15 June 2014

Worth Revisiting on Eve of RIMPAC 2014: General Karl Eikenberry on “The Possibilities and Limits of Sino-American Military Relations”

With China joining the world’s largest international maritime exercise for the first time ever later this month in RIMPAC 2014, it’s time to revisit General Karl Eikenberry’s seasoned take on opportunities and challenges in U.S.-China military-military relations. 

Lt. Gen. Karl Eikenberry, USA (ret.), “The Possibilities and Limits of Sino-American Military Relations,” Charles Neuhauser Memorial Lecture, John King Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, 23 October 2013.

This annual lecture recognizes public intellectuals who bridge the worlds of academia and public service. 

Presidents Barack Obama and Xi Jinping have both recently emphasized military ties as an important component of a new model of relations between the United States and China. However, over the past 25 years, bilateral defense exchanges have suffered frequent reversals and results have been disappointing. Karl Eikenberry, whose career as a diplomat and soldier included many years of service in Asia and China, will identify the constraints inherent in building a sustainable program of Sino-American military contacts and suggest a framework for future defense relations.

Karl Eikenberry is the William J. Perry Fellow in International Security at the Center for International Security and Cooperation and is a Distinguished Fellow with the Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center at Stanford University. He served as the US Ambassador to Afghanistan from May 2009 until July 2011 and had a 35-year career in the United States Army, retiring with the rank of lieutenant general. His military assignments included postings with mechanized, light, airborne, and ranger infantry units in the continental United States, Hawaii, Korea, Italy, and Afghanistan as the Commander of the American-led Coalition forces from 2005 to 2007. He is a graduate of the US Military Academy, has earned master’s degrees from Harvard University in East Asian studies and Stanford University in political science, was awarded an Interpreter’s Certificate in Mandarin Chinese from the British Foreign Commonwealth Office, and earned an advanced degree in Chinese history from Nanjing University. He is also the recipient of the George F. Kennan Award for Distinguished Public Service and Harvard University Graduate School of Arts and Sciences Centennial Medal. Ambassador Eikenberry serves as a trustee for the International Institute for Strategic Studies, the Asia Foundation, and the National Committee on American Foreign Policy, and is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.