The Sino-American Security Dialogue
Annual Retreats (held alternatively in the U.S. and China)
• SASD 2002, on Assurance and Deterrence in U.S. - China Relations, was held at Chautauqua Park in Boulder, Colorado in May 2002.
• SASD 2003, on 'China's Rise' and US-China Relations in the 21st Century: Power Transitions and the Question of 'Revisionism', was held in October 2003 outside of Beijing near the Great Wall.
• SASD 2004, on Domestic Politics and US-China Relations, was held in June 2004 at The Mershon Center for Security Studies in Columbus, Ohio.
• SASD 2005, on US-China Relations and the Emerging the East Asian Security Order, was held June 17-19 outside of Shanghai.
• SASD 2006, on US-China Relations and the Security Dilemma in the Taiwan Strait, was held May 30–June 1, 2006 at the East-West Center in Honolulu, Hawaii.
• SASD 2007, on "Energy Security, the Developing World, and US-China Relations," was held in May 2007 in Norman, Oklahoma.
• SASD 2008, on US-China Relations and the Middle East, will be held May 24-25 in the Huangshan Mountains of Anhui, China.
SASD is hosted by the Institute for US-China Issues at the University of Oklahoma.
The events following the May 1999 American bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade and the April 2001 plane collision over the South China Sea demonstrate that there is still much ground to be covered before we can claim that China and US have reached a stable strategic understanding. In their present state, security exchanges are ill equipped to address the problem. At conferences, senior scholars and policy-makers too often simply take turns in berating the other sides’ policies and motives, talking past each other. Little listening or learning transpires. Rather than alleviating suspicions between the two sides, such lecturing often actually exacerbates tensions.
This pitfall of present Sino-American security exchanges is partly because senior scholars and policy makers often are not in a position to express their views frankly or acknowledge that the other side’s view has its own logic. Their views about security and Sino-American relations have usually already hardened, and bureaucratic and domestic politics further constrain their behavior. Hence, more high-level conferences and exchanges are no panacea.
The SASD seeks to provide an innovative solution to this problem. During the Dialogue’s annual meetings and electronic communications, members will work to foster a common strategic understanding. Social psychologists have discovered that intergroup contact will only improve intergroup relations under certain conditions. Drawing on the advice of social and cross-cultural psychologists, the Dialogue will be structured in a way to achieve three central objectives. These objectives make the Dialogue unique, unlike any existing security exchanges between the U.S. and China. First, Chinese scholars currently operate within the Chinese political context and American scholars similarly work within the American political context. When they come together, therefore, the relationship is usually an adversarial one of opposing national identities. An open, informal discussion will be the basis to build a sense that this is a joint venture of equals. Second, the Dialogue is for the new generation of young Chinese and American security scholars. The Dialogue seeks to promote a common security culture among the new generation before they assume more prominent positions where they might be prevented from frankly expressing their views. Third, the Dialogue will lay a foundation for building a community of security experts, not apart from their individual national identities but along side of them. Scholars have limited understandings of to each other’s security cultures, and need a forum where they can develop a common language to talk and think about pressing security issues in Sino-American relations. By issuing high-quality policy-oriented report series, this community will make its voice heard in both Beijing and Washington, and be able to shape both Washington and Beijing’s policy with broader perspectives, especially by taking the other side’s concerns into consideration. Better understanding of the other side’s strategic thinking will lessen the chance of misperception, miscalculation, and conflict.