What's with the Relationship between America's Army and China's PLA?

  • September 01, 1996
  • COL Jer Donald Get

In May 1995, Secretary of Defense William J. Perry asked the Army to examine various ways to re-establish the army-to-army ties which existed between the U.S. Army and Beijing's People's Liberation Army (PLA) prior to the 1980s. U.S. President George Bush ordered a curb in military-to-military ties following the Tiananmen incident in 1989, and, since then, efforts at rapprochement between the two armies have been faltering and uneven. There are some who question the value of renewing military ties with the People's Republic of China (PRC) based on the limited gains accrued to the U.S. Army from the earlier relationship. In this essay, U.S. Army Colonel Jer Donald Get argues that this is a short-sighted attitude. The reasons for renewing army-to-army ties are substantial given that China's relevance as a power will grow. The United States needs to marshal all the resources at its disposal to influence China positively. One of those resources, Colonel Get argues, is America's Army. The ideas expressed in this monograph constitute a host of positive recommendations which could influence the course of trans-Pacific relations over the next decade. Our Army and the PLA must take a measured approach, setting pragmatic objectives and extending the reciprocity that characterizes relations between great powers. For both armies, and both nations, the stakes are high----to engage as strategic partners rather than clash again in conflict.