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US-China Security Review Commission Suggests Backchannel Diplomacy With Chinese Military

Citing the US' lack of knowledge about the developments within the Chinese military and information sphere, the report made necessary suggestions.

US-China Commission

Image: AP

A report commissioned by the congressionally mandated US-China Economic & Security Review Commission (USCC) has suggested funding backchannel military diplomacy with China. The report by the commission cited a growing lack of knowledge in Washington regarding the reform efforts and personnel matters of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA).  

The report was requested by the US-China Economic & Security Review Commission from BluePath Labs, and suggested nongovernmental and quasi-governmental discussions with the Chinese military. However, the full set of recommendations of the report is scheduled to be released to Congress on November 15, under the Commission’s annual report.  

US aiming to penetrate China’s information sphere  

Citing the “increasingly closed nature of China’s information sphere,” the report suggests Congress work with the Pentagon to reestablish “Track 1.5 and 2.0 military dialogues with China if conditions support.”  

Moreover, the report requested by the US-China Commission suggests that properly planned and managed interactions with the Chinese military could enormously help the US better understand the inner functioning of the PLA.  

The aforementioned Track 1.5 dialogue consists of delegations of a mix of government representatives acting unofficially alongside outside participants, while in Track 2, bilateral diplomatic dialogues are usually comprised of nongovernment representatives from think tanks and academia.  

Significant degradation in US-China military ties  

The Sino-US military relations saw a significant degradation following the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. Most importantly, the tensions between the two nations peaked in August during the visit by the US House of Representatives Speaker, Nancy Pelosi to the self-governed island nation of Taiwan, which China claims as a part of its territory. As per the report, “China and the United States previously had multiple forums for exchanging military-related information.”  

However, the worsening of the bilateral relationship between China and the US has resulted in the US losing access to valuable information regarding the People’s Liberation Army.  

Other key suggestions from the report   

Calling newspapers, journals, books, and websites as “keys to understanding the PLA and its personnel,” the report suggests funding an organization that can facilitate the purchase of open-source publications on the PLA. Such publications were provided for free by China until 2018.  

Moreover, the report mandated by the US-China commission and published by BluePath Labs detailed China’s military modernization efforts, including the recruitment of personnel and training of PLA” s non-commissioned officers (NCOs) and enlisted personnel as well as its anti-corruption campaign.  

The Chinese military 2021 switched from one to two conscription cycles per year to boost combat readiness. Moreover, the report noted China’s efforts to recruit a more educated enlisted force to strengthen the forces’ overall effectiveness. 

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