Sec. William Perry and Gen. Ma Xiaotian, Dep. Chief, PLA General Staff
Sec. Robert McNamara leading a security delegation in 1994
The National Committee’s involvement with military activities began in the early 1990s. At the time, the official mil-mil relationship was at a low point, as a result of U.S. sanctions imposed after Tiananmen. We felt it important that contact between the two militaries be kept up, so, with a grant from the Freeman Foundation, the Committee sent a group of four retired four-star generals and admirals to China, Hong Kong and Taiwan in 1994 under the leadership of Secretary Robert McNamara; it was so successful that two years later Secretary James Schlesinger lead a group of five retired four stars on a similar trip.
In 1997, while thinking about a follow-on program, we learned that upon returning to private life, Secretary William Perry and Professor Ash Carter had formed the bi-partisan Preventive Defense Project (PDP), a research collaboration of Stanford University and Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government. "Preventive defense" is a concept for American defense strategy in the post-Cold War era, premised on the belief that the absence of an imminent, major, traditional military threat to American security presents today's leaders with an unaccustomed challenge and opportunity to prevent future Cold War-scale threats to international security from emerging. While the U.S. defense establishment must continue to deter major regional conflicts and provide peacekeeping and humanitarian relief missions when necessary, its highest priority is to contribute to forestalling developments that could directly threaten the survival and vital interests of American citizens.
PDP had, up till then, focused on forging productive security partnerships with Russia and its neighbors, but wanted to engage an emerging China. The partnership with the National Committee, now in its eleventh year, has enabled PDP to do that. Through intense personal interaction with military and political leaders in mainland China and Taiwan, the non-governmental Track II dialogue explores opportunities for innovative thinking, agreement and cooperation. This ongoing collaborative project has resulted in ten separate programs, all focusing on Northeast Asian security issues.