Issuing White Paper on an issue especially a national security issue is a positive step for any large country to show candidness and define core interests so that the world will not have surprises and react in unexpected irrational manner. Since Asia-Pacific (AP) is an important region holding 60% of the world population and GDP and 50% of the world trade, AP's security, stability and peace, is of ultimate importance not only to countries in the region but also to the world. Reviewing China's white paper on AP Security, it reveals a lot about what are the security issues that do exist and what is the prospect of AP's security in the future. Although not concluded nor claimed in this white paper (perhaps because of China's low-key style of diplomacy practiced for decades and her humble attitude resulted from her thorough understanding of the complexities of AP security), a careful reading of this paper one can come away with a number of conclusions spelling out a positive, if not rosy, outlook of AP security despite recent media reporting focused on rhetoric tweets and Congressional cabinet member confirmation hearings related to US-China policies. After reading China's white paper and realizing that it has offered lots of facts and no rhetoric, this common world citizen felt optimistic about the future security in AP and would like to share his views and conclusions in this column.
China issued the white paper on January 7, 2017 to the public via Xinhua news agency. The paper consists of six parts covering assessment of the current AP security situation, China's security vision for AP, China's relation with other major AP countries, AP hotspot issues, China's involvement in multilateral relations in AP security, regional non-traditional security issues and cooperation, and a mild conclusion leaving lots of room for readers to draw their own. This report as a whole did convey China's central policy of pursuing the China Dream, emphasizing her desire of peaceful development through mutual respect, joint cooperation, and AP's own regional effort and leadership interaction in taking gradual but steady bilateral and regional multilateral measures through dialogs in various established institutions engaging AP leaders to ensure AP security, AP economic growth and win-win prosperity. However, one can draw more conclusions on future AP security by reading this white paper with a magnifying glass in view of current events happening in AP.
First, let's look at the AP security from both the U.S. and China's perspectives which were not elaborated but traceable in the white paper. China is marching to be a great country, she feels that she has the right to define and protect her core interest and define her security concern based on that. This is a selfish way of defining security concern but it is practiced by all great nations especially the U.S. The U.S. has been the greatest nation on Earth always defining her security concern based on her self interest, to the extent that she wants to remain as the greatest nation not allowing any other to be her rival. Hence, the U.S. feels threatened when China is defining and protecting her security concern based on her core interests as a rising nation. The U.S. does not respect or accept China's definition of her own core interests and security concern interpreting them as threat to her and her allies; so she would rather define her security concern to negate China's security concern. China on the other hand feels that the U.S. is extending her security concern unreasonably to the entire world posing security threats to others with false justification that others may impose a security threat to her. This is the fundamental reason that the U.S. and China have a conflict in AP. Will China modify her core interest and security concern as she becomes stronger - thus more threatening? Will the U.S. understand that principle, do not do to others what you don't want others do onto you - thus more accommodating? These questions present a real dilemma!
One can see clearly in China's white paper, China seems to understand the above dilemma happening in AP. She tries to define her AP security concern acknowledging that every country may have different interest but must share a common goal - to develop AP as an integral community for peace and prosperity by resolving disputes through peaceful negotiation following the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence defined jointly by China, India and Mymmar in 1954. China stressed her policy of rise peacefully and described her relationship with all the key nations and international bodies. China emphasized bilateral discussion and resolution on issues under the spirit of UN Charters as well as working with multilateral mechanisms leading to agreements. China claimed to have acceded to 400 international treaties and international organizations. China's AP security vision is seeking a new path based on a common comprehensive cooperative sustainable security, multi-layered, based on common cause, with consensus and advanced in parallel with economic development on a steady and gradual process. This vision does accommodate the interests of all AP members, thus ought to be welcomed.
China was candid in describing her relations with the U.S., Russia, India, Japan and ASEAN countries, certainly no lacking in interactions among leaders for the purpose of maintaining friendly relations. China laid out the hotspot issues in AP and her opposition to nuclear threat and forming military alliances (ABM and THAAD) and desire to counter terrorism and achieve maritime stability. China did stress her sovereignty claims over Nansha Islands in the South China Sea and the Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea, but with no belligerent statements obviously desiring peaceful resolution. This white paper gave a thorough review of all the multilateral mechanisms concerning AP security which China was earnestly involved in. (Leadership involvement in various activities, ASEAN+3, APT, CMIM, CJK, EAS, ARF, SCO, etc….), China was serious and placed high expectations on these complex and tedious interactions to improve AP security. Likewise, China had held up her responsibility in dealing with non-traditional security issues in AP such as disaster relief, countering terrorism, and combating transnational crimes.
This white paper did not utter any rhetoric nor any militant warnings against any country. Instead, China showed her seriousness about the five principles of peaceful coexistence backed with deeds of cooperation with others to achieve mutual and regional benefits. She defines and follows the path of peaceful development. Her one belt and one road (OBOR) cooperative development program with financial commitment is evidence. China correctly stated that the hotspot issues in AP were left by history and she urged everyone to respect history to resolve disputes peacefully. Lack of strong language in this white paper does not mean China is soft or weak in facing complex AP security issues. China wants to work with the U.S. to build a new model of major country relation and a mutually beneficial strategy of opening up and pursuing friendly cooperation with all countries. China's strong resolve and diligent work were amply demonstrated in this white paper by her initiatives for integrating AP as one community with a common goal to maintain security in parallel to advance economic development. There is no reason for any AP member not to accept this policy in cooperation with China. That is why the future security of Asia Pacific is very positive despite of the rhetoric in the news media.