What's new in White Paper on defense
By Chen Zhou
Updated: 2007-01-04 07:11

The Chinese Government issued a White Paper on the country's national defense on December 29, the fifth since 1998.

The paper primarily deals with changes taking place in the international security field over the last couple of years, offers new content to China's national defense policy, and gives an account of the new developments in the defense sector.

It has three salient features. First, it mirrors the principles by which China's national defense is purported to serve the country's peaceful development. Second, it underlines the guiding role played by the scientific outlook of development in the defense policy in the new century. Third, it tries to increase the transparency of the country's defense policy and strategic objectives.

There are also some new highlights in the paper such as the chapters dealing with the national defense administration system, the People's Liberation Army, the People's Armed Police Forces and border and coastal defense. In addition, the defense budget is fleshed out in an independent chapter. In previous White Papers, the budget was merely a part of a chapter. The White Paper states that China is pursuing a self-defensive nuclear strategy and that it remains firmly committed to the policy of no first use of nuclear weapons at any time or under any circumstances.

Apart from the principle of self-defense, the country also sticks to the principle of limited development of its nuclear arsenal, in an effort to maintain a nuclear deterrent force that meets the country's national security needs.

The paper also unveils the three-phase development strategy for the country's defense and armed forces. Much spade work in this respect is supposed to be done by 2010. By the year 2020, significant progress should be made in this regard. The strategic objectives of bringing about an information-age army to win wars in this era should be basically fulfilled by mid-century.

The White Paper contains many new ideas and concepts. For example, the Chinese armed forces are supposed to heighten their capabilities of handling crises, safeguarding peace, holding war in check and winning the wars if necessary. The military strategy is orientated to forestalling crises, defusing crises and preventing conflicts and wars from breaking out as well as winning local wars, if necessary, in the information age.

The paper displays the Chinese Government's judgment on global and Asian-Pacific security. For example, the document states that world peace and security are facing larger opportunities than challenges; that the international community is presented with security threats that are increasingly connected to one another, becoming more diverse in form and more complicated; that the world's military competition, characterized by the extensive application of information technology, is becoming intensified. All this best mirrors the Chinese Government's basic outlook on the international security situation.

Also, the document analyzes China's own security situation. On the one hand, it makes clear that the overall security environment is good, which finds expression in the country's steady development, the rise of its overall national strength, progress in its relations with other countries and the positive changes taking place in the across-the-Taiwan Straits situation. On the other hand, it points out that national security is still confronted with challenges. For example, domestic and external factors are becoming more closely connected; traditional and non-traditional security factors are becoming increasingly intertwined; the struggle against the "Taiwan-independence" elements and their secessionist activities is facing tasks of extreme gravity.

For the first time, the White Paper outlines the national security strategy in which development and national security are integrated into an organic whole.

The strategy stresses the importance of bringing about a harmonious society in China and a harmonious world outside, seeking overall security for the country and lasting peace for the world. It also advocates orchestrating the relationships between development and security, between internal and external security and between traditional and non-traditional security, and safeguarding the country's sovereignty, unification and territorial integrity.

The document also presses for defending the nation's development interests and safe-guarding important strategic opportunities for national development. The White Paper advocates that mutually beneficial co-operative ties be forged with other countries to promote common security.

The document describes the role of China's defense policy as helping foster a security climate favorable to the country's peaceful development, different from the descriptions in previous White Papers.

In the 2002 paper, for instance, the defense policy's role was defined as safeguarding world peace and opposing aggression and expansion, and in 2004 as striving to secure a fairly long-lasting favorable international and peripheral environments. Underlying the changes in the descriptions are profound connotations.

In view of the fact that threats to the international community's security are becoming increasingly complicated and becoming more and more diverse in form, China's national interests have, therefore, taken on some new aspects. This boils down to creating a security environment favorable to the country's peaceful development and playing an active part in defending world peace and regional stability.

China's defense policy is defensive by nature because it is geared to safeguarding the country's security and unification and assuring the smooth undertaking in bringing about a moderately prosperous society, instead of being orientated to external expansion or seeking hegemony. As a result, the country's military might does not go beyond the needs of protecting its sovereignty and security and, therefore, does not pose a threat to the peace and stability in peripheral areas. The country's military strategy takes on the character of active defense, which is best illustrated by the late Chairman Mao's words: "We will not attack unless we are attacked; if we are attacked, we will certainly counterattack."

The author is a researcher with the Academy of Military Sciences of the People's Liberation Army.

(China Daily 01/04/2007 page10)