U.S.-China military relations are at an important crossroads. Because of failures in the U.S.-China military relationship and the relationship's perceived lack of ability to produce tangible benefits, many observers have come to doubt its value and even argue that the relationship has harmed U.S. national security. In 2001, the Defense Department began a reassessment of its relations with the People's Liberation Army (PLA) to determine the extent and appropriate nature of these contacts. This reevaluation of the U.S.-China military relationship led to a severe curtailment in military-to-military activities. Since the EP-3 incident in April 2001, all military-to-military activities with the PLA were reviewed on a case-by-case basis pending the completion of a policy review. The few exchanges that do take place are mainly military education exchanges and high-level dialogue. The completion of the policy review and the holding of Defense Consultative Talks in December 2002 have now opened the door for military-to-military contacts to expand.
This report examines the debate surrounding U.S.-China security cooperation and concludes that security cooperation between the United States and China has value. Because of the possibility of armed conflict over Taiwan, the United States needs to maintain a military-to-military relationship with China. The military relationship with the PLA is heavily constrained, however, in the benefits it can provide the U.S. military. Consequently, conducting the type and degree of military-to-military activities with the PLA that have been conducted in the past is not appropriate. This study argues that the