"A normal military relationship with an ally encompasses everything from meetings with top officials and commanders to educational exchanges to military exercises. Even avowed enemies can work together; the U.S. and the Soviet Union maintained extensive military-to-military relations even at its height of the Cold War. But the relationship with China is something new: a superpower interacting with a regionally influential great power with global aspirations."
"U.S. officials view military-to-military contacts as a path to relationships and understanding that can help ward off miscalculation and war... The U.S. has also tried to use such contacts to goad Beijing toward transparency and guide its arrival as a world leader... As for China, it has long seemed to regard mil-to-mil contacts less as a tool and more as a signal. Beijing switched contacts on and off depending on the state of diplomatic relations"