The document, China's Military Strategy', published by China’s Information Office of the State Council last May, contains a preface and six chapters. Each will be summarized and commented on in the paragraphs to follow, with attempts to decipher the Chinese government's intention (and its assumption about the U.S. Government's intention). The Chinese and American people's views regarding US-China military interaction will be kept as background in reviewing this document.
From the document's preface, it is clear the Chinese government presents an official position: Military preparedness is necessary for China's modernization and security as well as for active defense to meet new situations and to achieve China's "two Century" goal of realizing Chinese Dream and rejuvenating the Chinese nation. This 'statement' does not alleviate the Western powers’ and some of her neighbors' concern that China was a dominating world power two centuries ago, now awakening. Is China rejuvenating to an awaken lion? What would the lion do? This fear seems to be ill-founded, since there is no evidence in the six chapters of this white paper to suggest such a fear. Let’s examine the six chapters below.
I. China's national security situation. This chapter emphasizes that globalization has brought changes challenging world community, balance of power, global governing structure and geopolitical issues. New threats include hegemonism, power politics, neo-interventionism and terrorism, resulting in hotspot crises. China desires to have stability and peace to pursue her development but faces serious security threats including North Korea nuclear threat, Diaoyu Island and South China Sea territorial disputes, Sea Line of Communications (SLOCs), Taiwan and other independence attempts as well as competitions in outer space, cyberspace and world military transformation focusing on long range, precision, smart, stealthy, and unmanned warfare. China recognizes her deficiency and need in 'informationization' in her military.
II. The Missions of China's Armed Forces. To achieve and guarantee China's national goal and Chinese dream of having a moderately prosperous society by 2021 and a modern socialist state by 2049 seem to be reasonable and harmless missions. The strategic tasks of the Chinese military described are not much different from that of the U.S. military; they include handling emergencies and military threats and safeguarding unification, national interests and national stability, deterring and countering nuclear threat, participating in regional and international cooperation for peace keeping, performing rescue, disaster relief, rights and interest protection and supporting national and social development.
III. Strategic Guidance of Active Defense. China’s definition of active defense adheres to ‘will not attack but will surely counter-attack if attacked’. China’s strategic guidelines were revised on 1993, 2004 since 1949 with emphasis in winning informationized local wars, again a defense rather than an offense posture. One thing the Chinese military is different from that of the U.S. is its unique party (CPC) leadership making the military more connected with the Chinese people. The US military assembled under solicitation system is less connected with the people.
IV. Developing China’s Armed Forces. China has her traditional army, people’s liberation army (PLA), people’s armed police force (PAPF), small modular PLA (PLAA), navy (PLAN), air force (PLAAF), second artillery force (PLASAF), outer space, cyberspace and nuclear force all under the CPC leadership with priority on ideological and political building, advanced weaponry upgrade and new personnel training to respond to informationized warfare. China seems to recognize her outdated military; hence she is reducing up to 300,000 personnel and accelerating a modernization plan.
V. Preparation for Military Struggle (PMS). This is a transformation process to enhance combat effect and to use information system to integrate a wide range of operational forces for joint operation under central military command (CMC). Realistic training is emphasized to reach constant combat readiness for situation of military operation other than war (MOOPWs), emergency, disaster relief, etc.
VI. Military and Security Cooperation. The main concept is to achieve common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable security for China involving military partners but in a non-aligned, non-confrontational and not against third party manner. This seems to be pointing fingers at some of her neighbors developing military alliances. China particularly mentions relationship with Russia and ASEAN nations under the above principle and desires to form new model of major country relationship with the U.S.
After reviewing China’s military strategy document, one can find the following conclusions: China certainly prioritizes her military strategy for defense and self-defense under the principle, ‘We Will Not Attack, But Will Counterattack If Attacked’. China prefers to fulfill her international responsibility through UN, her cooperation with the U.S. in the UN sanction against the North Korea nuclear threat is clear evidence. China’s effort in trying to maintain a healthy military budget increase each year is easy to understand from her security situation. China borders with 14 neighboring countries, some hostile, some brewing terrorism and some raising territory disputes. More than half of China’s trade goods passing through East and South China Seas are vulnerable to even a small country’s naval force intervention. China’s military budget is only a fraction of that of the U.S. and her navy strength cannot come close to that of the US Navy probably for decades.
The US ‘pivot to Asia’ policy seems to ignore China’s security concern and overplays the U.S. security concern. The U.S. seems to misinterpret China’s geopolitical reality and her non-violence foreign policy; instead of promoting stability in Asia Pacific, the mighty U.S. navy and air force are actually agitating more conflicts and tension. Why and what for? If only the Americans could just swap places with the Chinese for a minute, they would see a very different light in Asia Pacific. Is the U.S. really threatened by China, her meager navy? Are we talking about a real military threat or a hurt of pride that we would rather fight battles than compete with China on economic terms?!