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White Paper Reports Chinese Military a Force for Peace

Apr 01 , 2011

The Chinese Government has issued the latest defense white paper,  China’s National Defense in 2010, the seventh since 1998 when it started biannual release of defense assessments. The document outlines China’s security situation, its defense policy priorities, new developments in force building and employment, and the role of Chinese armed forces in the promotion of international cooperation and world peace.

In assessing the security environment, the white paper analyzes trends and developments in economic globalization, power balances and changes in international order. It concludes that “the world remains peaceful and stable”. Listed as major security challenges are intensified international and strategic competitiveness, growing global concerns such as terrorism and climate change, and continued friction between developed and developing countries, as well as between traditional and emerging powers.

International military competitiveness is reflected in the realignment of major powers’ security and military strategies, acceleration of military transformation, and development of sophisticated military technology. The white paper draws attention to the development by major international players of strategies for outer space, cyber space and the polar regions, and the development of capabilities for prompt global strikes, missile defense and cyber operations.

The white paper stresses that China operates in a “period of important strategic opportunities”. With stable and cooperative relations with traditional as well as emerging powers, neighboring countries, and other developing countries – and much improved relations across the Taiwan Strait – China perceives its overall security environment as “favorable”. Meanwhile China faces diverse and complex security challenges, including separatist forces endangering national security, more pressure to preserve territorial integrity and maritime rights and interests, and increasing non-traditional security concerns. Standing at a new historical juncture, China’s future, and destiny, is closely connected with those of the international community and China seeks to build a harmonious world by connecting its interests with those of other peoples around the globe, its development with that of the world, and its security with world peace.

Although China adheres to its long-held national defense policy which is defensive in nature, the form and content of that policy have been evolving to adapt to the changing environment, missions and objectives. The new situation requires a broader strategic vision. Missions for national defense have extended themselves from safeguarding the nation’s survival to protecting its development interests, from focusing on traditional security to including non-traditional security, from striving to win wars to working to deter wars, and from seeking peace to keeping peace. In other words, national defense must contribute to social stability and maintenance of the “period of important strategic opportunities”. Its objectives range from the security of China’s traditional land, sea and air territory, to the safety of maritime, outer space, and cyberspace interests. In view of these new requirements, the white paper sums up missions for China’s national defense in four categories: safeguarding national sovereignty, security and interests of national development; maintaining social harmony and stability; accelerating the modernization of national defense and the armed forces; and promoting world peace and stability. These shifts, however, do not mean that China gives up the defensive nature of its policy. As the white paper emphasizes, the pursuit of a defensive policy is determined by the peaceful path China has chosen for its development, the goals for its modernization, the long-held foreign policy which has served China’s interests well, and its cultural traditions.

In line with the broadened mission scope, China’s armed forces have been given diversified tasks both in peace time and in war. The traditional Chinese notion that “a military is sustained for a thousand days only for the use of one day” (养兵千日,用兵一时) is no longer valid. The Chinese military is now used every day. The white paper gives ample information on how it performed diversified tasks in the past two years. The PLA and PAPF have had a total of 1.845 million troop deployments and organized 6.43 million militiamen and reservists to participate in disaster relief operations in cases of floods, earthquakes, droughts, typhoons and forest fires. They rescued or evacuated a total of 1.742 million people. China, keenly aware of its international responsibilities, has dispatched 17,390 military personnel to 19 UN peacekeeping missions since 1990 when it sent its first group of UN military observers to the Middle East. The Chinese Navy has joined the international anti-piracy effort and sent 20 ship deployments in eight sorties to the Gulf of Aden and Somali waters. And the PLA has carried out 28 urgent international humanitarian aid missions since 2002 when it provided relief supplies to Afghanistan.

A new chapter in China’s National Defense in 2010 is devoted to the modernization of the People’s Liberation Army, shedding information on the priorities of organizational reform, military training, doctrine development and defense acquisition. It also outlines achievements made by the PLA Army, Navy, Air Force and Second Artillery Force in the last two years. Information- based capabilities, joint operational systems, innovations in training, improved political work and modernization of logistics are some of the topics in this chapter.

Showing the importance attached to military confidence-building with other countries, the white paper devotes a whole chapter to this topic and provides a panoramic view of the activities and initiatives the Chinese military has been engaged in. To date, China has established defense and security relationships with 22 countries. Border confidence-building agreements have been signed. Arrangements for cooperation on maritime security issues have been set up. And China is an active participant in many defense and security bodies, such as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, the ARF and the Annual Shangri-La Dialogue. Its exchanges with other militaries have not only increased in number but also taken on more forms. For example, as of December 2010, the PLA had held 44 joint military and training exercises with foreign troops. While defining “military confidence-building” as “an effective way to maintain national security and development, and safeguard regional peace and stability”, the white paper also stresses that “political mutual trust” is the “groundwork” and “common security” is the goal.

China’s National Defense in 2010, like previous versions, provides an authoritative, accurate and clear explanation of China’s national defense policy, aims and progress in military modernization, efforts to promote national security and development, and contribution to regional and international peace and stability.

Senior Colonel Chen Zhou, a senior researcher of the Academy of Military Science of PLA, has been heading the drafting of China’s defense white papers since 1998; Major General Yao Yunzhu, a senior researcher of the Academy of Military Science of PLA, is on the defense white paper drafting team.

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