China Seminar | 11 February 2016

US-China Security Cooperation: “You Really Ought to Give Mil-to-Mil a Try”

David R. Stilwell David R. Stilwell

Of the many changes that came with the transition from Hu Jintao to Xi Jinping, PLA interest in Mil-Mil exchanges with the US is one of the most notable. The so-called “ardent suitor” phenomenon – which had the US fairly begging a hard-to-get PLA to engage – reversed itself in November 2012. Xi’s frequent admonitions to the PLA to “prepare for combat” weren’t orders to increase China’s combat footing – instead he was telling the generals that they should focus on building a professional fighting force. The only way to accomplish this quickly would be for the PLA to pursue closer contact with their American counterparts. The US seeks increased interaction to foster mutual understanding and trust as well as to reduce the potential for unintended conflict due to miscalculation. BrigGen Stilwell will elaborate on the PLA’s very obvious about-face, offer thoughts on the current state of the relationship, and propose areas for greater cooperation. Brigadier General Dave Stilwell recently retired from the Air Force after 35 years in uniform. He began his career as a Korean linguist and later majored in Asian Studies and Chinese language as an East West Center participant 1987-1988. BrigGen Stilwell has flown 2500 hours in the F-4 Phantom II and the F-16 Fighting Falcon with deployments to South Korea, Japan, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, and Qatar. He most recently served as the Base and Wing Commander at Misawa Air Base, Japan; as Defense Attaché to the People’s Republic of China 2011-2013; and most recently as the Policy and Strategy advisor to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff for all Asia security issues. He is married to former East West Center staff member Jan Watanabe, and they have two children, Dane and Janae.