Tue, Jan 16, 2007 - Page 8 News List

China's defense policy is evolving

By Chong-Pin Lin 林中斌

Third, an overall strategy to integrate non-military means. Since 2002, Beijing has worked to integrate military with non-military means and to reduce conflict among its diplomatic, defense, economic, cultural and Taiwan policies, thus achieving a result where the sum is greater than the parts. I have termed this "Beijing's new grand strategy" since 2004. But the Chinese government seldom puts this ongoing strategy into words in its official documents.

However, in Chapter 2, the 2006 white paper states that the People's Liberation Army will "work for close coordination between military struggle and political, economic, diplomatic, cultural and legal endeavors." This statement, which appears here for the first time, once again shows that the defense white paper transcends military issues.

Fourth, increased formal transparency. The latest white paper contributes five chapters to defense organizations and work, and four of them are new, including Chapter 3, China's Leadership and Administration System for National Defense; 4, The People's Liberation Army; 5, People's Armed Police Force; and 7, Border and Coastal Defense. Chapter 6, National Defense Mobilization and Reserve Force (Building) is covered in both the 2004 and 2006 versions.

In fact, the contents of these chapters are mostly common knowledge to outside observers. Still, the increased formal transparency of Beijing's defense should earn it a good name in the international community.

Fifth, downplaying China's threats. In Chapter 2, National Defense Policy, of the 2004 white paper, China once declared that it would "take the road of composite and leapfrog development," but this has now disappeared. It may be a result of Beijing's worry that such leapfrog development would make the world uneasy about China's growing strengths. In terms of nuclear weapons, previous versions only talked about arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation.

In the latest version, however, Beijing says that nuclear arms are meant to provide means of self defense, that it remains firmly committed to the policy of no first use and that it exercises great restraint in developing its nuclear force. These are official statements which have remained unchanged since China's first nuclear test in 1964, but they now appear in the defense white paper for the first time. Moreover, the latest version makes a new statement: "China pursues a road of peaceful development, and endeavors to build, together with other countries a harmonious world of enduring peace and common prosperity." However, "the development of peaceful cross-strait reconciliation" which Beijing had often mentioned by fall of 2006 is not mentioned, which is consistent with the comments made by recent Chinese visitors to Taiwan.

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