Language : English 简体 繁體

Kung Fu Panda and National Security

Nov 14, 2022
  • He Wenping

    Senior Research Fellow, Charhar Institute and West Asia and Africa Studies Institute of the China Academy of Social Sciences

The 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China has elected a new cohort of party leadership and charted the course for China’s future development. Some argue that in the next five to 10 years, China may well prioritize national security over its long-term focus on economic development. The author begs to differ. My impression after perusing the 20th CPC National Congress report is that “development” and “security” are complementary. The Chinese path to modernization aims to achieve development and modernization in tandem.

But this modernization can only become a reality in a domestic and international environment underpinned by peace and security. In other words, peaceful development and military capacity building to secure this goal are the two cornerstones of China’s national security.

First, the 20th National Congress report states that “From this day forward, the central task of the Communist Party of China will be to lead the Chinese people of all ethnic groups in a concerted effort to realize the Second Centenary Goal of building China into a great modern socialist country in all respects and to advance the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation on all fronts through a Chinese path to modernization.”  

An important feature of this path is that the goal is achieved through peaceful development. We are no longer living in an 18th and 19th century era of colonialism, a time when Western powers seized wealth and laid the material foundation for their modernization through war, colonization and plunder. In the 21st century, colonialism has been nailed to the historic pillar of shame, and any attempt to rise through war and plunder is doomed to fail.

Chinese modernization and national security must be built on peaceful development. This is the only way. Only a peaceful and secure international environment will enable the Belt and Road Initiative and the dual circulation development pattern, which features positive interplay between domestic and international economic flows, to operate smoothly.

As early as April 2014, Chinese President Xi Jinping put forward the overall national security concept at the first meeting of the National Security Commission of the CPC. He pointed out that national security is not defined in a narrow sense of border security or national defense, but is also about “people’s security as the purpose; political security as the root; economic security as the foundation; military, cultural and social security as the guarantee; and international security as an underpinning factor, while maintaining national security in all fields, build a national security system through the Chinese approach.”

Second, another important cornerstone of China’s national security is capacity building in the military. While peaceful development and modernization on the Chinese path are the fundamental to the country’s national security, the evolving global landscape may not always favor the realization of our aspiration and vision of development. As the Chinese saying goes, “the situation is always fluid and changing beyond our control,” and “plans have to play catch-up with the situation.” So we have to remain adaptive to an evolving situation.

Back in 2017, the Chinese leadership put forward the notion that the world was undergoing “changes of a magnitude unseen in a century” — which was not only reflected in the emergence of a group of developing countries, including emerging economies, but also the outbreak of COVID19 in recent years and the Ukraine crisis this year. All have had a profound impact on the international landscape and reflect the great changes this century has undergone.

Meanwhile, the lingering clouds of a new cold war, the continued fudging and hollowing out of the “One China principle” by the United States with regard to Taiwan and the West's constant interference in China’s internal affairs in Hong Kong and Xinjiang, all having contributed to the mounting uncertainty and instability confronting China’s national security situation.

Therefore, the CPC’s 20th National Congress report, in the section “Achieving the Centenary Goal of the People’s Liberation Army and Further Modernizing National Defense and the Military” proposes to intensify troop training and enhance combat preparedness across the board “to see that our people’s armed forces can fight and win. After all, “hard power” is required to maintain and defend peace.

In the national security system, military security plays a vital role as a pillar and guarantee. With strong military security, other security — such as political security, homeland security and economic security — can be buttressed, and overall national security can be shored up with strong guarantees. Both history and reality suggest that military power is the fundamental guarantee to prop up national security.

However, China’s defense modernization will not follow the beaten path of the Soviet Union, which was to engage blindly in an arms race beyond its own economic means. China will build a defensive force that matches its international status, is compatible with its national security and development interests and reflects its responsibilities and role as a great power.

In fact, the Hollywood blockbuster animated film Kung Fu Panda is an apt analogy for China’s national security philosophy. In a world under the rules of the jungle, the panda, which is docile by nature and completely non-aggressive, wants to live in harmony with other animals. But the panda is aware of the dangers of the jungle and has trained itself with consummate martial arts for self-protection. When a tiger or lion attacks, the panda is well-equipped to defend itself and defeat the attacker.

You might also like
Back to Top