while they were traveling in southern China.
January 20-27 The Deputy Chief of Staff for Plans and Operations of the U.S. Air Force, Lieutenant General
Ralph Eberhart, visited China as head of a delegation of representatives of the Department of
Defense, Federal Aviation Administration, and Department of Commerce, as part of the Air
Traffic Control Cooperative Program.
January 31-
February 4
The USS Fort McHenry, a dock-landing ship, visited Shanghai, under the command of Rear Admiral
Walter Doran.
February 6 Visiting PRC Vice Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing met with Under Secretary of Defense for Policy
Walter Slocombe at the Pentagon.
March 7 Secretary of Defense Perry, along with National Security Advisor Anthony Lake, attended a
dinner meeting hosted by Secretary of State Christopher at the State Department for PRC
Foreign Affairs Office Director Liu Huaqiu. Perry warned Liu that there would be “grave
consequences” should the PLA attack Taiwan.
On March 8-15, 1996, the PLA launched four M-9 short-range ballistic missiles into waters close to the two ports of
Keelung and Kaohsiung in Taiwan. Leading up to Taiwan’s first democratic presidential election on March 23, the PLA
conducted live fire exercises in the Taiwan Strait on March 12-25.
On March 10-11, 1996, the United States announced that it would deploy two aircraft carriers, the USS Independence
and USS Nimitz, to waters near the east coast of Taiwan.
March 9-17 Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs Stephen Joseph visited China to advance bilateral
military medical relations. Joseph and a Deputy Director of the GLD, Lieutenant General Zhou
Youliang, signed a “Memorandum of Medical Exchange and Cooperation.”
April 5-13 Geodesy and geophysical staff from NIMA visited China to hold discussions with the PRC’s
National Bureau of Surveying and Mapping.
May 4-20 A geodesy and geophysical survey team from NIMA visited China to perform a cooperative GPS
survey.
June 25-28 Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Walter Slocombe visited China.
July 11-August 31 The PRC’s National Bureau of Surveying and Mapping visited the United States to hold discussions
with NIMA on cooperative projects and computation of results for the GPS China survey.
September 2-8 PACOM Commander, Admiral Joseph Prueher, visited China, hosted by a PLA Deputy Chief of
General Staff, Lieutenant General Xiong Guangkai.
September 10 The Office for Defense Procurement/Foreign Contracting of the Under Secretary of Defense for
Acquisition and Technology hosted Vice Chairman of the State Planning Commission She Jianming
at the Pentagon and provided a briefing on the Defense Department’s procurement system.
U.S.-China Military Contacts: Issues for Congress
Congressional Research Service 51
September 16-18 NIMA participated in the 9th meeting of the U.S.-PRC Joint Working Group for Scientific and
Technical Cooperation in Surveying in Beijing.
September 17-29 A Deputy Director of the GLD, Lieutenant General Zhou Youliang, visited the United States to
advance bilateral military medical relations, as the reciprocal visit for that of the Assistant
Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs to China in March 1996. Both sides discussed cooperation
between military hospitals, such as PLA 301 Hospital and Walter Reed Army Medical Center.
September 17 At the Pentagon, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Asian and Pacific Affairs Kurt
Campbell met with the vice president of the Chinese Institute for Contemporary International
Relations (CICIR), which is associated with the Ministry of State Security.
September 21-27 A team from NIMA visited China to perform maintenance on the GPS tracking station and discuss
cooperative plans on gravity data.
October 4-17 Lieutenant General Xing Shizhong, President of the PLA’s NDU, visited the United States. He and
Lieutenant General Ervin Rokke, President of the U.S. NDU, signed a “Memorandum on
Cooperation and Reciprocal Relations” between the two NDUs. They agreed to undertake
reciprocal interaction on a broad range of issues relevant to professional military education,
including military art, the evolution of strategy and doctrine, strategic assessment, the impact of
technological advance on the nature of warfare, library science, and publishing.
October 11-17 Surgeon General of the U.S. Air Force Lieutenant General Edgar Anderson led a military medical
delegation to participate in the XXXI International Congress on Military Medicine in Beijing.
October 20 At the Pentagon, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Asian and Pacific Affairs Kurt
Campbell met with a delegation from the Chinese Institute of International Strategic Studies
(CIISS), which is associated with the PLA.
November 11-19 The Director of DIA, Lieutenant General Patrick Hughes, visited China.
December 5-18 General Chi Haotian, a Vice Chairman of the CMC and Minister of Defense, visited the United
States, to reciprocate for Defense Secretary Perry’s visit to China in October 1994. Perry
announced that General Chi’s visit allowed for discussions of global and regional security issues as
well as the future of mil-to-mil ties. While in Washington, General Chi met with President
Clinton for 20 minutes. A controversy arose when General Chi gave a speech at NDU at Fort
McNair and defended the PLA’s crackdown on peaceful demonstrators in Beijing in 1989 (during
which he was the PLA’s Chief of General Staff) and claimed—apparently in a narrow sense—that
no one died in Tiananmen Square itself. DOD provided a draft proposal for a bilateral military
maritime cooperative agreement. The two sides agreed to continue U.S. port calls to Hong Kong
after its hand-over from British to PRC control on July 1, 1997; to allow PLA ship visits to Hawaii
and the U.S. west coast; to institutionalize Defense Consultative Talks; to hold senior-level visits;
and to allow U.S. repatriation of the remains of the crew of a B-24 bomber that crashed in
southern China in World War II (after General Chi presented dog tags found at the crash site).
After Washington, Perry arranged for General Chi to travel to Air Force and Navy facilities in
Norfolk, Virginia; the Air University at Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama; Army units at Fort
Hood, Texas; the Cooperative Monitoring Center at the Sandia National Laboratory in New
Mexico (for discussion of technology that could be used to verify the Comprehensive Test Ban
Treaty); and PACOM in Hawaii headed by Admiral Joseph Prueher.
1997
January 13-17 A Defense POW/MIA team went to Maoer Mountain in southern Guangxi province to recover
the remains of a “Flying Tigers” crew whose B-24 bomber crashed into the mountain in 1944
after bombing Japanese forces near Taiwan during World War II.
January 15 At the Pentagon, Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs Frank Kramer
met with Wang Daohan, president of the PRC’s Association for Relations Across the Taiwan
Strait (ARATS).
February 21-
March 6
Lieutenant General Kui Fulin, a Deputy Chief of General Staff, visited the United States, hosted by
the Chief of Staff of the Army (CSA), General Dennis Reimer. General Kui visited the Pentagon,
West Point in New York, U.S. Army Forces Command in Georgia, Fort Benning in Georgia, and
PACOM in Hawaii.
February 24-27 The Principal Assistant Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Environmental Security, Gary
U.S.-China Military Contacts: Issues for Congress
Congressional Research Service 52
Vest, visited Beijing to participate in the 1997 China Environment Forum and met with PLA
leaders to discuss environmental security issues.
March 9-25 PLA Naval ships (the Luhu-class destroyer Harbin, the Luda-class destroyer Zhuhai, and the oiler
Nanchang) visited Pearl Harbor, HI (March 9-13) and San Diego, CA (March 21-25), in the PLA
Navy (PLAN)’s second ship visit to Pearl Harbor and first port call to the U.S. west coast. As part
of the occasion, Vice Admiral He Pengfei (a PLAN Deputy Commander) and Vice Admiral Wang
Yongguo (PLAN South Sea Fleet Commander) visited the United States.
April Major General John Cowlings, Commandant of the Industrial College of the Armed Forces of the
U.S. NDU, visited China.
May 12-15 The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General John Shalikashvili, visited China, hosted by the
PLA’s Chief of General Staff, General Fu Quanyou. On May 14, 1997, Shalikashvili gave a speech at
the PLA’s NDU, in which he called for mil-to-mil contacts that are deeper, more frequent, more
balanced, and more developed, in order to decrease suspicion, advance cooperation, and prevent
miscalculations in a crisis. He called for a more equal exchange of information, confidence building
measures (CBMs), military academic and functional exchanges, the PLA’s participation in
multinational military activities, and a regular dialogue between senior military leaders. He also
urged the completion of the military maritime and air cooperative agreement. However,
Shalikashvili reportedly got only a limited view of the PLA during a visit to the 15th Airborne Army
(in Hubei province).
July Lieutenant General Xu Qiliang, Chief of Staff of the PLA Air Force, led an education and training
delegation to the United States.
July Lieutenant General Wu Quanxu, a Deputy Chief of General Staff of the PLA, visited PACOM.
August 5-13 General Fu Quanyou, PLA Chief of General Staff, visited the United States. Secretary of Defense
William Cohen and General John Shalikashvili welcomed Fu at the Pentagon with a 19-gun salute.
General Fu also visited West Point in New York, Fort Bragg in North Carolina, Norfolk Naval
Base in Virginia, Langley Air Force Base in Virginia, and PACOM in Hawaii. General Fu boarded a
U.S. nuclear attack submarine and the USS Blue Ridge, the 7th Fleet’s amphibious command ship.
September 11-15 An Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, the USS John S. McCain, visited Qingdao. Commander of the
U.S. Pacific Fleet, Admiral Archie Clemins, visited China and met with the Commander of the
PLAN North Sea Fleet, Rear Admiral Zhang Dingfa.
September 14-21 The Judge Advocate General of the U.S. Army, Major General Walter Huffman, visited China,
including the Jinan MR, to discuss military law.
September 22-26 The Chief of Staff of the Army (CSA), General Dennis Reimer, visited China, along with the
Army’s Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence, Lieutenant General Claudia Kennedy. They met with
Generals Chi Haotian and Fu Quanyou, and visited the 6th Tank Division and an engineering
regiment in the Beijing MR, and an artillery unit in the Nanjing MR. They also paid the first U.S.
visit to the command headquarters of the Guangzhou MR.
October 6 The Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Jay Johnson, visited China and met with General Chi
Haotian, General Fu Quanyou, and Admiral Shi Yunsheng, PLAN Commander.
October Lieutenant General He Daoquan, a Vice President of the PLA’s NDU, led a delegation to the
United States (like the U.S. Capstone program for new general/flag officers).
October 29 Jiang Zemin, General Secretary of the Communist Party of China, CMC Chairman, and PRC
President, visited Washington for a summit with President Clinton. Among a number of
agreements, they agreed to strengthen mil-to-mil contacts to minimize miscalculations, advance
transparency, and strengthen communication. In the “U.S.-PRC Joint Statement,” the
Administration reiterated that it adheres to the “one China” policy and the principles in the three
U.S.-PRC Joint Communiques, but did not mention the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA), the law
governing U.S. relations with Taiwan (including security assistance for its self-defense).
November Continuing a POW/MIA mission, a team from the U.S. Army’s Central Identification Laboratory
Hawaii (CILHI) returned to Maoer Mountain in southern China to recover additional remains
from a B-24 bomber that crashed in 1944.
December 8-19 PACOM Commander, Admiral Joseph Prueher, visited China and met with PRC leader Jiang
Zemin, General Zhang Wannian, General Chi Haotian, General Fu Quanyou, among others.
U.S.-China Military Contacts: Issues for Congress
Congressional Research Service 53
Prueher enjoyed what the PLA considered the broadest access ever granted to a visiting military
official during one trip. Prueher visited the Jinan, Nanjing, and Guangzhou MRs. He visited the
PLAAF Flight Test and Development Center in Cangzhou in Jinan, where he saw a static display of
aircraft, after poor weather apparently precluded a flight demonstration of F-7 and F-8 fighters.
Prueher visited the 179th Infantry Division at the Nanjing MR, watched a live-fire assault
demonstration, and toured a farm run by the PLA. At Zhanjiang, Prueher visited the PLA Navy’s
South Sea Fleet, where he observed a demonstration by the 1st Marine Brigade, saw a new aircushioned
landing craft, and toured the destroyer Zhuhai. Prueher stressed future PLA-PACOM
cooperation in peacekeeping and disaster relief training.
December 11-12 Lieutenant General Xiong Guangkai, a PLA Deputy Chief of General Staff, visited the Pentagon to
hold the 1st U.S.-PLA Defense Consultative Talks (DCT) with Under Secretary of Defense for
Policy Walter Slocombe. During their summit in October, Presidents Clinton and Jiang had agreed
to hold regular rounds of DCT. The two sides initialed the Military Maritime Consultative
Agreement (MMCA) (“Agreement Between the Department of Defense of the United States of
America and the Ministry of National Defense of the People’s Republic of China on Establishing a
Consultation Mechanism to Strengthen Military Maritime Safety”).
December The U.S. Air Force and Coast Guard conducted search-and-rescue exercises in Hong Kong (with
its Civil Aviation Department), after the British hand-over of Hong Kong to PRC sovereignty in
July 1997. At a briefing on July 7, 1998, the Pentagon said that the PLA observed this exercise.
December A PLA training delegation visited the U.S. Army’s premier National Training Center (NTC) at
Fort Irwin in California.
1998
January 17-21 Secretary of Defense William Cohen, accompanied by Admiral Prueher (PACOM Commander),
visited China. Cohen signed the “Military Maritime Consultative Agreement (MMCA),” intended
to set up a framework for dialogue on how to minimize the chances of miscalculation and
accidents between U.S. and PLA forces operating at sea or in the air. He said that Jiang Zemin and
General Chi Haotian promised that China did not plan to transfer to Iran additional anti-ship
cruise missiles. The PLA allowed Cohen to be the first Western official to visit the Beijing MR’s
Air Defense Command Center, a step that Cohen called important and symbolic. However, the
PLA denied Cohen’s request to visit China’s National Command Center. Cohen gave a speech at
the PLA’s AMS and called for expanded mil-to-mil contacts on: (1) defense environmental issues;
(2) strategic nuclear missile forces; (3) POW/MIA affairs; and (4) humanitarian operations (as part
of shifting contacts from those that build confidence to those that advance real-world
cooperation). Cohen asked the PLA to allow U.S. access to PRC archives for answers about the
fate of U.S. POW/MIAs in the Korean War who might have been in prison camps in China.
February 16-20 For the first time, the PLA attended the Pacific Area Special Operations Conference (PASOC) in
Hawaii.
March 14-24 A U.S. Army training delegation from the Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) based at
Fort Monroe, VA, visited China. The Deputy Chief of Staff for Training, Major General Leroy Goff
and Assistant Deputy Chief of Staff for Personnel, Major General David Ohle, led the delegation.
They saw the PLA’s training base in Anhui province under the Nanjing MR (similar to the NTC).
March 29-April
10
General Wang Ke, Director of the GLD of the PLA, visited the United States, hosted by the
Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisitions and Technology. General Wang visited West Point
in New York, Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland, the Pentagon, Warner-Robins Air Logistics
Center in Georgia, the Defense Logistics Agency’s Defense Supply Center in Richmond, the USS
Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier at Naval Air Station North Island (San Diego) in California, and
PACOM in Hawaii. At the Pentagon, DOD provided briefings on: organizations for the DOD
Logistics Systems, Logistics Modernization Initiatives, Joint Logistics/Focused Logistics, DOD
Outsourcing Process and Experiences, DOD Military Retirement Systems, and the Army’s
Integrated Training Area Management Program.
In April 1998, the New York Times disclosed that the Justice Department had begun a criminal investigation into
whether U.S. satellite manufacturers, Loral Space and Communications Ltd. and Hughes Electronics Corporation,
violated export control laws. They allegedly provided expertise that China could use to improve its ballistic missiles,
when the companies shared their technical findings with China on the cause of a PRC rocket’s explosion while
U.S.-China Military Contacts: Issues for Congress
Congressional Research Service 54
launching a U.S.-origin satellite in February 1996. The House set up the “Cox Committee” to investigate the
allegations of corporate misconduct and policy mistakes. The Senate set up a task force. Congress passed legislation to
control satellite exports to China
April 6-10 The PLA went to PACOM’s Military Operations and Law Conference, organized by the Judge
Advocate’s office.
April 29-30 The Defense Department and PLA held pre-talks on the Military Maritime Consultative
Agreement (MMCA).
May 3-5 Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs Franklin Kramer visited Beijing.
May 4-9 The Chief of Staff of the U.S. Air Force, General Michael Ryan, visited China. The PLA Air Force
gave him a tour of Foshan Air Base and allowed him to fly an F-7 fighter and view an air-refuelable
version of an FA-2. However, the PLA Air Force denied General Ryan’s requests to fly in a SU-27
fighter, to see integration of the SU-27s into the units, and to see progress on development of the
F-10 fighter.
May A PLA delegation on military law visited the United States.
June 25-July 3 President Clinton traveled to China to hold his 2nd summit with Jiang Zemin, following the summit
in October 1997. They announced that the United States and China: have a direct presidential
“hot line” that was set up in May 1998; will not target strategic nuclear weapons under their
respective control at each other; will hold the first meeting under the MMCA; will observe
exercises of the other based on reciprocity (meaning the PLA would also issue invitations to U.S.
observers); will cooperate in humanitarian assistance; and will cooperate in military environmental
security. However, China only agreed to study whether to join the Missile Technology Control
Regime (MTCR) and did not agree to open archives to allow U.S. research on POW/MIAs from
the Korean War. In Shanghai on June 30, Clinton stated the so-called “Three Noes” of nonsupport
for Taiwan’s independence; non-support for two Chinas or one China and one Taiwan;
and non-support for Taiwan’s membership in international bodies requiring statehood.
July 9-24 At U.S. invitation, the PLA sent two observers to Cope Thunder 98-4, a multinational air exercise
held at Eielson and Elmendorf Air Force Bases in Alaska. The air forces of the United States,
United Kingdom, Australia, Japan, and Singapore participated in the exercise, which was designed
to sharpen air combat skills, exchange air operational tactics, and promote closer relations. Pilots
flew a variety of aircraft in air-to-air and air-to-ground combat missions, and combat support
missions against a realistic set of threats. Russia, Brunei, Malaysia, Thailand, and the Philippines
sent military observers.
July 14-15 In Beijing, the DOD and PLA held the first plenary meeting under the MMCA.
July 15-20 At U.S. invitation, the PLA Navy sent two observers to RIMPAC 1998, the first time the PLA
observed this multinational naval exercise based in Hawaii in the Pacific Ocean. The naval forces
of the United States, Australia, Canada, Chile, Japan, and South Korea participated in the exercise,
which was designed to enhance their tactical capabilities in maritime operations. During part of
the exercise, the U.S. Navy hosted the PLA Navy’s representatives on board the USS Coronado
(the 3rd Fleet’s command ship), the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier, the USS Paul Hamilton (an
Arleigh Burke-class destroyer), and the USS Antietam (a Ticonderoga-class cruiser).
July 20-26 PLA Deputy Chief of General Staff, Lieutenant General Qian Shugen, visited the United States.
July A PRC civilian and military delegation visited the United States, including Pensacola, FL, to discuss
air traffic control with the Federal Aviation Administration, Departments of Commerce and
Defense, and the U.S. Air Force.
August 2-6 The command ship of the 7th Fleet, USS Blue Ridge, and a destroyer, USS John S. McCain, visited
Qingdao. As part of the occasion, Vice Admiral Robert Natter, Commander of the 7th Fleet,
visited and met with Vice Admiral Shi Yunsheng, PLAN Commander, and Vice Admiral He
Pengfei, a PLAN Deputy Commander.
August 16-23 The Commandant of the Army War College, Major General Robert Scales, and the U.S. Army’s
Chief of Military History, Brigadier General John Mountcastle, visited Beijing, Tianjin, and Nanjing,
and discussed the PLA’s historical campaigns.
U.S.-China Military Contacts: Issues for Congress
Congressional Research Service 55
September 12-20 NDU President, Lieutenant General Richard Chilcoat, visited China, including Hong Kong, Beijing,
Xian, and Dalian.
September 14-24 General Zhang Wannian, a Politburo Member, a Vice Chairman of the CMC, and highest ranking
PLA officer, visited the United States. However, with General Shalikashvili’s disappointment with
the lack of transparency and reciprocity shown to him by the PLA during his trip to China in May
1997, Secretary of Defense William Cohen invoked the “Shali Prohibitions” in restricting General
Zhang’s exposure to the U.S. military during his visits to the Pentagon, Fort Benning in Georgia,
and Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada. President Clinton met briefly with General Zhang at the
White House during his meeting with National Security Advisor Samuel Berger. At a news
conference on September 15, 1998, Secretary Cohen announced that he and General Zhang
signed an agreement on cooperation in environmental security (“Joint Statement on the Exchange
of Information by the United States Department of Defense and the Chinese Ministry of National
Defense on Military Environmental Protection”); discussed weapons proliferation and
international terrorism; and agreed to conduct sand table exercises on disaster relief and
humanitarian assistance in 1999, to have a ship visit by the PLA Navy in 1999, to conduct a
seminar on maritime search and rescue, to allow each other to observe specific military exercises,
to exchange military students, and to allow a PRC delegation to visit the Cooperative Monitoring
Center at the Sandia National Laboratory. However, Cohen did not announce any progress in
following up on U.S. concerns about Korean War POW/MIA cases, non-targeting of strategic
nuclear forces (involving the Strategic Command (STRATCOM) and the PLA’s Second Artillery),
PLA threats against Taiwan, or weapons nonproliferation. General Zhang cited President
Clinton’s statements in China in June about the U.S. “one China” policy and the “Three Noes,”
while Secretary Cohen stressed peaceful resolution and said that Clinton reiterated commitment
to the Taiwan Relations Act.
October 20-21 Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Walter Slocombe visited Beijing for the 2nd DCT and met
with Generals Zhang Wannian and Chi Haotian (CMC Vice Chairmen), and Lieutenant General
Xiong Guangkai. They discussed global and regional security issues, defense relations in the Asia-
Pacific region, military strategy and modernization, and mil-to-mil contacts in 1999 (“Gameplan
for 1999 U.S.-Sino Defense Exchanges”). The PLA raised objections to the U.S. plan to field
theater missile defense systems.
November 1 Secretary of Defense Cohen visited Hong Kong (on his way to South Korea and Japan) to
underscore the U.S. determination to continue its defense involvement there, including ship visits,
after its hand-over to PRC rule.
November 9-14 PACOM Commander, Admiral Joseph Prueher, visited China, along with Lieutenant General Carl
Fulford (Commander of U.S. Marine Forces Pacific) and Major General Earl Hailston (Director for
Strategic Planning and Policy). They met with General Zhang Wannian (a CMC Vice Chairman),
General Fu Quanyou (Chief of General Staff), General Wang Ke (GLD Director), and Lieutenant
General Xiong Guangkai (a Deputy Chief of General Staff). The PLA arranged for visits to the 47th
Group Army based near Xian and a subordinate air defense brigade, in granting the first foreign
military access to these two commands. Admiral Prueher also visited the PLA Air Force’s 28th Air
Attack Division in Hangzhou and observed ordnance loading of A-5 bombers and a live-fire
demonstration of an air-to-ground attack by A-5s. He then toured a Jiangwei-class frigate of the
PLA Navy in Shanghai.
December 1-4 U.S. and PLA military forces participated in an annual search and rescue exercise (HK SAREX 98)
held by Hong Kong’s Civil Aviation Department.
December 4 PACOM Commander, Admiral Joseph Prueher, visited Hong Kong and met with Major Generals
Zhou Borong and Xiong Ziren, Deputy Commander and Political Commissar of PLA forces there.
December 4-8 A U.S. Navy frigate, the USS Vandegrift, visited Shanghai. As part of the port call, Rear Admiral
Harry Highfill, Commander of the U.S. 7th Fleet’s Amphibious Force, met with Rear Admiral Hou
Yuexi, Commander of the Shanghai Naval Base. The PLAN arranged for Admiral Highfill to tour
the PLAN’s Jiangwei-class frigate, the Anqing.
U.S.-China Military Contacts: Issues for Congress
Congressional Research Service 56
December 9-11 Military maritime consultative talks (under the MMCA) between the U.S. Navy and PLAN took
place near San Diego, CA. The PLAN delegation, led by Captain Shen Hao, Director of the PLAN
Operations Department, stayed at the Naval Amphibious Base at Coronado and toured a U.S.
destroyer (USS Stetham) and the U.S. Navy’s Maritime Ship Handling Simulator at the San Diego
Naval Station.
1999
At the end of 1998 and start of 1999, the New York Times and Wall Street Journal disclosed that the Cox Committee
was looking at the Clinton Administration’s investigation that began in 1995 into whether China obtained secret U.S.
nuclear weapons data, in addition to missile technology associated with satellite launches. On April 21, 1999, the
Director of Central Intelligence confirmed that “China obtained by espionage classified U.S. nuclear weapons
information that probably accelerated its program to develop future nuclear weapons.” However, it was uncertain
whether China obtained documentation or blueprints, and China also benefitted from information obtained from a
wide variety of sources, including open sources (unclassified information) and China’s own efforts.
January 19-26 The Director of the Defense POW/MIA Office, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Robert
Jones, visited China to seek the PLA’s cooperation in accounting for U.S. POW/MIAs from the
Korean War, specifically seeking U.S. access to PLA archives, veterans, and a film with information
about POW camps in China.
March President of the PLA’s NDU, General Xing Shizhong, visited Washington and gave a speech at the
U.S. NDU at Fort McNair on March 18, 1999. The Pentagon arranged for General Xing to visit
Norfolk Naval Base in Virginia, receive a briefing on the U.S. Navy’s “Network Centric Warfare”
in Rhode Island, visit Fort Hood in Texas and receive a briefing on Task Force XXI (an
experimental warfighting force in the Army), and see the Air Warfare Center at Nellis Air Force
Base in Nevada. However, the Defense Department denied the PLA delegation’s access to
observe the Red Flag combat training exercise at Nellis Air Force Base.
On May 7, 1999, U.S.-led NATO forces bombed the PRC’s embassy in Belgrade, Yugoslavia, having mistakenly
targeted it as a military supply facility belonging to Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, whose Serbian forces
attacked Kosovo. Despite President Clinton’s apology, the PRC angrily suspended mil-to-mil contacts, allowed
protesters to violently attack U.S. diplomatic facilities in China, and denied ship visits to Hong Kong by the U.S. Navy
until September 1999. On May 8, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright wrote a letter to the PRC Foreign Minister to
express “sincere sorrow” for loss of life, injuries, and damage as a result of the mistaken bombing with no intention to
hit the PRC embassy. She also expressed critical concern about China allowing large-scale demonstrations at the U.S.
Embassy and Consulates that were “threatening the safety of our officials and their families and causing damage to our
properties.” The Ambassador was trapped at the U.S. Embassy. PRC protestors burned a building at the Consulate in
Chengdu. Then-PRC Vice President Hu Jintao expressed support for what he called “legal protests.” Testifying to
Congress, Defense Secretary William Cohen warned China against “exacerbating” tension and “calculated
exploitation.” In July 1999, the United States agreed to pay $4.5 million in compensation for PRC casualties. In FY2001
legislation, Congress appropriated $28 million to compensate for damages to China’s embassy.
May A U.S. Navy working group under the MMCA visited Qingdao to discuss international standards
of communication at sea.
May 9-20 A PRC delegation that included PLA officers visited the United States to discuss air traffic control.
On May 18, 1999, they visited Edwards Air Force Base in California and received a briefing on
daily planning, integration, and control of civilian and military operations.
On July 9, 1999, Taiwan President Lee Teng-hui characterized the cross-strait relationship as “special state-to-state
ties,” sparking military tensions with the PLA. The Clinton Administration responded that Lee’s statement was not
helpful and reaffirmed the “one China” policy. The PLA flew fighters across the “center” line of the Taiwan Strait and
conducted exercises along the coast opposite Taiwan. In early September, CMC Vice Chairman General Zhang
Wannian personally directed a joint landing exercise. An earthquake in Taiwan on September 21 defused the tension.
U.S.-China Military Contacts: Issues for Congress
Congressional Research Service 57
November 19-21 Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Asian and Pacific Affairs Kurt Campbell and Major
General (USMC) Michael Hagee, PACOM’s Director for Strategic Planning and Policy (J5), visited
Beijing to discuss resuming military contacts.
December 1-4 U.S. military and PLA participated in Hong Kong’s annual search and rescue exercise.
2000
January 24-26 Resuming contacts, Lieutenant General Xiong Guangkai (a Deputy Chief of General Staff) visited
Washington to hold the 3rd DCT with Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Slocombe. They
discussed the program for mil-to-mil contacts in 2000, international security issues, U.S. strategy
in Asia, the PLA’s missile buildup, Taiwan, missile defense, weapons proliferation, and North
Korea. Xiong met with Secretary of Defense Cohen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs General Henry
Shelton, Deputy National Security Advisor James Steinberg, Under Secretary of State Thomas
Pickering, and State Department Senior Advisor John Holum.
February 17-18 Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott, Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Walter
Slocombe, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joseph Ralston, and Deputy National
Security Advisor James Steinberg visited Beijing (after visiting Tokyo) for a strategic dialogue. They
met with CMC Vice Chairman General Zhang Wannian, who raised concerns about Taiwan,
including U.S. arms sales to Taiwan.
On February 21, 2000, ahead of Taiwan’s presidential election on March 18, 2000, the PRC issued its second Taiwan
White Paper, which declared a threat to use force against Taiwan if a serious development leads to Taiwan’s
separation from China in any name, if there is foreign invasion or occupation of Taiwan, or if Taiwan’s government
indefinitely refuses to negotiate national unification (called the “Three Ifs”). Under Secretary of Defense Slocombe,
who was just in Beijing but was given no indication that the PRC would issue the White Paper and the threat,
responded forcefully on February 22 by warning that China would face “incalculable consequences” if it used force
against Taiwan.
February 27-
March 2
PACOM Commander, Admiral Dennis Blair, visited China and discussed tensions over Taiwan
with Chief of General Staff, General Fu Quanyou, and General Chi Haotian.
March 10-12 Secretary of Defense William Cohen visited Hong Kong and discussed issues such as port calls by
the U.S. Navy and the prevention of trans-shipments of advanced U.S. technology to mainland
China.
March 27-29 A working group under the MMCA held a planning meeting in China.
April 14-22 PLAN Commander, Admiral Shi Yunsheng, visited the United States, coinciding with an annual
round of U.S.-Taiwan arms sales talks in Washington. Admiral Shi met with Secretary of Defense
Cohen, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Richard Myers, and Chief of Naval
Operations Admiral Jay Johnson.
May 28-June 3 PACOM in Hawaii hosted the second plenary meeting under the MMCA. PACOM’s Director for
Strategic Planning and Policy (J5), Major General Michael Hagee (USMC), and the PLA’s Deputy
Chief of Staff, Rear Admiral Wang Yucheng, led the proceedings. They reviewed a mutuallyproduced
document, “A Study on Sino-U.S. Maritime Navigational Safety, Including
Communications.”
June 13-14 Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs Frank Kramer visited Beijing and
met with Major General Zhan Maohai, Lieutenant General Xiong Guangkai, and General Chi
Haotian to plan Secretary of Defense Cohen’s visit to China.
June 13-21 Superintendent of the U.S. Military Academy (West Point), Lieutenant General Daniel Christman,
visited China. He met with General Chi Haotian and visited the PLA’s Armored Force Engineering
Academy, where he was the first American to have access to a PLA Type-96 main battle tank.
June 18-23 Nanjing MR Commander Liang Guanglie led a PLA delegation to visit PACOM in Hawaii and met
with Admiral Dennis Blair.
U.S.-China Military Contacts: Issues for Congress
Congressional Research Service 58
On July 10, 2000, responding to objections from the Clinton Administration and Congress, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud
Barak told PRC ruler Jiang Zemin in a letter that Israel canceled the nearly completed sale of the Phalcon airborne
early warning system to the PLA. Prime Minister Barak informed President Clinton the next day during peace talks at
Camp David, MD.
July 11-15 Secretary of Defense William Cohen visited Beijing and Shanghai. Cohen met with President Jiang
Zemin and Generals Chi Haotian, Zhang Wannian, and Fu Quanyou. Cohen did not visit any PLA
bases. Cohen referred to the promise made by PRC President Jiang Zemin during Cohen’s
previous visit to China in January 1998 and said that the PRC has abided by that agreement not to
ship cruise missiles to Iran. Cohen and General Chi signed an “Agreement on the Exchange of
Environmental Protection Research and Development Information” and discussed the need for
cross-strait dialogue, weapons nonproliferation, and regional stability. The PRC objected to U.S.
plans for missile defense and pressure on Israel to cancel the sale of the Phalcon airborne early
warning system to the PLA, concerning which Israel notified China just before Cohen’s visit.
Cohen offered to fund PLA students at PACOM’s APCSS in Honolulu. Regarding Taiwan, General
Chi said that China would adopt a wait and see posture toward the leader of Taiwan (referring to
Chen Shui-bian of the Democratic Progressive Party, who won the presidential election on March
18, 2000, bringing an end to the Kuomintang (KMT)’s 55 years of rule in Taiwan). Cohen said that
the Administration viewed Chen as offering hope for cross-strait reconciliation. In Shanghai,
Cohen stepped out of the narrow mil-to-mil context and met with Wang Daohan, chairman of
the PRC’s Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait (ARATS). Cohen said that Chen
showed flexibility after becoming president and that there was a window of opportunity for
changes.
July 23-August 4 A delegation of the PLA Medical Department visited the United States.
July 31-August 5 Admiral Thomas Fargo, Commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, visited Beijing and Qingdao in
conjunction with the visit of the U.S. Navy’s guided-missile cruiser USS Chancellorsville in Qingdao
(August 2-5).
August 21-
September 2
President of the PLA’s AMS, General Wang Zuxun, visited the United States. There is no
counterpart in the U.S. military with which to set up reciprocal exchanges. The AMS delegation
included the Directors of the Departments of Strategic Studies, Operational and Tactical Studies,
and Foreign Military Studies. They visited the Pentagon; Joint Forces Command in Norfolk,
Virginia; West Point in New York; Army War College in Pennsylvania; Army’s Training and
Doctrine Command (TRADOC) at Fort Monroe in Virginia; and PACOM in Hawaii. The Joint
Forces Command provided unclassified tours of its Joint Training Directorate (J-7) and Joint
Training Analysis Simulation Center, but not the Joint Experimentation Battle Lab.
September 5-18 PLA Navy ships (the Luhu-class destroyer Qingdao and Fuqing-class oiler Taicang) visited Pearl
Harbor, HI (September 5-8) and Naval Station Everett, near Seattle, WA (September 14-18). In
Hawaii, the visitors toured the U.S. destroyer USS O’Kane.
October For the first time, the PLA invited two U.S. military personnel to attend the one-month
International Security Symposium at the NDU in Beijing. (Subsequent invitations dropped
required fees.)
October 10-18 The PLA participated in a visit to the United States by a Humanitarian Disaster Relief Sandtable
Planning Team.
October 12-13 Secretary of the Navy Richard Danzig visited Shanghai, in the first visit by a U.S. Secretary of the
Navy to China. His visit was curtailed because of the attack on the USS Cole in a Yemeni harbor
on October 12, 2000.
October 24-
November 4
CMC Member and Director of the General Political Department (GPD)—the top political
commissar, General Yu Yongbo, visited the United States. He was hosted by Under Secretary of
Defense for Readiness Bernard Rostker. General Yu’s delegation visited the Pentagon and met
with Secretary of Defense Cohen; West Point in New York; Bolling Air Force Base in
Washington, DC; Fort Jackson in South Carolina; Patrick Air Force Base in Florida; and PACOM
in Hawaii.
November 2-6 Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Henry Shelton, visited China, at the invitation of
Chief of General Staff, General Fu Quanyou. The PLA allowed Shelton to observe a brigade
U.S.-China Military Contacts: Issues for Congress
Congressional Research Service 59
exercising at the Combined Arms Training Center in the Nanjing MR. Shelton stressed the
peaceful resolution of the Taiwan question.
November 2-12 A Deputy Chief of Staff of the PLA Navy, Rear Admiral Zhang Zhannan, led a delegation from the
Naval Command Academy (in Nanjing) to visit Newport News, RI (Naval War College);
Washington, DC (including a meeting with the Secretary of the Navy); Monterey, CA (Naval Post-
Graduate School); and Honolulu, HI (Pacific Command, including a tour aboard an Aegis-equipped
cruiser).
November 12-19 A PLA NDU delegation (similar to the U.S. Capstone program) visited the United States.
November 28-
December 2
Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Walter Slocombe visited Beijing to hold the 4th DCT with
PLA Deputy Chief of General Staff Xiong Guangkai. Slocombe also met with Generals Chi
Haotian and Fu Quanyou and visited the PLA Navy’s North Sea Fleet in Qingdao. The U.S. and
PRC sides discussed sharp differences over Taiwan and missile defense, the program for mil-tomil
contacts in 2001, Korea, and weapons proliferation.
December 3-9 A Working Group under the MMCA held its second meeting (in China).
December 5-8 U.S. military and PLA forces participated in Hong Kong’s annual search and rescue exercise and
worked together in a demonstration.
At the end of December 2000 in New York, PLA Senior Colonel Xu Junping, who closely handled U.S.-PRC military
relations, defected to the United States and presented an intelligence loss for the PLA (reported Far Eastern Economic
Review, April 5, 2001).
2001
February 9-23 Major General Wang Shouye, Director of the GLD’s Capital Construction and Barracks
Department, led a delegation on military environmental protection matters to the United States.
They visited Washington, DC; Fort Pickett in Virginia; Fort Bliss in Texas; the “boneyard” at
Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona; Las Vegas in Nevada; and PACOM in Hawaii.
March 14-17 PACOM Commander, Adm. Dennis Blair, visited Beijing, Nanjing, and Shanghai. PACOM said that
Blair’s trip was intended to discuss military activities and plans of the PLA and PACOM, exchange
views and enhance mutual understanding, discuss Taiwan, and stress the inclusion rather than
exclusion of China in multilateral activities.
March 23-26 The command ship of the 7th Fleet, the USS Blue Ridge, made a port call to Shanghai. In
conjunction with the ship visit, Vice Admiral James Metzger, Commander of the 7th Fleet, visited
Shanghai and met with Vice Admiral Zhao Guojun, Commander of the PLAN’s East Sea Fleet.
On March 24, 2001, in the Yellow Sea near South Korea, a PLA Navy Jianghu III-class frigate passed as close as 100
yards to a U.S. surveillance ship, the USNS Bowditch, and a PLA reconnaissance plane shadowed it. The PLA’s
harassment of the USS Bowditch continued for months.
On April 1, 2001, a PLA Navy F-8 fighter collided with a U.S. Navy EP-3 reconnaissance plane over the South China
Sea. Upon surviving the collision, the EP-3’s crew made an emergency landing on China’s Hainan island. The PLA
detained the 24 U.S. Navy personnel for 11 days. Instead of acknowledging that the PLA had started aggressive
interceptions of U.S. reconnaissance flights in December 2000 and apologizing for the accident, top PRC ruler Jiang
Zemin demanded an apology and compensation from the United States. The United States did not transport the
damaged EP-3 out of China until July 3.
On April 24, 2001, during the last annual arms sales talks in Washington, President Bush approved requests from
Taiwan’s military to purchase weapons systems including diesel-electric submarines; P-3 anti-submarine warfare
aircraft; and destroyers (approving four Kidd-class destroyers). The Bush Administration also decided to brief Taiwan
on the PAC-3 missile defense missile. The next day, the President said in an interview that if the PRC attacked Taiwan,
the United States would have an obligation to do “whatever it took to help Taiwan defend herself.”
U.S.-China Military Contacts: Issues for Congress
Congressional Research Service 60
September 14-15 DOD and the PLA held a special meeting under the MMCA (in Guam) to discuss how to avoid
clashes like the one involving the EP-3. The Commander of U.S. Naval Forces Marianas, Rear
Admiral Tom Fellin, led the U.S. delegation. The issues for U.S. side were: principles of safe flight
and navigation for military activities conducted on the high seas, international airspace, and EEZs;
and safety of ships and aircraft exercising the right of distressed entry. The Deputy Director of
the Foreign Affairs Office, Major General Zhang Bangdong, led the PLA delegation.
December 5-7 A Working Group under the MMCA met in Beijing.
2002
April 10-12 The third plenary meeting under the MMCA was held in Shanghai. PACOM’s Director for
Strategic Planning and Policy (J5), Rear Admiral William Sullivan, and the PLA Navy’s Deputy Chief
of Staff, Rear Admiral Zhou Borong, led the delegations.
April 27-May 1 PRC Vice President Hu Jintao visited PACOM and was welcomed by Admiral Dennis Blair. In
Washington, Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld welcomed Hu with an honor cordon at the
Pentagon. PRC media reported that Rumsfeld and Hu reached a consensus to resume military
exchanges, but the Pentagon’s spokeswoman said that they agreed to have their representatives
talk about how to proceed on mil-to-mil contacts, which were still approved on a case-by-case
basis. Vice President Hu also met with President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney.
May 14-28 For the first time, the PLA sent observers to Cobra Gold 2002 in Thailand, a combined exercise
involving forces of the United States, Thailand, and Singapore. Senators Jesse Helms and Robert
Smith expressed their concerns to the Secretary of Defense.
June 26-27 Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs Peter Rodman visited Beijing to
discuss a resumption of military exchanges. He met with General Xiong Guangkai and General
Chi Haotian, who said that the PRC was ready to improve military relations with the United
States. Secretary Rumsfeld told reporters on June 21, 2002, that Rodman would discuss the
principles of transparency, reciprocity, and consistency for mil-to-mil contacts that Rumsfeld
stressed to Vice President Hu Jintao.
July 15-29 In the first POW/MIA mission in China on a Cold War case, a team from the Army’s Central
Identification Laboratory in Hawaii (CILHI) went to northeastern Jilin province to search for, but
did not find, the remains of two CIA pilots whose C-47 plane was shot down in 1952 during the
Korean War.
August 6-8 The PLA and DOD held a meeting under the MMCA in Hawaii.
August-
September
In a POW/MIA recovery mission, a team from the Army’s Central Identification Laboratory in
Hawaii (CILHI) recovered remains of the crew of a C-46 cargo plane that crashed in March 1944
in Tibet while flying the “Hump” route over the Himalaya mountains back to India from Kunming,
China, during World War II. The two-month operation excavated a site at 15,600 ft.
In September 2002, PLA patrol aircraft and ships harassed the unarmed USNS Bowditch in international water in the
Yellow Sea. The PLA claimed the ship’s surveys violated the PRC's EEZ. The two countries traded diplomatic protests.
October 8-14 The President of NDU, Vice Admiral Paul Gaffney, visited Beijing, Xian, Hangzhou, and Shanghai.
He met with CMC Vice Chairman and Defense Minister Chi Haotian, Deputy Chief of General
Staff Xiong Guangkai, and NDU President Xing Shizhong.
October 25 President Bush held a summit with PRC President Jiang Zemin at his ranch in Crawford, TX.
Concerning security issues, President Bush said they discussed “the threat posed by the Iraqi
regime,” “concern about the acknowledgment of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea of a
program to enrich uranium,” counterterrorism (calling China an “ally”), weapons proliferation,
Taiwan, and a “candid, constructive, and cooperative” relationship with contacts at many levels in
coming months, including “a new dialogue on security issues.” Jiang offered a vague proposal to
reconsider the PLA’s missile buildup in return for restraints in U.S. arms sales to Taiwan.
November 24 In the first U.S. naval port call to mainland China since the EP-3 crisis, the destroyer USS Paul F.
U.S.-China Military Contacts: Issues for Congress
Congressional Research Service 61
Foster visited Qingdao.
November 30-
December 8
Lieutenant General Gao Jindian, a Vice President of the NDU, led a Capstone-like delegation to
the United States.
December 4-6 The Maritime and Air Safety Working Group under the MMCA met in Qingdao. The U.S. team
toured the destroyer Qingdao.
December 9-10 Following a two-year hiatus after the previous Defense Consultative Talks (DCT) in December
2000, the Pentagon held the 5th DCT (the first under the Bush Administration) and kept U.S.
representation at the same level as that under the Clinton Administration. Under Secretary of
Defense for Policy Douglas Feith met with General Xiong Guangkai, a Deputy Chief of General
Staff, at the Pentagon. The PLA played up the status of Xiong and the DCT, calling the meeting
“defense consultations at the vice ministerial level.” At U.S. urging, Xiong brought a proposal for
mil-to-mil exchanges in 2003. Feith told reporters that he could not claim progress in gaining
greater reciprocity and transparency in the exchanges, although they had a discussion of these
issues. They did not discuss Jiang’s offer on the PLA’s missile buildup. Feith also said that DOD
had no major change in its attitude toward the PLA since the EP-3 crisis. Secretary Rumsfeld did
not meet with Xiong. Deputy Secretary of Defense Wolfowitz and National Security Advisor
Condoleezza Rice met with Xiong on December 10.
December 12-17 PACOM Commander, Admiral Thomas Fargo, visited Chengdu, Nanjing, Ningbo, Beijing, and
Shanghai. The PLA showed him a live-fire exercise conducted by a reserve unit of an infantry
division in Sichuan. General Liang Guanglie (Chief of General Staff) met with Admiral Fargo.
2003
March 25-29 The Director of the Defense POW/MIA Office (DPMO), Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense
Jerry Jennings, visited China and met with officials of the PLA, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and Red
Cross Society of China. Jennings said that the PRC has records that may well hold “the key” to
helping DOD to resolve many of the cases of American POWs and MIAs from the Vietnam War,
the Korean War, and the Cold War. While the PRC has been “very cooperative” in U.S.
investigations of losses from World War II and Vietnam, Jennings said both sides suggested ways
to “enhance cooperation” on Korean War cases and acknowledged that there is limited time.
Jennings sought access to information in PRC archives at the national and provincial levels,
assistance from PRC civilian researchers to conduct archival research on behalf of the United
States, information from the Dandong Museum relating to two F-86 pilots who are Korean War
MIAs, and resumption of contact with PLA veterans from the Korean War to build on
information related to the PRC operation of POW camps during the war.
April 9-11 In Hawaii, in the fourth plenary meeting under the MMCA, PACOM’s Director for Strategic
Planning and Policy (J5), Rear Admiral William Sullivan, met with PLA Navy’s Deputy Chief of
Staff, Rear Admiral Zhou Borong.
April 25-May 4 The Commandant of the PLA’s NDU, Lieutenant General Pei Huailiang, led a delegation to visit
the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, MD; U.S. NDU in Washington, DC; Marine Corps Recruit
Depot in San Diego, CA; and PACOM in Honolulu, HI.
May 15-29 The PLA sent observers to Cobra Gold 2003 in Thailand, a combined exercise involving the
armed forces of the United States, Thailand, and Singapore.
August 19-21 The Military Maritime and Air Safety Working Group under the MMCA met in Hawaii. The PLA
met with PACOM’s Chief of Staff for the Director for Strategic Planning and Policy, Brigadier
General (USAF) Charles Neeley, and toured the U.S. Aegis-equipped cruiser USS Lake Erie.
August 25 The PLA arranged for 27 military observers from the United States and other countries to be the
first foreign military observers to visit China’s largest combined arms training base (in the Inner
Mongolia Autonomous Region) and watch an exercise that involved elements of force-on-force,
live-fire, and joint operational maneuvers conducted by the Beijing MR.
September 22-26 In the first foreign naval ship visit to Zhanjiang, the cruiser USS Cowpens and frigate USS Vandegrift
visited this homeport of the PLAN’s South Sea Fleet. Its Chief of Staff, Rear Admiral Hou Yuexi,
welcomed Rear Admiral James Kelly, Commander of Carrier Group Five, who also visited.
October 22-25 The PLAN destroyer Shenzhen and supply ship Qinghai Lake visited Guam.
October 24- Politburo Member, CMC Vice Chairman, and PRC Defense Minister, General Cao Gangchuan,
U.S.-China Military Contacts: Issues for Congress
Congressional Research Service 62
November 1 visited PACOM in Hawaii, West Point in New York, and Washington, DC, where he met with
Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Secretary of State Colin Powell. General Cao stressed
that Taiwan was the most important dispute. The PLA sought the same treatment for General
Cao as that given to General Chi Haotian when he visited Washington as defense minister in
1996 and was granted a meeting with President Clinton. In the end, President Bush dropped by
for five minutes when General Cao met with National Security Advisor Rice at the White House.
Rumsfeld did not attend the PRC Embassy’s banquet for Cao. At PACOM, Cao met with Admiral
Thomas Fargo and toured the cruiser USS Lake Erie.
November 12-19 Nanjing MR Commander, Lieutenant General Zhu Wenquan, visited PACOM where he met with
Admiral Thomas Fargo and boarded the destroyer USS Russell. Zhu visited San Diego, where he
toured the carrier USS Nimitz and the Marine Corps Recruit Depot. He also stopped in
Washington and West Point in New York.
On November 18, 2003, a PRC official on Taiwan affairs who is a PLA major general, Wang Zaixi, issued a threat to
use force against the perceived open promotion of Taiwan independence. Campaigning for re-election on March 20,
2004, Taiwan’s President Chen Shui-bian was calling for controversial referendums and a new Taiwan constitution. On
the eve of his visit to Washington, PRC Premier Wen Jiabao threatened that China would “pay any price to safeguard
the unity of the motherland.” On December 3, PRC media reported the warnings of a PLA major general and a senior
colonel at AMS, who wrote that Chen’s use of referendums to seek independence will push Taiwan into the “abyss of
war.” They warned that China would be willing to pay the costs of war, including boycotts of the 2008 Olympics in
Beijing, drops in foreign investment, setbacks in foreign relations, wartime damage to the southeastern coast,
economic costs, and PLA casualties. Appearing with Premier Wen at the White House on December 9, 2003,
President Bush criticized Chen, saying that “we oppose any unilateral decision by either China or Taiwan to change
the status quo. And the comments and actions made by the leader of Taiwan indicate that he may be willing to make
decisions unilaterally to change the status quo, which we oppose.”
2004
January 13-16 The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General (USAF) Richard Myers, visited Beijing, the first
visit to China by the highest ranking U.S. military officer since November 2000. General Myers
met with Generals Guo Boxiong and Cao Gangchuan (CMC Vice Chairmen) and General Liang
Guanglie (PLA Chief of General Staff). CMC Chairman Jiang Zemin met briefly with Myers,
echoing President Bush’s brief meeting with General Cao. The PLA generals and Jiang stressed
Taiwan as their critical issue. General Myers stressed that the United States has a responsibility
under the TRA to assist Taiwan’s ability to defend itself and to ensure that there will be no
temptation to use force. Myers pointed to the PLA’s missile buildup as a threat to Taiwan. The
PLA allowed Myers to be the first foreign visitor to tour the Beijing Aerospace Control Center,
headquarters of its space program. Myers discussed advancing mil-to-mil contacts, including
search and rescue exercises, educational exchanges, ship visits, and senior-level exchanges
(including a visit by General Liang Guanglie). Myers also indicated a U.S. expectation of exchanges
between younger officers, saying that interactions at the lower level can improve mutual
understanding in the longer run.
February 10-11 Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith visited Beijing to hold the 6th DCT with
General Xiong Guangkai, a meeting which the PLA side claimed to be “defense consultations at
the vice ministerial level.” Feith met with General Cao Gangchuan (a CMC Vice Chairman and
Defense Minister), who raised extensively the issue of Taiwan and the referendums. Feith said he
discussed North Korean nuclear weapons, Taiwan, and maritime safety. He stressed that avoiding
a war in the Taiwan Strait was in the interests of both countries and that belligerent rhetoric and
the PLA’s missile buildup do not help to reduce cross-strait tensions. The PRC’s Foreign Ministry
said that the two sides discussed a program for mil-to-mil contacts in 2004. The Department of
Defense proposed a defense telephone link (DTL), or “hotline,” with the PLA.
February 24-28 The USS Blue Ridge, the 7th Fleet’s command ship, visited Shanghai. In conjunction with the port
call, Vice Admiral Robert Willard, Commander of the 7th Fleet, met with Rear Admiral Zhao
Guojun, Commander of the East Sea Fleet.
March 9-11 The Maritime and Air Safety Working Group under the MMCA met in Shanghai. The U.S. visitors
met with Rear Admiral Zhou Borong, Deputy Chief of Staff of the PLAN, and toured the frigate
U.S.-China Military Contacts: Issues for Congress
Congressional Research Service 63
Lianyungang.
May 3-June 29 A team from the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC) traveled to northeastern city of
Dandong near China’s border with North Korea on an operation to recover remains of a pilot
whose F-86 fighter was shot down during the Korean War. In following up on an initial operation
in July 2002 on a Cold War case, the U.S. team also went to northeastern Jilin province to
recover remains of two CIA pilots whose C-47 transport plane was shot down in 1952.
July 21-25 PACOM Commander, Admiral Thomas Fargo, visited China and met with General Liu Zhenwu
(Guangzhou MR Commander), Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing, General Liang Guanglie (Chief of
General Staff), and General Xiong Guangkai (a Deputy Chief of General Staff), who opposed U.S.
arms sales with Taiwan. Fargo said that policy on Taiwan has not changed.
August-
September
DPMO sent a team to Tibet to recover wreckage from a site where a C-46 aircraft crashed
during World War II.
September 24-27 The USS Cushing, a destroyer with the Pacific Fleet, visited Qingdao for a port visit.
October 24-30 Reciprocating General Myers’ visit to China, PLA Chief of General Staff, General Liang Guanglie,
visited the United States, including the Joint Forces Command and Joint Forces Staff College at
Norfolk; the carrier USS George Washington and the destroyer USS Laboon at Norfolk Naval Base;
Air Combat Command at Langley Air Force Base; Joint Task Force-Civil Support at Fort Monroe;
Army Infantry Center at Fort Benning; Washington, DC; and Air Force Academy in Colorado
Springs. In Washington, General Liang held meetings with National Security Advisor Condoleezza
Rice, Secretary of State Colin Powell, and General Richard Myers, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of
Staff. Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld saw General Liang briefly. Talks covered military exchanges,
the Six-Party Talks on North Korea, and Taiwan.
November 22-23 DPMO held Technical Talks in Beijing on POW/MIA recovery operations in 2005.
2005
January 30-
February 1
Deputy Under Secretary of Defense Richard Lawless visited Beijing to hold a Special Policy
Dialogue for the first time, as a forum to discuss policy problems separate from safety concerns
under the MMCA. Meeting with Zhang Bangdong, Director of the PLA’s Foreign Affairs Office,
Lawless tried to negotiate an agreement on military maritime and air safety. He also discussed a
program of military contacts in 2005, the U.S. proposal of February 2004 for a “hotline,” Taiwan,
the DCTs, PLA’s buildup, and a possible visit by Secretary Rumsfeld. Lawless also met with
General Xiong Guangkai.
February 23-25 Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for POW/MIA Affairs Jerry Jennings visited Beijing and
Dandong to discuss China’s assistance in resolving cases from the Vietnam War and World War
II. He also continued to seek access to China’s documents related to POW camps that China
managed during the Korean War. At Dandong, Jennings announced the recovery of the remains
of a U.S. Air Force pilot who was missing-in-action from the Korean War.
April 29-30 General Xiong Guangkai, Deputy Chief of General Staff, visited Washington to hold the 7th DCT
with Under Secretary of Defense Douglas Feith. They continued to discuss the U.S. proposal for a
“hotline” and an agreement on military maritime and air safety with the PLA and also talked about
military exchanges, international security issues, PLA modernization, U.S. military redeployments,
and energy. Xiong also met with Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, National Security
Advisor Stephen Hadley, and Under Secretary of State Nicholas Burns.
July 7-8 The Department of Defense and the PLA held an annual MMCA meeting in Qingdao, to discuss
unresolved maritime and air safety issues under the MMCA.
July 18-22 General Liu Zhenwu, Commander of the PLA’s Guangzhou MR, visited Hawaii, as hosted by
Admiral William Fallon, Commander of the Pacific Command. Among visits to parts of the Pacific
Command, General Liu toured the USS Chosin, a Ticonderoga-class cruiser.
September 6-11 Admiral William Fallon, Commander of the Pacific Command, visited Beijing, Shanghai,
Guangzhou, and Hong Kong at the invitation of General Liu Zhenwu, Guangzhou MR
Commander. As Admiral Fallon said he sought to deepen the “exceedingly limited military
interaction,” he met with high-ranking PLA Generals Guo Boxiong (CMC Vice Chairman) and
Liang Guanglie (Chief of General Staff). Fallon discussed military contacts between junior officers;
PLA observers at U.S. exercises; exchanges with more transparency and reciprocity; cooperation
U.S.-China Military Contacts: Issues for Congress
Congressional Research Service 64
in disaster relief and control of avian flu; and reducing tensions.
September 13-16 The destroyer USS Curtis Wilbur visited Qingdao, hosted by the PLAN’s North Sea Fleet.
September 27 U.S. and other foreign military observers (from 24 countries) observed a PLA exercise (“North
Sword 2005”) at the PLA’s Zhurihe training base in Inner Mongolia in the Beijing MR.
October 18-20 Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld visited Beijing, China. He met with General Cao Gangchuan
(including a visit to the office in the August 1st [Bayi] Building of this CMC Vice Chairman and
Defense Minister), General Guo Boxiong (a CMC Vice Chairman), General Jing Zhiyuan
(commander of the Second Artillery, or missile corps, in the first foreign visit to its headquarters),
and Hu Jintao (Communist Party General Secretary, CMC Chairman, and PRC president).
General Jing introduced the Second Artillery and repeated the PRC’s declared “no first use”
nuclear weapons policy. Rumsfeld’s discussions covered military exchanges; greater transparency
from the PLA, including its spending; China’s rising global influence; Olympics in Beijing in 2008;
and China’s manned space program. Rumsfeld also held round-tables at the Central Party School
and Academy of Military Science. The PLA denied a U.S. request to visit its command center in
the Western Hills, outside Beijing, and continued to deny agreement on a “hot line.” The PLA did
not agree to open archives believed to hold documents on American POWs in the Korean War,
an issue raised by Assistant Secretary of Defense Peter Rodman and Deputy Under Secretary of
Defense Richard Lawless.
November 13-19 The PLA sent its first delegation of younger, mid-ranking brigade and division commanders and
commissars to the United States. Led by Major General Zhang Wenda, Deputy Director of the
GSD’s General Office, they visited units of the Pacific Command in Hawaii and Alaska.
December 8-9 Deputy Under Secretary of Defense Lawless visited Beijing to discuss the military exchange
program in 2006 and military maritime security. He met with the Director of the PLA’s Foreign
Affairs Office, Major General Zhang Bangdong, and Deputy Chief of General Staff, General Xiong
Guangkai.
December 12-15 A delegation from the PLA’s NDU, led by Rear Admiral Yang Yi, Director of the Institute for
Strategic Studies, visited Washington (NDU, Pentagon, and State Department).
December 13 Following up on Rumsfeld’s visit, a DPMO delegation visited Beijing to continue to seek access to
China’s archives believed to contain information on American POWs during the Korean War.
The delegation also discussed POW/MIA investigations and recovery operations in China in 2006.
2006
January 9-13 PLA GLD delegation representing all MRs visited PACOM (hosted by Col. William Carrington, J1)
to discuss personnel management, especially U.S. vs. PLA salaries.
February 27-28 A PACOM military medical delegation visited China.
March 13-18 To reciprocate the PLA’s first mid-ranking delegation’s visit in November 2005, PACOM’s J5
(Director for Strategic Planning and Policy), Rear Admiral Michael Tracy, led a delegation of 20 O-
5 and O-6 officers from PACOM’s Army, Marines, Navy, and Air Force commands to Beijing,
Shanghai, Nanjing, Hangzhou, and Ningbo.
April 9-15 NDU President Lt. Gen. Michael Dunn and Commandant of the Industrial College of the Armed
Forces (ICAF) Maj. Gen. Frances Wilson visited Beijing, Nanjing, and Shanghai.
May 9-15 PACOM Commander, Admiral William Fallon, visited Beijing, Xian, Hangzhou, and cities close to
the border with North Korea, including Shenyang. He met with a CMC Vice Chairman, General
Cao Gangchuan, and a Deputy Chief of General Staff, General Ge Zhenfeng, and discussed issues
that included the U.S.-Japan alliance and real PLA spending. Fallon was the first U.S. official to visit
the 39th Group Army, where he saw a showcase unit (346th regiment). At the 28th Air Division
near Hangzhou, he was the first U.S. official to see a new FB-7 fighter. He invited the PLA to
observe the U.S. “Valiant Shield” exercise in June near Guam.
May 15-26 A PLA delegation observed “Cobra Gold,” a multilateral exercise hosted by Thailand and
PACOM.
June 8 Assistant Secretary of Defense Peter Rodman visited Beijing for the 8th DCT, the first time at this
lower level and without Xiong Guangkai. He talked with Major General Zhang Qinsheng,
Assistant Chief of General Staff, about exchanges, weapons nonproliferation, counterterrorism,
U.S.-China Military Contacts: Issues for Congress
Congressional Research Service 65
Olympics, invitation to the Second Artillery commander to visit, etc.
June 16-23 A PLA and civilian delegation of 12, led by Rear Admiral Zhang Leiyu, a PLAN Deputy Chief of
Staff and submariner, observed the U.S. “Valiant Shield” exercise that involved three carrier strike
groups near Guam. They boarded the USS Ronald Reagan and visited Guam’s air and naval bases.
June 27-30 USS Blue Ridge (7th Fleet’s command ship) visited Shanghai.
July 16-22 The highest ranking PLA commander, a Politburo Member, and a CMC Vice Chairman, General
Guo Boxiong, visited San Diego (3rd Marine Aircraft Wing and carrier USS Ronald Reagan),
Washington, and West Point, at Defense Secretary Rumsfeld’s invitation. General Guo agreed to
hold a combined naval search and rescue exercise (a U.S. proposal for the past two years in the
context of the MMCA talks) and to allow U.S. access to PLA archives with information on U.S.
POW/MIAs from the Korean War (a U.S. request for many years). Guo personally gave Rumsfeld
information on his friend, Lt. j.g. James Deane, a Navy pilot who was shot down by the PLA Air
Force in 1956. Guo also had meetings with Representatives Mark Steven Kirk and Rick Larsen
(co-chairs of the U.S.-China Working Group), Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and National
Security Advisor Stephen Hadley, and President Bush briefly dropped by for 10 minutes during
the last meeting. During the meetings and an address at the National Defense University, General
Guo discussed North Korea’s July 4 missile tests, critically citing the U.N. Security Council
resolution condemning the tests (remarks not reported by PRC press). In contrast to the meeting
in Beijing with General Myers in January 2004, Taiwan was not a heated topic in General Guo’s
talks with Rumsfeld and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Peter Pace.
August 7-11 MMCA plenary and working group meetings held in Hawaii. The two sides established
communication protocols, planned communications and maneuver exercises, and scripted the
two phases of the planned search and rescue exercise.
August 21-23 PACOM Commander, Admiral Fallon, visited Harbin.
September 6-20 The PLAN destroyer Qingdao visited Pearl Harbor (and held the first U.S.-PLA basic exercise in
the use of tactical signals with the U.S. Navy destroyer USS Chung-Hoon) and San Diego (and held
the first bilateral search and rescue exercise (SAREX), under the MMCA, with the destroyer USS
Shoup).
September 10-21 In the second such visit after 1998, a huge 58-member PLA Air Force delegation, with its own
PLAAF aircraft, visited Elmendorf AFB (saw an F-15C fighter) in Alaska, Air Force Academy and
Air Force Space Command in Colorado, Maxwell AFB and Air War College in Alabama, Andrews
AFB in Maryland, the Pentagon in DC, McGuire AFB and Atlantic City in New Jersey, Philadelphia,
and New York.
September 20-30 DPMO Team visited China to discuss POW/MIA concerns.
September 26 USS Chancellorsville made a port visit to Qingdao.
September 26-28 Principal Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, Ryan Henry, visited Beijing and Xian. He
briefed PLA General Ge Zhenfeng, Deputy Chief of General Staff, on the Quadrennial Defense
Review (QDR) of February 2006.
October 8-13 A U.S. delegation from the Office of the Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Installations and
Environment visited China to discuss military environmental issues.
October 20-27 A delegation of NDU operational commanders visited the United States.
On October 26, 2006, a PLAN Song-class diesel electric submarine approached undetected to within five miles of the
aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk near Okinawa. PACOM Commander Admiral Fallon argued that the incident showed
the need for military-to-military engagement to avoid escalations of tensions.
October 30-
November 4
PLA mid-level, division and brigade commanders (senior colonels and colonels) visited Honolulu,
toured the destroyer USS Preble in San Diego, and observed training at Camp Pendleton Marine
Base. They were denied requests to have closer looks at an aircraft carrier and Strykers.
November 12-19 Commander of the Pacific Fleet, Adm. Gary Roughead, visited Beijing, Shanghai, and Zhanjiang,
overseeing second phase of bilateral search and rescue exercise (involving the visiting amphibious
U.S.-China Military Contacts: Issues for Congress
Congressional Research Service 66
transport dock USS Juneau and destroyer USS Fitzgerald), and the first Marine Corps visit to the
PRC.
December 7-8 Stemming from the MMCA-related Special Policy Dialogue of 2005, the Deputy Assistant
Secretary of Defense held the 1st Defense Policy Coordination Talks (DPCT) in Washington with
the director of the PLA’s Foreign Affairs Office to discuss a dispute over EEZs.
2007
On January 11, 2007, the PLA conducted its first successful direct-ascent anti-satellite (ASAT) weapons test by
launching a missile with a kinetic kill vehicle to destroy a PRC satellite at about 530 miles up in space.
January 28-
February 9
Deputy Chief of General Staff, General Ge Zhenfeng led a PLA delegation to visit PACOM in
Honolulu, Washington, Fort Monroe, Fort Benning, and West Point. The U.S. Chief of Staff of the
Army (CSA) hosted Ge, who also met with the Deputy Secretary of Defense and Vice Chairman
of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the Pentagon. However, the PLA declined to attend the Pacific
Armies’ Chiefs’ Conference in August and a reciprocal visit by the CSA.
January 30-31 DPMO/JPAC delegation visited China to discuss POW/MIA cooperation.
February 23-28 Commander of Combined Forces Command-Afghanistan, Lt. General Karl Eikenberry, visited
China.
March 22-25 Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Marine Corps General Peter Pace, was hosted in China by
Chief of General Staff Liang Guanglie and also met with CMC Vice Chairmen Guo Boxiong and
Cao Gangchuan. Pace visited Beijing, Shenyang, Anshan, Dalian, and Nanjing, including the
Academy of Military Sciences, Shenyang MR (where he was the first U.S. official to sit in a PLAAF
Su-27 fighter and a T-99 tank), and the Nanjing MR command center.
April 1-7 PLA Navy Commander Wu Shengli visited Honolulu and Washington, where he met with the
PACOM Commander Keating, Pacific Fleet Commander Roughhead, Chief of Naval Operations
(CNO) Mullen, Deputy Secretary of Defense England, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Pace,
and Navy Secretary Winter. The CNO, Admiral Michael Mullen, discussed his “1,000-ship navy”
maritime security concept with Vice Admiral Wu. He also toured the Naval Academy at
Annapolis, the cruiser USS Lake Erie in Honolulu, and aircraft carrier USS Harry Truman and
nuclear attack submarine USS Montpelier at Norfolk Naval Base. Wu also went to West Point.
April 15-22 General Counsel of the Defense Department William Haynes II visited Beijing and Shanghai, and
met with GPD Director Li Jinai. Haynes sought to understand the rule of law in China.
April 21-28 U.S. mid-level officers’ visit to China, led by RAdm Michael Tracy (PACOM J-5). The delegation
visited Beijing, Qingdao, Nanjing, and Shenyang, including the East Sea Fleet Headquarters, a Su-27
fighter base, and 179th Brigade.
May 12-16 PACOM Commander Admiral Timothy Keating visited Beijing, meeting with CMC Vice Chairman
Guo Boxiong and questioning the ASAT weapon test in January. Keating also met with PLA Navy
Commander Wu Shengli and heard interest in acquiring an aircraft carrier. Keating visited the
Nanjing MR (including the Nanjing Naval Command, Nanjing Polytechnic Institute, and 179th
Brigade). At a press conference in Beijing on May 12, Keating suggested U.S. “help” if China builds
aircraft carriers.
June 15-25 In the third such visit and nominally under its Command College, the PLAAF sent a 20-member
delegation (U.S. limit reduced from 58 members in September 2006). They visited New York,
McGuire AFB (saw KC-135 Stratotanker) in New Jersey, the Pentagon in DC, Maxwell AFB and
Air War College in Alabama, Lackland AFB and Randolph AFB (Personnel Center) in Texas, and
Los Angeles.
July 23-29 Pacific Air Forces Commander, General Paul Hester, visited Beijing and Nanjing. He met with
PLAAF Commander Qiao Qingchen and Deputy Chief of General Staff Ge Zhenfeng. Hester
visited Jining Air Base (as the first U.S. visitor) and Jianqiao Air Base. He was denied access to the
J-10 fighter.
U.S.-China Military Contacts: Issues for Congress
Congressional Research Service 67
August 17-23 After nomination to be Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff, the CNO, Adm. Michael Mullen, visited
Lushun, Qingdao, Ningbo, and Dalian Naval Academy. He met with PLAN Commander Wu
Shengli and two CMC Vice Chairmen, Generals Guo Boxiong and Cao Gangchuan. After
postponing his reciprocal visit (for hosting PLAN Commander Wu Shengli in April) due to
inadequate substance and access given by the PLA, Mullen got unprecedented observation of an
exercise, boarding a Song-class sub and Luzhou-class destroyer.
November 4-6 Defense Secretary Robert Gates visited China (then South Korea and Japan). Defense Minister
Cao Gangchuan finally agreed to the U.S. proposal to set up a defense telephone link (hotline).
Gates also sought a dialogue on nuclear policy and broader exchanges beyond the senior level.
Gates also met with CMC Vice Chairmen Guo Boxiong and Xu Caihou, and Chairman Hu Jintao.
In November 2007, the PRC Ministry of Foreign Affairs disapproved a number of port calls at Hong Kong by U.S. Navy
ships, including two minesweepers in distress (USS Patriot and USS Guardian) seeking to refuel in face of an approaching
storm, and the aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk and accompanying vessels planning on a holiday and family reunions for
Thanksgiving. In response, on November 28, President Bush raised the problem with the PRC’s visiting Foreign
Minister, and Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense David Sedney lodged a demarche to the PLA. When the Kitty
Hawk left Hong Kong, it transited the Taiwan Strait, raising PRC objections. In Beijing in January 2008, Admiral Keating
asserted that the strait is international water and PRC permission is not needed.
December 3 9th DCT was held in Washington. PLA Deputy Chief of General Staff Ma Xiaotian and Under
Secretary of Defense for Policy Eric Edelman led discussions that covered PLA objections to U.S.
arms sales to Taiwan and U.S. law restricting military contacts, military exchanges in 2008, nuclear
proliferation in North Korea and Iran (including the just-issued U.S. National Intelligence Estimate
on Iran’s nuclear program), lower-ranking exchanges, hotline, PLA’s suspension of some visits and
port calls in Hong Kong, and U.S. interest in a strategic nuclear dialogue. The PLA delegation
included PLAN Deputy Chief of Staff Zhang Leiyu and 2nd Artillery Deputy Chief of Staff Yang
Zhiguo. They also met: Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England, Vice Chairman of the Joint
Chiefs of Staff James Cartwright, Deputy National Security Advisor James Jeffrey, and Deputy
Secretary of State John Negroponte.
2008
January 13-18 In his 2nd visit as PACOM Commander, Adm. Timothy Keating, visited Beijing, Shanghai, and
Guangzhou, before Hong Kong. He visited AMS and Guangzhou MR, and met with PLA Chief of
General Staff, General Chen Bingde; CMC Vice Chairman, General Guo Boxiong, who demanded
an end to U.S. arms sales to Taiwan. Keating discussed planned exchanges with a new invitation to
the PLA to participate in the Cobra Gold multilateral exercise in May, the PRC’s strategic
intentions, denied port calls in Hong Kong, etc. (But the PLA only observed Cobra Gold in
Thailand in May 2008.)
February 23-27 PACOM’s Director for Strategic Planning and Policy (J-5), USMC Major General Thomas Conant,
and PLA Navy Deputy Chief of Staff Zhang Leiyu led an annual plenary meeting under the MMCA
in Qingdao, the first since 2006. The U.S. delegation visited the frigate Luoyang. The U.S. side
opposed PLA proposals to discuss policy differences and plan details of naval exercises at the
MMCA meetings.
February 25-29 Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for POW/MIA Affairs Charles Ray signed a Memorandum
of Understanding in Shanghai on February 29, 2008, gaining indirect access to PLA archives on the
Korean War in an effort to resolve decades-old POW/MIA cases.
February 26-29 Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense David Sedney met with PLA Assistant Chief of General
Staff, Major General Chen Xiaogong, in Beijing. Sedney also led the 2nd meeting of the DPCT in
Shanghai. Sedney and Major General Qian Lihua, Director of the PLA’s Foreign Affairs Office,
signed an agreement to set up a hotline.
Days before Taiwan’s presidential election and referendums on March 22, 2008, in a sign of U.S. anxiety about PRC
threats to peace and stability, the Defense Department had two aircraft carriers (including the Kitty Hawk returning
from its base in Japan for decommissioning) positioned east of Taiwan to respond to any PLA provocation or crisis.
U.S.-China Military Contacts: Issues for Congress
Congressional Research Service 68
March 7-15 PACOM’s Deputy Director for Strategic Planning and Policy, Brigadier General Sam Angelella, led
a 19-member group of mid-level officers to Beijing, Zhengzhou, and Qingdao.
March 29-April 6 The U.S. Marine Corps Commandant, General James Conway, visited Beijing, as hosted by PLA
Navy Commander Wu Shengli. Conway met with Defense Minister Liang Guanglie and spoke at
NDU. The PLAN allowed Conway to board an amphibious ship, a destroyer, and an
expeditionary fighting vehicle. In meeting Guangzhou MR Commander, Lt. Gen. Zhang Qinsheng,
Conway apparently discussed deploying forces together in disaster relief operations.
April 21-22 The first talks on nuclear weapon strategy and policy held in Washington at the “experts” level.
May 18 After the earthquake in China on May 12, PACOM sent two C-17 transport aircraft from Guam
to Chengdu to deliver disaster relief supplies. PACOM Commander Keating used the Pentagon’s
hotline to discuss that aid with PLA Deputy Chief of General Staff Ma Xiaotian.
June 16-21 Air Force Command Chief Master Sgt James Roy from PACOM led the first U.S. NCO delegation
to China. The group of senior NCOs visited the PLA’s 179th Infantry Battalion in Nanjing and the
Second Artillery (Missile Force) Academy’s NCO training school in Wuhan.
July 6-17 PLA Lieutenant General Zhang Qinsheng, Guangzhou MR Commander, led a delegation to
Hawaii. He met with Admiral Robert Willard, Commander of the Pacific Fleet, at his headquarters
and with Rear Adm. Joe Walsh, Submarine Force Commander, during a tour of the attack
submarine USS Santa Fe. The PLA delegation also was able to observe the RIMPAC exercise.
PACOM Commander, Admiral Timothy Keating, agreed with Zhang about planning for two
humanitarian aid exercises, the first combined land-based ones, to “push the envelope.” The PLA
delegation also visited Alaska, Washington, DC, and New York. In Washington, Zhang met with
U.S. officials of the Marine Corps, Departments of Defense and State, and NSC, including Deputy
Secretary of Defense Gordon England.
September 30-
October 2
The PLA sent its first “NCO” delegation to PACOM supposedly to reciprocate the U.S. NCO
visit in June. However, the PLA delegation was led by Major General Zhong Zhiming, and only 3
out of 13 members in the group were enlisted.
December 17-19 After the PLA suspended some military exchanges in response to notifications to Congress of
arms sales to Taiwan on October 3, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense David Sedney visited
Beijing to try without success to resume exchanges. He met with PLA Assistant Chief of General
Staff Chen Xiaogong.
2009
January The PLA Navy and U.S. Navy coordinated anti-piracy operations off Somalia.
February 27-28 Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense David Sedney again visited Beijing to resume military
exchanges after suspension in October 2008. He held the 3rd DPCT, met with Deputy Chief of
General Staff Ma Xiaotian, and then called his meetings “the best set of talks” he has experienced.
However, results were limited, and the PLA raised U.S. “obstacles,” including arms sales to
Taiwan, legal restrictions on military contacts, and reports on PRC Military Power.
On March 4-8, 2009, Y-12 maritime surveillance aircraft, a PLAN frigate, PRC patrol and intelligence collection ships,
and trawlers coordinated in increasingly aggressive and dangerous harassment of unarmed U.S. ocean surveillance
ships, the USNS Victorious and USNS Impeccable, during routine operations in international waters in the Yellow Sea
and South China Sea (75 miles south of Hainan island). The PRC ships risked collision. On March 10, China sent its
largest “fishery patrol” ship (converted from a PLAN vessel) to “safeguard sovereignty” in the South China Sea. U.S.
press reported the next day that the destroyer USS Chung-Hoon, already deployed in the area, provided armed escort
to continuing U.S. surveillance operations. On March 10, Director of National Intelligence (DNI) Dennis Blair (also
retired admiral and former PACOM commander) testified to the Senate Armed Services Committee that this crisis
was the most serious since the EP-3 crisis of 2001, China was being even more aggressive in the South China Sea in
the past two years, and there was still a question as to whether China will use its increasingly powerful military “for
good or for pushing people around.” (For years, China has tried to stake sovereign claims to Exclusive Economic
Zones (EEZs) (up to 200 miles from the coast) beyond territorial waters (up to 12 miles from the coast), while the
United States and other countries assert access and freedom of navigation in and flight over the high seas.) On March
12, President Obama stressed military dialogue to avoid future incidents to visiting PRC Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi.
U.S.-China Military Contacts: Issues for Congress
Congressional Research Service 69
In May 2009, there was another incident involving the USNS Victorious and PRC fishing ships in the Yellow Sea. In
June, the USS John S. McCain’s towed sonar array suffered a collision with a PLA submarine off the coast of the
Philippines, in what could have been an accident.
April 5-11 Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Prisoner of War/Missing Personnel Affairs
(POW/MPA) Charles Ray and JPAC Commander Rear Admiral Donna Crisp visited Beijing and
Liaoning province to discuss progress in the PLA’s research of archives from the Korean War and
toured the PLA’s archives.
April 17-21 Admiral Gary Roughead, CNO, visited Beijing and Qingdao in part for the international fleet
review for the 60th anniversary of the PLA Navy. Admiral Roughhead conducted a working visit
with PLAN Commander Admiral Wu Shengli and also met with Defense Minister General Liang
Guanglie, and PLAN North Sea Fleet Commander Admiral Tian Zhong. Roughhead raised
concern about operational safety of naval encounters, port visits and reciprocity, and potential
cooperation in anti-piracy and search and rescue.
June 23-24 Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Michele Flournoy visited Beijing for the 10th DCT and met
with Lt. Gen. Ma Xiaotian, Deputy Chief of General Staff. They agreed to hold a special MMCA
meeting to discuss disputes over maritime safety and freedom of navigation in the PRC’s EEZ.
While the U.S. Navy tracked a North Korean ship with suspicious cargo for Burma, Flournoy said
they did not discuss enforcement of U.N. sanctions against North Korea and the meeting was not
“appropriate” to discuss “operational” matters. They discussed regional security in North Korea,
Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. The U.S. side briefed the PLA on the Nuclear Posture Review
(NPR) and Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR).
July 27-28
Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Michele Flournoy and PACOM Commander, Admiral
Timothy Keating, represented the DOD at the 1st Strategic and Economic Dialogue (S&ED) in
Washington, co-chaired by the Secretaries of State and Treasury. Pressed by the U.S. side to
participate, the PLA reluctantly dispatched Rear Admiral Guan Youfei, Deputy Director of the
Foreign Affairs Office, in charge of mil-to-mil with the United States. The two sides reiterated
that they “resumed” mil-to-mil and agreed on visit by a CMC Vice Chairman, General Xu Caihou.
August 19-22 As the first Chief of Staff of the Army (CSA) to visit China after 1997, General George Casey
visited Beijing and met with Chief of General Staff and Deputy Chief of General Staff, Generals
Chen Bingde and Ge Zhenfeng, who complained about U.S.-only “obstacles” in mil-to-mil
exchanges (including arms sales to Taiwan). Casey countered that it was difficult to build a lasting
relationship when the PLA’s constant starting point was to blame the United States for problems.
Still Casey sought to advance ties and agreed to explore a bilateral humanitarian
assistance/disaster relief exercise. Casey also visited the AMS and Shenyang MR and rode in a
Type-99 tank. The two sides agreed to “cultural,” mid-level officer, and functional exchanges, and
humanitarian assistance and disaster relief exercises. General Casey then traveled to Tokyo for
the Pacific Army Chiefs conference, which the PLA rejected.
August 26-27 PACOM’s Director of Strategic Planning and Policy, Major General (USMC) Randolph Alles,
traveled to Beijing for a special meeting under the MMCA. The PLA side complained about U.S.
surveillance, while the U.S. side stressed safety as well as freedom of navigation in and over
international waters, including the PRC’s EEZ.
August 31-
September 3
The Director of the Second Department (on intelligence) of the PLA’s General Staff Department,
Major General Yang Hui, visited Washington and met with the Director of the Defense
Intelligence Agency (DIA), Lieutenant General Ronald Burgess. Yang also visited the National
Defense Intelligence College, National Medical Intelligence Center, and West Point. Yang
complained about press reports on the incident in 2006 when a PLAN submarine closely followed
the USS Kitty Hawk and about alleged terrorist ties of Muslim Uighurs in China’s northwest.
September 1-3 The PLA’s Archives Department visited Washington, DC, including Gray Research Center at
Marine Corps Base Quantico and National Archives and Records Administration, and met with
DPMO to review progress in the first year of the PLA’s research on POW/MIAs from the Korean
War (as agreed in 2008).
October 24-
November 3
A CPC Politburo Member and CMC Vice Chairman, General Xu Caihou, led a 26-member
delegation to visit Washington where he publicly presented a propaganda film on the PLA’s relief
work after an earthquake in China and met with Defense Secretary Robert Gates, National
U.S.-China Military Contacts: Issues for Congress
Congressional Research Service 70
Security Advisor James Jones, Deputy National Security Advisor Thomas Donilon (last meeting at
which President Obama dropped by for 10 minutes for a PLA-requested presidential encounter).
Gates called Xu his “counterpart” and said both sides agreed to build a “sound and sustainable”
mil-to-mil relationship. They agreed to a “7-point consensus” (to exchange senior visits in 2010 by
Gates, Chief of General Staff General Chen Bingde, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
Admiral Mike Mullen; conduct a maritime search and rescue exercise and other exchanges on
humanitarian assistance and disaster relief; cooperate in military medicine; expand service-level
exchanges; enhance mid-grade and junior officer exchanges; promote cultural and sports
exchanges; and invigorate existing mechanisms for maritime safety). Xu complained about four
U.S. “obstacles” to ties (U.S. arms sales to Taiwan, activities in the EEZ off China’s coast, the
FY2000 NDAA, and DOD reports on the PLA). Gates raised the importance of following up on
the nuclear dialogue in April 2008. In the first such PLA visit, Xu briefly visited the Strategic
Command (STRATCOM), hosted by General Kevin Chilton. Xu also visited the Naval Academy,
Nellis Air Force Base, and Naval Air Station North Island (and the carrier USS Ronald Reagan) in
San Diego, and visited PACOM, hosted by PACOM Commander, Admiral Robert Willard.
December 16-17 Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for East Asia Michael Schiffer held the 4th DPCT in
Honolulu with the Director of the Foreign Affairs Office of the Defense Ministry, Major General
Qian Lihua. They discussed military exchanges, regional security, and weapon nonproliferation.
The U.S. side briefed the PLA on the QDR, and the PLA briefed on its military modernization.
Schiffer and Major General Randolph Alles, PACOM J5, sought to reinvigorate the MMCA
process to manage problems in maritime and air safety. The PLA proposed to change the MMCA
charter, to shift attention away from operational safety to planning for naval exercises and other
navy-to-navy contacts.
2010
January 28 After an earthquake in Port-Au-Prince, Haiti, the Army’s 82nd Airborne had soldiers conduct the
first U.S. combined patrol with U.N. peacekeepers there. The U.N. unit was a PRC paramilitary
People’s Armed Police (PAP) unit deployed in police uniforms.
April 23-30 Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for POW/MIA Personnel Affairs Bob Newberry visited
Beijing to discuss accounting for missing personnel.
May 25 PACOM Commander Admiral Robert Willard and Assistant Secretary of Defense Wallace
Gregson visited Beijing for the 2nd S&ED and met with Deputy Chief of General Staff, Air Force
General Ma Xiaotian and Rear Admiral Guan Youfei, who complained about U.S. “obstacles”
(arms sales to Taiwan, U.S. reconnaissance, and FY2000 NDAA). The State Department proposed
DOD briefings on the Quadrennial Defense Review and Nuclear Posture Review, but the PLA did
not accept the proposal.
September 27-28 Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Michael Schiffer visited Beijing to discuss the mil-to-mil
relationship with Director of the PLA’s Foreign Affairs Office Qian Lihua. The PLA called the
meeting merely “working-level” talks and raised concern about U.S.-ROK combined exercises in
the Yellow Sea and U.S. policy in the South China Sea. Schiffer also held meetings at the Taiwan
Affairs Office (TAO), China Foundation for International Strategic Studies (CFISS), a PLA-affiliated
group, and Foreign Ministry.
October 14-15 PACOM hosted an annual plenary meeting of the MMCA in Honolulu. Major General Randolph
Alles (USMC), J5, led the U.S. side, but the PLA sent a delegation led only by the PLAN and Rear
Admiral Liao Shining, PLAN Deputy Chief of Staff. The U.S. military raised concern about several
recent incidents involving unsafe and unprofessional actions by PRC ships as well as aircraft that
risked that lives of U.S. sailors and airmen. They agreed to hold future exchanges on maritime
search and rescue operations.
December 10 Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Michele Flournoy hosted in Washington General Ma
Xiaotian, PLA Deputy Chief of General Staff, for the 11th DCT. Flournoy pointed out the positive
tone of the talks with the PLA, which reaffirmed the “7-point consensus” between Secretary
Gates and Xu Caihou in 2009 and the invitation for Gates to visit (January 10-14, 2011), expected
right before Hu Jintao’s visit later in January. Also, Chief of General Staff General Chen Bingde will
visit in 2011. The DCT reviewed discussions under the MMCA, where there remain
disagreements over maritime safety and security. They discussed possible cooperation in regional
security. The U.S. side briefed on the Nuclear Posture Review, Ballistic Missile Defense Review,
and Space Posture Review (the same briefings given to allies), and the PLA briefed on its strategy
U.S.-China Military Contacts: Issues for Congress
Congressional Research Service 71
and modernization. The PLA complained about three U.S. “obstacles” (arms sales to Taiwan,
FY2000 NDAA, and reconnaissance in the EEZ off China’s coast). Flournoy and Chairman of the
Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen pressed the PLA side to help end North Korea’s
provocations and get it to show willingness to denuclearize. (Earlier in December, Mullen publicly
criticized China for “tacit approval” of North Korea’s belligerence.) Representatives Rick Larsen
and Charles Boustany (of the U.S.-China Working Group) hosted a dinner in the Capitol.
December 10 The commander of the PLAN’s anti-piracy task force in the Gulf of Aden, also the Director of the
PLAN’s Navigational Support Department, visited the Headquarters of the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet
at Naval Support Activity (NSA) Bahrain. In return, a U.S. delegation from the Fifth Fleet and the
Central Command (CENTCOM) visited the PLAN’s Kunlunshan assault ship (a large landing
platform dock (LPD)).
2011
January 9-12 Defense Secretary Robert Gates visited Beijing. The PLA invited Gates to visit in early 2011,
though expected in 2010, partly to improve the atmosphere for Hu Jintao’s state visit to the
White House on January 19. Gates did not travel only to China. He also visited allies Japan and
South Korea. Reiterating past proposals, Gates proposed a “sustained and reliable” mil-to-mil
relationship, a “strategic dialogue,” the 2nd Artillery Commander’s visit, and implementation of the
“7-point consensus” of 2009 with the PLA. Gates recognized China’s helpful role in late 2010 in
restraining North Korea, which Gates stressed was becoming a “direct threat” to the United
States. The two sides agreed on a new working group to develop a framework for mil-to-mil;
combined exercises and other activities in maritime search and rescue, humanitarian assistance
and disaster relief, counter-piracy, counterterrorism, etc.; and planning for visits by Admiral
Mullen and General Chen Bingde in 2011. Defense Minister Liang Guanglie agreed that a healthy
and stable mil-to-mil relationship is an essential part of the positive, cooperative, and
comprehensive relationship agreed to by Presidents Obama and Hu, partly to advance “common
interests” and to reduce misunderstanding and miscalculation. He agreed on the value of mil-tomil
mechanisms such as the DCT, DPCT, and MMCA, though only to “study” the U.S. proposal of
a strategic dialogue (on nuclear weapons, missile defense, space, and cyber security) as part of the
S&ED. Gates stressed the need to meet under the MMCA to improve operational safety. Gates
also met with CMC Vice Chairman and PRC Vice President Xi Jinping, CMC Vice Chairman Xu
Caihou, Minister of Foreign Affairs, top leader Hu Jintao, and 2nd Artillery Commander Jing
Zhiyuan, whom the U.S. side again invited to visit STRATCOM. Gates asked Hu about the test
flight of a J-20 fighter and said that Hu assured that the test was not related to Gates’ visit and
was surprised by the test.
April 11 Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Michael Schiffer visited Beijing for the 5th DPCT and met
with the PLA’s Director of the Foreign Affairs Office Qian Lihua. However, the PLA referred
instead to only a “working-level” meeting.
April 12 Major General Jeffrey Dorko, Deputy Commanding General for Military and International
Operations of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, visited Beijing and met with PLA Assistant to
the Chief of General Staff Lieutenant General Chen Yong.
April 26-28 The PLA’s Archives Department visited Washington for an annual meeting with DPMO to discuss
progress in the PLA’s research on POW/MIA cases from the Korean War.
May 9-10 In Washington, the United States and the PRC held the 3rd S&ED. The PLA sent a Deputy Chief
of General Staff, General (AF) Ma Xiaotian, the first senior PLA official at the S&ED. The PRC
agreed to the first Strategic Security Dialogue (SSD). Stemming somewhat from Secretary Gates'
proposal for a Strategic Dialogue, Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg, Under Secretary of
Defense for Policy Michele Flournoy, and Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General James
Cartwright started the new SSD for security talks among military and civilian U.S. and PRC
officials. General Ma and Vice Foreign Minister Zhang Zhijun participated together. The initial SSD
discussed maritime and cyber disputes. PACOM Commander Admiral Robert Willard also
participated in various discussions. Secretary Gates attended the welcoming dinner on May 9, and
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mullen joined in a luncheon session on May 10.
May 12-21 For the first time, the PLA’s band visited the United States (Washington, Philadelphia, New York).
May 15-22 As hosted by Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff Mullen, PLA Chief of General Staff, General Chen
Bingde, visited along with 2nd Artillery Political Commissar Zhang Haiyang. Chen spoke at NDU,
stressing one “obstacle” related to Taiwan and agreement with Mullen on counter-piracy naval
U.S.-China Military Contacts: Issues for Congress
Congressional Research Service 72
exercises. The Joint Staff provided two unclassified briefings. Chen met with Secretary of State
Clinton and Secretary of Defense Gates, though not the National Security Advisor. Chen agreed
to use the DTL and saw a Predator drone. At Norfolk Naval Base, the PLA had pier-side tours of
destroyers and saw simulated landings of carrier-based F-18 fighters. The PLA saw training at Fort
Stewart, visited Nellis Air Force Base, and watched urban patrol training in a mock Iraqi village at
the National Training Center at Fort Irwin. Chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of the House
Foreign Affairs Committee criticized the access for the PLA to “sensitive” U.S. military facilities.
Members of the House and Senate U.S.-China Working Groups (Representatives Larsen and
Boustany, Senators Kirk, Lieberman, and Feinstein) hosted a breakfast for Chen. (In April, Chen
hosted a dinner in Beijing for Members of the House Working Group, who toured a PLAN Songclass
submarine, the PLA Submarine Academy, and PLA North Sea Fleet Headquarters.)
July 9-13 Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Michael Mullen, visited Beijing, Hangzhou, and
Zhoushan Island. He spoke at People’s University. He called for exchanges between younger
officers and combined exercises (for counter-piracy, medical assistance, and disaster relief).
Mullen and Chen Bingde discussed disputes over reconnaissance operations, cyber threats, Dalai
Lama, Taiwan, South China Sea, and North Korea. Mullen saw a CSS-7 (M-11) short-range ballistic
missile at the 2nd Artillery, Su-27 fighter at Jinan MR, counter-terrorist command post exercise of
the Nanjing MR, and Yuan-class submarine. Representative Rohrabacher criticized Mullen’s efforts
as more appropriate for an ally than for a rival.
August 25-26 Navy Captains led the two sides in a Working Group meeting of the MMCA in Qingdao.
September 8 Commander of the Jinan MR, General Fan Changlong, visited PACOM in Honolulu.
December 7 Accompanied by the new director of intelligence (2nd Department) Major General Chen Youyi,
PLA Deputy Chief of General Staff, General Ma Xiaotian, hosted Under Secretary of Defense for
Policy Michele Flournoy in Beijing for the 12th DCT. Flournoy held constructive talks on regional
security in Asia (including U.S. force deployments in Australia, North Korea, Taiwan, Afghanistan,
Pakistan, and the South China Sea), the Middle East, and North Africa; agreed to senior visits and
exercises in humanitarian assistance and counter-piracy; and assured that the United States does
not seek to contain China as an adversary. The PLA merely briefed on its Defense White Paper
issued in March and raised “obstacles” to mil-to-mil (blaming U.S. arms sales to Taiwan, FY2000
NDAA, and reconnaissance aircraft and ships). There were no breakthroughs in discussions.
2012
February 14 PRC Vice President, CPC Politburo Standing Committee Member, and CMC Vice Chairman Xi
Jinping visited. Like Hu Jintao’s visit in 2002, Xi visited the Pentagon. However, unlike Hu’s visit,
Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta granted Xi a full honors ceremony (including 19-gun salute,
national anthems, review of troops, Fife and Drum Corps), in part reciprocating for the reception
for Vice President Joe Biden in August 2011. Xi also met with the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of
Staff, General Martin Dempsey. Xi noted that military contacts are important for the U.S.-PRC
cooperative partnership. In Congress, 12 Senators (Cornyn, Menendez, Boozman, Wicker,
Hoeven, Grassley, Burr, Barrasso, Kyl, Heller, Isakson, and Ayotte) wrote to President Obama on
February 10 to urge that he express concerns to Xi about the PLA’s modernization, Taiwan, Iran,
cyber attacks, intellectual property rights, and human rights. Dempsey testified to Congress on
the same day as Xi’s visit that the U.S. rebalancing of strategic priorities (so-called “pivot”) to the
Pacific provides an opportunity to increase engagement with the PLA. Panetta testified on
February 15 that talks with Xi covered whether the rebalancing will increase tension with China.
Panetta stressed that the United States is a Pacific power and engages from a position of strength.
May 2-4 The Departments of Defense and State held the second SSD during the S&ED in Beijing. Deputy
Secretary of State William Burns and Acting Undersecretary of Defense James Miller met with
Vice Foreign Ministry Zhang Zhijun and PLA Deputy Chief of General Staff Ma Xiaotian to discuss
cyber and maritime disputes. Admiral Samuel Locklear III (PACOM Commander), Major General
John Davis (Senior Military Advisor to DASD for Cyber Policy), and Brigadier General Terrence
O’Shaughnessy (Deputy Director for Political-Military Affairs for Asia in the Joint Staff) attended.
May 4-10 As the Defense Minister, General Liang Guanglie visited Washington, DC (meeting with Defense
Secretary Leon Panetta, Deputy Secretary of State William Burns, etc.), Naval Base in San Diego,
Southern Command, Fort Benning, Camp Lejeune, Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, and West
Point. Liang cited “obstacles” of U.S. arms sales to Taiwan, U.S. reconnaissance operations, and
U.S. laws. The two sides agreed to combined exercises on HA/DR and counter-piracy.
U.S.-China Military Contacts: Issues for Congress
Congressional Research Service 73
June 13-14 PACOM and the PLA held a Working Group meeting of the MMCA in Honolulu.
June 25-29 PACOM Commander, Admiral Samuel Locklear III, visited Beijing, Guangzhou, Zhanjiang, and
Guilin. He met with Defense Minister General Liang Guanglie, Deputy Chief of General Staff
General Ma Xiaotian (host), and GZMR Commander Lieutenant General Xu Fenlin. Locklear
spoke at AMS. At the South Sea Fleet, Locklear toured a Luyang I-class destroyer at the pier. He
led the first military delegation to the GZMR’s 121st Infantry Division and rode in a Type 96 tank.
The PLA stressed the “obstacle” of U.S. reconnaissance operations and concerns about RIMPAC,
U.S.-Japan-ROK trilateral exercises, U.S. “rebalancing” strategy (“pivot” to the Pacific), etc.
August 20-28 Hosted by Vice Chief of the Army, General Lloyd Austin, PLA Deputy Chief of General Staff Cai
Yingting visited Fort Hood, Fort Leonard Wood, and the Pentagon. Cai objected to the U.S.-Japan
treaty’s coverage of the Senkaku Islands. Cai visited U.S. Army, Pacific (USARPAC) in Honolulu.
September 17 In the Gulf of Aden, the U.S. Navy and PLAN held their first counter-piracy exercise.
September 17-20 Defense Secretary Leon Panetta visited Beijing, meeting with Defense Minister Liang Guanglie, and
CMC Vice Chairmen Xu Caihou and Xi Jinping (also Vice President). Panetta spoke at the
Engineering Academy of Armored Forces. He visited the PLAN’s North Sea Fleet in Qingdao and
toured a frigate and submarine. Panetta announced that the U.S. Navy will invite the PLAN to the
multilateral RIMPAC 2014 exercise near Hawaii. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher raised objections.
September 27-28 PACOM and PLAN held a plenary meeting of the MMCA in Qingdao. Air Force Major General
Michael Keltz (J-5) and Rear Admiral Zhang Jianchang (PLAN Deputy Chief of Staff) led the talks.
Keltz also met with Rear Admiral Du Xiping (Deputy Commander of the North Sea Fleet). The
two sides discussed differences about the PLA’s air intercepts and future mil-to-mil events.
October 10 Rear Admiral Li Ji (Deputy Director of the PLA Foreign Affairs Office) visited Washington for the
DPCT with Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense David Helvey at the Pentagon. PACOM
and CENTCOM also participated in discussions about the counter-piracy exercise, maritime
safety and security, U.S. rebalancing strategy, cooperative efforts in mil-to-mil plan, etc.
October 27-
November 5
U.S. Army Band visited Beijing, Nanjing, and Shanghai, for joint concerts with the PLA band.
November 26-29 Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus visited Beijing and Ningbo.

Back to Index