Beijing should restart high-level defence talks with Washington to ease pressure in ties between the two powers, which are at their lowest level in decades, according to a prominent Chinese academic. “With China-US ties in the state they are today, trade relations can no longer serve as the cornerstone of stable ties,” Nanjing University US specialist Zhu Feng wrote in the Global Times , a tabloid affiliated with Communist Party mouthpiece People’s Daily . “It’s time to reopen the safety valve and resume high-level talks between the two militaries as soon as possible, to lower [the chance of] misjudgment between the two sides and avoid going into conflict by accident and causing bloodshed,” Zhu said in the article published on Monday. Zhu added that China should be vigilant for attempts by the administration of US President Donald Trump to stoke tension between the two countries before the US presidential election in November. The suggestion comes as Beijing and Washington are at loggerheads on all fronts, from the handling of the coronavirus pandemic to regional security in the South China Sea and democracy and free elections in Hong Kong. In mid-July, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo denounced China’s expansive claims in the contested waters as “completely unlawful”, an assessment widely seen as a turning point in Washington’s South China Sea policy. Even before Pompeo made his remarks, the US had started sending aircraft carriers on the first of three missions to the waters within a month. The People’s Liberation Army responded by sending bombers on a high-intensity exercise over the South China Sea, it said last week. But Zhu said that Beijing should acknowledge that there were senior US defence officials who remained sensible, citing US Secretary of Defence Mark Esper’s comments last month that he would like to visit China by the end of the year . “There are senior officials within the Department of Defence who have acknowledged the huge risks inherent in the current strategic state-of-play between China and the US,” Zhu wrote. “Esper’s remark is a sign that behind the intense pressure against China from the Trump administration, there are still rational minds and coolheadedness.” Zhu added that it was also in China’s national interests to restart engagement and dialogue for crisis management. Beijing has so far been tepid towards Esper’s overture. Asked last month about the possibility, Wang Wenbin, a spokesman with China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said he “has taken notice” of Esper’s remark, stressing that military ties were an integral part of US-China relations. Nevertheless, Wang lashed out at the US last week for sending military aircraft more than 2,000 times to the region this year and approaching the area for surveillance for 12 days in a row from July 15. China claims harassment as scientist accused of US visa fraud is refused bail Former officials and academics from both sides have warned against raising the risk of an accidental military conflict, especially in the South China Sea and the Taiwan Strait in the past two years. Those fears have grown amid the coronavirus pandemic, with the US and China engaging in a heated blame game that destroyed hopes that a trade deal struck in January could help stabilise the rocky relationship. The bleak outlook was apparent in May, when Chinese Defence Minister Wei Fenghe warned top PLA generals that ties between the two countries had entered “a period of high risk”.