Sino‐American relations are composed of a complex field of factors that have influenced both cooperation and confrontation between the Chinese and Americans. The factors that present the most obstacles are undoubtedly rooted in the Sino‐American military relationship where there has been a great deal of potentially dangerous misunderstandings. Part one of this study provides an overview of the literature on Sino‐American relations, Sino‐American military relations, and perception within the context of those relations. Part two builds on the sparse literature that focuses on perception by further exploring how western media perceives military relations through the analysis of media articles published in the Washington Post and the New York Times between 2001 and 2017. How military relations are framed in the media is important for understanding the perceptual boundaries within which policymakers can act along the cooperative‐confrontational continuum. The study concludes that the confrontational discursive approach dominating the framing of military relations is problematic for determining the most effective means of maintaining regional stability, order, and peace in the Asia Pacific region as well as facilitating geostrategic security cooperation between the two countries.