The sharp downturn in ties between the world’s two most fearsome militaries was evident when America’s highest naval officer, Chief of Naval Operations Admiral John Richardson, went to Beijing this month.
Chinese officers were ready for Richardson: they issued hostile words, especially about U.S. relations with Taiwan. In response, CNO Richardson stuck to Washington’s decades-old script of cooperation.
It is time for American policymakers to change that script by, among other things, dropping themes of engagement, introducing notions of reciprocity, and showing resolve of their own.
Richardson struck an upbeat note as he left China on his second official visit as America’s top admiral. “I very much appreciate the hospitality I received in China,” he tweeted on January 16. “I had some great discussions with my counterparts and I look forward to strengthening our relationship as we move forward.”