Project Note

The Sanya Dialogue: Exchange views, Build Understanding, and Chart Policy Directions

High-level dialogue between retired flag officers to strengthen military-to-military ties between the U.S. and China
By Yun Sun

In 2020, the relations between the United States and China hit new lows, creating uncertainty, anxiety, and fears about the trajectory of the relationship between the major powers. New and old thorns in the U.S.-China relationship have brought global concern about the security relationship between Washington and Beijing. The trade war, supply-chain severing, and technological decoupling have brought newfound concerns of national security in the complicated bilateral relationship. China’s rapid growth and military modernization have carved it an increasingly prominent role on the world stage, provoking narratives of competing spheres of influence vis-à-vis the United States. And longstanding points of contention, such as the South China Sea, Taiwan, and other regional security issues, persist as potential sparks of miscalculation, escalation, or conflict. The Biden administration has come to power at a time of unprecedentedly multifaceted, tense, and uncertain U.S.-China relations, and the path forward for both sides remains hazy.

To advance the discussion of these issues, the Stimson Center is proud to provide a forum for fruitful exchange on the issues at the heart of the U.S.-China military-to-military relationship. Since 2008, the U.S.-China Sanya Initiative has regularly facilitated high-level dialogue between retired generals and admirals to strengthen military-to-military ties between the U.S. and China. Through candid, constructive, and closed-door interaction, the Dialogue creates unique space for retired U.S. and Chinese flag officers to exchange views, build understanding, and chart policy directions on contentious issues within the bilateral relationship. In so doing, the Sanya Dialogue represents a standout example of exchange in a narrowing window of interaction, mutual understanding, and crisis management.

The Sanya Dialogue Initiative is held in coordination with the China Association for International Friendly Contact. Stimson is proud to continue the work of the East-West Institute in fostering military-to-military ties between the United States and China.

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