Sixth U.S.-China High-Level Security Dialogue

News | May 01, 2012

A high-level U.S. delegation held five days of meetings with top Chinese officials and experts April 23–27 in Beijing. The confidential meetings, organized by the EastWest Institute, marked the sixth U.S.–China High-Level Security Dialogue.

The EWI visit, led by General (ret.) Eugene Habiger, former commander in chief of the U.S. Strategic Command, took place the week before U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner visit Beijing for the annual Strategic and Economic Dialogue between the two countries.

"This sixth dialogue took place at a critical time for U.S.–China relations," said EWI Vice President David Firestein. "China's leadership transition later this year, the U.S. election, and increased attention to the bilateral relationship in both countries underline the need for increased strategic understanding at high levels."

Held under the Chatham House Rule, the meetings allowed frank discussion on a wide range of military and geopolitical issues, including the U.S. "pivot" or "rebalancing" to Asia, bilateral cybersecurity issues, and the lack of strategic trust between the two countries.

For the first time, the EWI delegation visited the Central Party School, a center for the training of Communist Party cadres headed by China's presumptive next leader, Xi Jinping. The group also visited the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, the National Defense University, and the China Foundation for International Strategic Studies.

Participants also exchanged views with: Vice Foreign Minister Cui Tiankai and Vice Minister Liu Jieyi of the International Department of the Communist Party of China, senior officials with responsibilities for China's relationship with the United States; Ambassadors Zhou Wenzhong and Ma Zhengang, both EWI board members; and experts gathered by the China Institute for International Studies, EWI's partner for the High-Level Security Dialogue.

The ten-person U.S. delegation included: General Eugene E. Habiger (Head of Delegation); Major General A. Bowen Ballard, former mobilization assistant to the director of the National Security Agency; EWI Board Member Angela Chen; Patrick Chovanec, associate professor at Tsinghua University; EWI Vice President David J. Firestein; EWI Senior Associate Piin-Fen Kok; Kenneth G. Lieberthal, director of the John L. Thornton China Center at the Brookings Institution; Timothy P. Stratford, Beijing-based attorney and former assistant U.S. trade representative; EWI Program Coordinator Euhwa Tran; and EWI Public Policy & Communications Officer Graham Webster.

The dialogue addressed important issues that may come before the U.S. and Chinese leaders in their meetings  in May, including U.S. and Chinese intentions in military development in East Asia and the Pacific, tensions over the South China Sea, and U.S. arms sales to Taiwan.

Participants also discussed prospects for longer-term thinking in U.S.–China relations. While the countries have numerous lively exchanges on current issues, the potential for dialogue on intentions for five to 10 years into the future was a major point of discussion.

EWI's visit ended April 27 with a meeting at the U.S. embassy with Deputy Chief of Mission Robert S. Wang, where the delegation discussed its thoughts after a week of meetings.