Transparency and Opacity: The U.S.-Chinese Strategic Relationship
As the United States has pursued a strategy of engagement in response to China's rise, bilateral relations have steadily increased with one notable exception—the U.S.-Chinese security relationship. In many respects, this is puzzling. Not only have military-to-military ties failed to develop along Washington's expectations, but deeper bilateral military engagement should offer China valuable exposure to the powerful U.S. military. I argue that by selectively resisting, accepting, and shaping bilateral military ties, China derives maximum utility from a position of strategic ambiguity—an asymmetric power balancing strategy preferred by rising powers within a framework of transparency cooperation and competition. As long as bilateral competitive tensions resulting from changing power dynamics persist, comprehensive military exchange will likely be shaped by competing preferences for information transparency and opacity.
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