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China’s National Security Strategy

Popularity 4Viewed 10321 times 2013-6-24 12:45 |System category:News| China

Zhang Yingli

The danger of large-scale war appears to have subsided, but contingencies of modest-scale armed conflicts still remain, and non-traditional security threats are on the rise. Based on the assumption of the threats that China will face in the coming decade, four goals have been set for the national security strategy. These are focused on safeguarding 1) sovereignty, security and territorial integrity; 2) the socialist system and related core values; 3) development interests by sustaining the current period of strategic opportunity in avoidance of unnecessary distractions; and finally 4) regional and world peace. In order to realize these goals, China should adhere to the path of peaceful development, follow a security policy that is defensive in nature,

and stand by the principles ofactive defense, reliance on cooperation for support, appropriate preparedness in advance and comprehensive security. It should also identify the strategic skills necessary to uphold national security and its respective functions.


Preventing Primacy

We should use all means to prevent and avoid the occurrence of crises, conflicts and even wars that threaten national security, or reduce threats to the minimum in the following ways:

Active participation in shaping a new architecture for international security in preventing head-on confrontation among the major powers.

 Proper handling of big power relations signifies a strategic option for ensuring national security before the fact. China is ready to establish cooperative partnerships with all the major nations including the single superpower and a handful of major powers at a variety of levels, to varying degrees and in a range of sectors towards sharing responsibilities in defense of world peace. In the meantime, it is committed to pressing for the inclusion of the concepts ofequality, mutual trust, inclusiveness, mutual learning and win-win cooperationinto the rules of the game. It also works for squeezing out space for the law of the jungle by replacing armed conflicts with a positive sum game, collision of divergence-based interests with complementary interests based on comparable advantages, and malicious zero-sum competition with parallel common development. Accommodating the legitimate strategic concerns of the major powers and acknowledging each others constructive role in international security, we must understand their different behaviors in safeguarding their core interests and welcome their expansion of collaboration with various nations, not targeting the third party.There is space for seeking common ground and a red line in reserving differences, with the latter much more difficult than the former. We need to expand not only the win-win route of the former but also to seek a pathway towards managing differences as well. To do this, it is advisable to follow the sequence of economy first, then politics and then security. This means cooperating vigorously when necessary, adapting to one another with patience when possible, and struggling resolutely when forced to do so. We should build the framework for gradual political mutual trust on the issue of economic interdependency and finally create a structure for mutually assured security.

Creating a new type of neighborhood relations through improving ties across the board by consolidating the geo-political props surrounding the country.

In national defense, neighborhood is a factor that cannot be chosen or circumvented. The traditional saying holds true thatA relative far away isn’t as helpful as a neighbor close by.Modern sayings also teachfostering harmonious ties with neighbors while making friends with distant states.Rising above old scores, China has turned the majority of its neighbors into friends or partners. This has played a crucial role in building a peaceful environment for the countrys economic development, foreign trade and security. Indeed, a harmonious world begins with harmonious surrounds and a stable region with a stable neighborhood. Security planning begins at ones doorstep. We must seek common denominators with our neighbors and ensure that Chinas development will bring more benefits to them. In implementing the strategic thinking of fostering a harmonious, secure and prosperous neighborly environment, we anticipate a strategic return in the form of a friendly, reliable and mutually beneficial neighborhood. We should examine our policies toward different neighbors by putting ourselves in their shoes and forging political/military mutual trust through offering each other security pledges and rejecting the use of ones territory by a third party to threaten the other side, in order to achieve common security in cooperation.


Firmly safeguarding maritime sovereignty through effective solutions to historical territorial disputes.

 Historical disputes over the sovereignty of land and marine territories and islands have plagued many countries including China. These disputes have become all the more irreconcilable after the introduction of a batch of new international conventions that entangle still more national interests. Thus the need to prevent the outbreak of crises or conflicts between nations comes into focus. The difficulty in handling these knotty issues lies in the fact that events have passed and times have changed with the shoe already on the other foot. The value in solving them resides in keeping pace with the times, with successors surpassing their predecessors in wisdom. Each era has its own distinct way of solving similar disputes. Despite the backing of strength, any settlement today should be more just, rational and civilized because the era of globalization presents mankind with novel concepts and ways to handle sovereign disputes that outshine all past historical periods.

This represents an objective law. The settlement awaits our exploration and discovery. However, we cannot terminate our ongoing defense of sovereignty merely because of our search for such a solution. Under the circumstances, the right choice is sovereignty defense amid solution explorations and timely policy readjustments. But attention should be paid to the trap of still“using old methods in solving old issues”and to the

necessary price to be paid for“adopting new ways for old issues.”This generation can only accomplish the tasks that fall on our shoulders, and fulfill them successfully. Therefore, we should face up to our historical   responsibilities and transcend the thinking of our forebears. We should commit to solving sovereign disputee with individual countries without shelving them for any longer. Using the premise of “neither haggling over past scores1 nor creating new troubles” and “not transforming the post-World War II order”, we should take into full consideration the basis of jurisprudence of both statute and customary international laws. Further,  acting on the basis of“separating ownership and exercise of sovereignty”, we should build a broader, enduring and forward-looking strategic framework and security mechanism that tolerates, controls and erodes divisions, elevates the threshold of the critical point, prevents differences from escalating into conflicts and seeks to solve the issues above the redline, both within the framework and inside the mechanism. In the meantime, in light of the nature and location of the sovereignty disputes involved, as well as the attitude of the other side, we should adopt the different tactics of reciprocity of tit-for-tat, maintenance of contacts, and insistence on negotiations, in order to avoid confrontation on two battlefronts.

 Being innovative in the theory and practice of crisis management towards its prevention, control and removal.

We should make accurate assessments of the international security landscape and our security environment by studying new theories of crisis management and international relations and then putting forward a variety of options for crisis/conflict prevention by reexamining closely-related hotspot issues. On this basis, we should work out the basic principles in addressing and containing crises by avoiding clashes in no-win scenarios; defuse conflicts in close contexts; confront clashes in case of confidence in victory; control disputes when a third party is involved and contain escalation with risking a crisis in advance.


Following a national defense policy that is defensive in nature by striking only after the enemy has struck. No matter how much stronger

China becomes, we will stick to the principle of self-defense in safeguarding our territory against foreign invasion.1 we will adhere to our long-term “no first-use” nuclear policy and will never use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear countries or regions.

Cooperation as the Key

Following an independent foreign policy of peace and rejecting military alliance with any other country, China relies predominantly on its own strength for national security. Nevertheless, we still need support from our friends and partners. Globalization has grouped together not only the interests of different countries but also their security threats, many of which cannot be addressed by a single country alone. As such, security teamwork is a vital necessity. In addition, under the right conditions, common interests could turn any country into a friend or partner, and mishandling seemingly irreconcilable differences may result in suffering for both sides or evolve into a common threat that must be solved through joint effort in the end. So, forestall any possible trouble as opposed to resorting to a remedy, or“mending the fold after a sheep is lost,” as the saying goes. Therefore we should, in the spirit of “non-alignment, non-confrontation and not targeting a third party” work towards bilateral or multilateral security exchanges and handshakes across different fields and to varying extents in Asia and the broader world, including with countries that currently have disputes and troubles with China. Only then can such a country ensure the stability of its surrounds and uphold the security of its overseas interests. Moreover, collaboration reduces conflict. The wider the scope of collaboration, the lesser will there be the possibility of conflict.

Peaceful cooperation.

China aims to safeguard or restore peace and stability by expanding cooperation in a variety of forms, based on the principles of “mutual respect, consultation on an equal footing and voluntary participation,” and in compliance with the spirit of the UN Charter. People are beginning to understand that there will be no victor in a modern society that is replete with numerous threats. Confrontation harms all sides in the end and if each goes his own way then the only result is disaster. Little wonder that seeking common interests will increasingly become the fundamental option for China when it comes to addressing security issues. Taking an active role in multilateral affairs, China works together with related countries when responding to financial crises, climate change and other global security issues. It does this through different frame works such as the United Nations, the G-20 and BRICS. It is also engaging in extensive cooperation with countries across the world in international peacekeeping operations, emergency rescue and disaster relief work, and humanitarian missions. Win-win cooperation.

On the basis of bilateral or multilateral common interests, China is stepping up collaboration on safety towards the benefit of all sides. The victims of security threats are always ordinary people. The international order is facing all kinds of challenges, and one country’s interests are often threatened as a result of disasters in other countries, some of which may even pose a threat to humanity as a whole.

Therefore, responding to the needs of common security is where the shared interests lie. International security is not only possible and necessary but also in urgent demand. Such cooperation always transcends differences in ideology, religious beliefs, geographical location and even counties that are locked in confrontation. Offering each other a safety guarantee for the legitimate interests of the other country in one’s own territory, concerted efforts in cracking down on transnational crime and joint counter-terrorism in bilateral, multilateral and regional frameworks are all effective forms of mutually beneficial cooperation. A case in point is the participation since 2008 of the Chinese navy in the UN-backed efforts to escort merchant ships in the Gulf of Aden and waters off Somalia away from the danger of piracy to the safety of sea lines of communication.

Selective cooperation. Aiming at expanded cooperation based on seeking common ground while reserving differences; we should carry out practical and flexible cooperation, contingent on maintaining autonomy.

With specific countries and concrete safety issues in mind, China may make a choice of time and space, level, domain and method when it comes to carrying out safety cooperation with certain countries, so that teamwork in the other areas may not be affected when disputes flare up in one or other domain. A handshake should still be possible first in economic and technological exchanges at non-governmental levels even when conditions are as yet premature for strategic partnership at official levels.

The Way to Post-emptive Strikes

Never firing the first shot does not imply the inability to fire the second retaliatory shot. The world-famous ancient Chinese military strategist Sun Zi teaches that“He who is skilled in war subdues the enemy without fighting”1 and that “invulnerability lies with defense and opportunity of victory with attack.”2 The Chinese military force must catch up with technological advances and doctrinal changes in the new global military revolution, so as to relax in the ability to deter the enemy from easily launching an attack, respond to preemptive attacks, and check or defeat aggression with a second attack. Such counter-attack involves both strategy and tactics for retaliation on a reciprocal basis, at the source of attack and in an indirect manner.

Occupying the high ground of international morality.

 We are committed to defusing or solving disputes through peaceful means by resolutely opposing hegemony or unilateralism, and never provoking other countries into fighting nor invading them on our own initiative under any circumstances. We will never be the first to use force or the threat of force.

Even if the other side uses force first, we will only respond with reciprocity or follow-up measures so as to guard against accidents developing into security crises, which may, in turn, escalate into armed conflicts. China does not engage in arms races with others, nor seek absolute military supremacy. Acting on the concept of“trying to secure whatever others possess”, we are developing a limited number of advanced weapons to be used not to in order to beat others but in order to avoid being the victim.

 Enhancing the deterrence and combat capacity of the armed forces.

 In meeting the need to be capable of engaging in and winning a local war in an information age, China is speeding up its military modernization. In order to adapt to the requirements of the new stage in the new era, it is enriching the dimensions of its active defense, exploring effective ways to respond to attacks from the air or sea, as well as remote precision assaults, and upgrading its theatrical strategy towards safeguarding maritime rights in various directions. We should create flexible tactics and techniques by following the basic pattern of symmetrical defense and asymmetrical counter-attacks. And we should strengthen our capabilities in overall defense and air defense against ballistic missile attacks, enhance our integrated combat capability based on extensive IT application, and enjoy the deterrent as in Sun Zi’s teachings:

“the wisest thing to do is subjugating the enemy without fighting.”

Expanding the scope of open ocean defense.

China, a continental-marine country, has a vast territory and sea area, with a border line of 22,000 km and a coastline of 18,000 km. Furthermore, it has three million-plus sq. km of territorial seas together with some exclusive economic zones, and more than 6,500 islets, the most outlying of which is over 1800 km away, making it far out of the operational radius of China’s fighter planes and the effective defense scope of small and medium ship sand conventional submarines, and so impossible for China’s existing humanitarian aid capacities to cover. The current state of isles being seized resources being plundered and legitimate rights being carved up by other shas exposed China’s severe defense shortcomings, something incommensurate with our aim of constructing a major naval power.

China’s plan for developing a new type of air-sea power does not aim at breaking through the so-called island chains nor at seeking regional hegemony or marine expansion, but at safeguarding its legitimate marine rights and interests and at fulfilling necessary international obligations and humanitarian missions on a still broader scope.

Enhancing the capacity for a second strike.

China is the only country in the world that has been threatened so much with nuclear attack and at the same time the only country that binds itself to the pledge to only use nuclear weapons as a second,retaliate strike. As such, we must enhance the mobile projection capability of the PLA (People’s Liberation

Army) Second Artillery Corps (Strategic Missile Force) and solve a host of other problems such as shortages in the number of strategic nuclear submarines, the short range of these machines, the fact of their having just a single warhead, and the poor quality of their response to surprise attacks.

In order to remedy these drawbacks, we need to develop new-type viable submarine-launched ballistic missiles of longer range, equipped with powerful warheads with potential multiple independently-targeted re-entry vehicles or multiple re-entry vehicle capabilities, and hone various skills in resisting surprise attacks. In addition, we should enhance our second attack capacity in earnest.

The Essence of Comprehensiveness

Great changes are underway in the content and scope of national security, as situations change with the times. Apart from traditional military defenses, comprehensive national security embraces safety in political, economic, cultural, resource and information fields, as well as overseas property of all the people. What is more, new threats that entail a still wider scope are constantly on the rise. The existence of any threat or potential threat to any field of national interests cannot be termed comprehensive national security in the real sense of the word. Moreover, absence of corresponding strategic instruments and techniques in response to any form of threat would spell loopholes, which can only be remedied with their timely renewal and comprehensive exercise on a sustainable basis.

Therefore, threats to national security should be accurately defined with forward-looking thinking, and priority be given to the ability to discover those hidden, disastrous, sudden threats, which have the potential to evolve into the type of terrible danger that could trigger catastrophic consequences if a state is unprepared. Only early warning can help us to get the upper hand over the enemy.

In the face of a variety of threats, any single instrument has its limitations that make it incapable of responding to comprehensive security issues. The age has come to an end when a strong military force could be transformed into political and economic supremacy in other countries.

Overreliance on diplomatic means and the wanton use of force or the threat of force may turn out to be counterproductive. Security threats at different levels or in divergent fields should be dealt with by diverse means. The more strategic means available, the smaller will be the likelihood of security threats and the calmer they could be addressed if needs be. As such, it is necessary to enrich and upgrade strategic instruments and skills with innovative thinking, with a focus on the study of strategic instruments that involve skill, policies, and the art of strategy. With the characteristics of being adapted and managed with instant results, this is starting to be applied to the fields of culture, finance and networks. The theories of games, cybernetics, contradictions and quantified analysis must be introduced into the strategic field in order to create diversified strategic instruments that can be described with accurate words and integrated into a complete system featuring a combination of hard and soft power that address a range of security threats with preciseness and effectiveness. In so doing, we can safeguard national security with higher proficiency and a greater arena of choice.

With the concept of upholding comprehensive national security through comprehensive means in mind, we should be adept at responding to different threats by first using a single method appropriately, followed

up with multiple means or a combination of these, step by step. In the meantime, we should master the art of safeguarding national security by using a multitude of instruments and skills in a comprehensive manner, with critical thinking, and enhance the ability to relieve the same security threat with different means. Moreover, we should also adopt the ideological and technological means to deduce and examine possible effects in advance of the fact, in order to come up with an overall contingency plan. It has been proved that the more detailed, complicated and arduous the deduction, the greater is the ease with which we are able to handle the contingency. As a result, we should be able to make a correct assessment of the situation, wait for the opportunity with prudence, and take flexible action, thus ensuring constant safety for our comprehensive security.

Viewed from the perspective of national security, the Internet constitutes both the most convenient and rapid vehicle for the stable and normal functioning of our economic, social, and financial and security systems. Unfortunately, it is also the most fragile link in our security chain, the key targets to be attacked at the lowest cost, with the rapidest speed and direst consequences. China has been the victim of cyber hackers and other unknown sources. There is a loud clamoring for the construction of a leading organization to integrate the specialized forces of the military, government and civilian sectors towards boosting cyber security and launching research into cyber attacks and cyber defense in order to ensure the safety, stability and manageability of our cyber systems against attacks, and to enhance constantly our capacity for cyber defense and rapid restoration. Viewed from the perspective of domestic stability and harmony, with over five hundred million netizens, the diversity of cyber information and rapid spread of discussions on hot issues has evolved into a new arena for guiding public opinion, swaying public emotion, transforming social ecology and influencing government decision-making. But the enormous amount of harmful information, the diffusion of cyber rumors, and the spread of extreme views and the deliberate misleading the public by hostile external forces are in fact posing severe challenges to the political and cultural security of the nation. Indeed, networking has evolved into a virtual battlefield for upholding domestic security. As such, we need effective management amid openness, credibility amid inclusiveness, responsibility amid political participation, and fairness amid freedom.

The overall impact of various factors has ushered the country into an era in which there are frequent occurrences of public emergencies whose damage to the people and social harmony by far outweigh other security threats. Therefore, the rapid and effective response in peacetime to public emergencies such as this has evolved into the constant task of defending our national security. We should, in accordance with the Law in Response to Public Emergencies of the PRC, formulate contingency plans, improve the early warning system, and enhance our capabilities by equipping the relevant personnel with advanced equipment, organizing regular training exercises, and raising the awareness of emergency defense among the people as a whole, so that when emergencies do strike, we can protect the lives and property of the people, and ensure social stability with swift action.

With the advance of space technologies, dependence upon it is growing for military, economic and information security around the world.

It serves the common interest to ensure the endurance of peace in outer space over armed conflict and its weaponization. Adhering to the peaceful use of outer space for meeting the needs of economic construction, sci-tech development, national security and social progress, China has been accelerating aerospace activities including moon missions and its Beidou Navigation Satellite System. In addition, in response to possible conflict sin outer space, China has also been conducting relevant experiments in order to raise its capacity for countermeasure.

(translated by Ma Zongshi)

(Opinions of the writer in this blog don't represent those of China Daily.)




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Comment Comment (3 comments)

Reply Report Ted180 2013-6-24 23:28
My impression is that China is in no danger of suffering military aggression from the US or any other source. The tilt to the Pacific is a pose by the US to reassure Asian nations who are afraid of China. I think such reassurance is basically unnecessary based of the lack of true territorial aggression by China. The only hint of this is in the lack of government discouragement of hyper-nationalist Chinese sentiments over Daiyo and certain potential resources in the South China Sea. But these issues are really quite minor to all parties. China's important issues are the reunification of Taiwan and the neutralization of the Korean Peninsula. Both these aims are acceptable to ROK, Japan and the US. I see a very peaceful and prosperous century ahead for all Asia.
Reply Report robert237 2013-6-25 13:19
""These are focused on safeguarding 1) sovereignty, security and territorial integrity; 2) the socialist system and related core values; 3) development interests by sustaining the current period of strategic opportunity in avoidance of unnecessary distractions; and finally 4) regional and world peace.""
Of these only the second cannot be defended solely with hardware and man power.
The world is in transition and the vast majority of the world's people are depending on China to safeguard
the socialist system and related core values. We are weary of being held permanently as an underclass of
wage slaves for the purpose of satisfying the rich masters of capitalism. The workers of all nations of the
world have a desire to move mankind forward and continue to our advancements in science, industry,
technology, and the humanities but not be saddled with the voracious appetites of a frivolous few.
China has had the will and the patience to show the world that socialism is the government of the future.
You have the support of the well informed.
Reply Report Ted180 2013-6-25 21:01
robert237: You will be surprised to learn that I do agree that socialism is likely the government of the future; and that I share its core values (which I see as limiting the voracious appetites of the few so they do not ruin the collective many). But we are in a period of political and economic transition between tyranny and democracy, poverty and wealth, low and high per capita productivity. The economic problems of today revolve around the lack of effective consumer demand for the great potential productivity of automated farming and manufacturing. In essence, too much wealth is tied-up in the hands of the rich few. The many cannot afford to purchase the potential output. The solution is to redistribute wealth from rich to poor. What is ironic about this is that, with ongoing redistribution, it will become unnecessary to transfer the actual ownership of the means of production to the state. Instead, legal control over some economic decisions by a truly democratic state, will have the effect of a derived public ownership.

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