Many countries do release an annual or biannual or non-periodic defense white paper (DWP). The term, White Paper, was first used by the British government referencing to the Churchill White Paper (released on June 3, 1922), the British Policy in Palestine, representing the five documents named, “Palestine Correspondence with the Palestine Arab Delegation and the Zionist Organization”. The White Paper emphasized that “While maintaining Britain's commitment to the Balfour Declaration and her promise of a Jewish national home in Palestine, the establishment of a national home would not impose a Jewish nationality on the Arab inhabitants of Palestine. To reduce tensions between the Arabs and Jews in Palestine the paper called for a limitation of Jewish immigration to the economic capacity of the country to absorb new arrivals. The Churchill White Paper may have had some influence on the Palestine situation but that is not the subject of this article. Our focus is on China’s DWP and the U.S. DWP and their intended messages.
The U.S. issued her 2018 DWP and stated her 11-Point objectives from defending her homeland from attack to establishing an unmatched twenty-first century National Security Innovation Base that would effectively support (defense) department operations and sustain security and solvency. It is the strategic approach stated in the 2018 U.S. DWP that had raised some eyebrows:
1. Build a More Lethal Force (p.5-7)
2. Strengthen Alliances and Attract New Partners (p.8-9)
3. Reform the Department for Greater Performance and Affordability (p.10)
The above strategic approach cannot help but give the impression that the U.S. is preparing the plan to build new military alliances (in addition to her worldwide ranging existing alliances) and the ability to attack with more lethal weapon (targeting China and Russia, explicitly in the DWP, as competitors, and North Korea and Iran, as destabilizing regions). The recently resigned Defense Secretary, James Mattis (current Secretary is Mark Esper), signed the DWP with the conclusion: “I am confident this defense strategy is appropriate and worthy of the support of the American people.” Here, we raise the question: Should the American people support this strategy?
China issued her DWP on July 22nd, 2019, understandably (in response to the U.S. DWP) it mentions the U.S. specifically in the report which reiterates her peaceful rise pledge and pure defensive nature of defense strategy based on her traditional non-offensive and non-alliance (military) positions. It also states, however, that the new era needs new defense strategy, citing the complex world environment having fast development, unstable international security, global restructuring with rise and decay, but emphasizing seeking peace, balance, but recognizing existing power play forcing international competition. The Chinese DWP has claimed that the U.S. unilateralism and increasing military build-up are causing big nations to compete (militarily), to have frequent military exercises and more regional conflicts, a situation intertwined impacting everyone in the world.
China’s DWP contains five additional points:
1. New policy stresses on peace and diplomacy following (Chinese) traditional cultural expectation with a goal of never wanting to be a superpower or an expansionist nor to seek sphere of influence (via military) and a directive of defense being always defensive (not offensive) in nature and repeating her pledging, never be the first to attack.
2. Mission of the defense is to uphold the communist party leadership in China, maintain a socialistic China (with Chinese characteristics) and defend her sovereignty in land and seas with readiness to protect China’s interest in homeland and overseas as well as to defend against any force that will divide China’s sovereignty (specifically mentioning Taiwan pro-independence force).
3. A comprehensive reform plan is to reorganize the four forces, Navy, Airforce, Army and Missile with proper balance (reducing military personnel and modernizing equipment and communication) and to restructure the command system with strengthened laws, management and modern training and facility.
4. A transparent description of defense budget emphasizes its appropriate spending being 1043.2 billion RMB (2017), about 1.25% of GDP (versus 3.5% U.S. and 4.4% Russia), and 5.26% of national budget (versus 9.8% U.S. and 12.4% Russia). China’s defense spending per capita is 750 RMB which is only 5% of the U.S. and 25% of Russia’s per capita spending.
5. Calls for a common destiny for the global community to build peace partnership with equality and trust (rather than military alliances) honoring the United Nations charter, principles and peace missions. China will work with her neighbors, EU, Africa, Latin America, Caribbean and South China Sea regions to develop regional security cooperation.
Comparing the above two DWP, it is obvious that the U.S. and China do not believe nor trust each other on national defense issue. China assesses that overall Asia Pacific (AP) is stable; the concept of shared common fate and destiny is rising as exhibited in more international conferences such as the Shanghai Cooperation Conference, ASEAN Summit, and Shangri-La Dialogue, etc. barring the interference from the U.S.; whereas, the U.S. is painting a dare situation that the rising China is posing a threat to the AP, the U.S. and the world, thus, there is a need to build an alliance to check China’s Rise. Put the rhetoric aside, China has been consistently pledging her peaceful rise, non-alliance position and no first attack principle, but the U.S. had never believed China’s statements. As clearly expressed in her 2019 DWP again, China is trying to be more transparent and candid in describing her defense policy, mission and spending. In the global community, China seems to be gaining more believers on China’s intent as evidenced by the increasing support China has received for her Belt and Road initiative (BRI) to promote global economic development and international cultural exchange; whereas, the U.S. is still insisting on pursuing a ‘Cold War’ like strategy to target China and Russia.
We Americans are peace loving people but tend to be led by ‘the think tank elites’ blindly on foreign policy and international matters or ill informed by the mass media. In U.S.-China Relations, clearly the legacy ‘Cold War’ Strategy advocated by our government funded ‘elites’ is now begging for questioning, as we can see our strongest allies, UK, Germany, Japan, Australia, Singapore, Philippines, etc., all are hesitating to go along with our ‘enhanced’ targeting China policy. As the 2020 election is around the corner and political debates are taking place, we voters must raise the questions: Putting the rhetoric aside and taking only concrete evidence, why don’t we believe in China’s peaceful rise? Why do we have to meddle in the neighborly disputes that the principals do not call for our interference? Why do we blame our economic problems, especially our competitiveness, on China and every other country? Why do we employ devious means to suppress Huawei’s 5G technology when we know it is our military’s monopoly of frequency bands that prevented our civilian corporations’ advancement in wireless communication? Why does the rest of the world believe in ‘collaboration producing win-win results’ but not the U.S.? Why do we blame the use of other currencies when we keep increasing our debt ceiling discrediting the US dollar? Do we really want to be an isolationist or one who must club everyone else to get our way? By the way, our way does not do so well lately, does it!?