White Paper Revelations
China’s first defense ‘white paper,’ which lays out China’s military guidelines for the coming years, was published in late May.
While the white paper focuses on the modernization of China’s army as a national, strategic goal, it also seeks to guarantee China’s security and development. It also outlines the main principles of China’s armed forces.
China continues to emphasize its commitment to peaceful development, and utilizes an ‘active defense’ strategy: the country does not seek expansion or aggression, but reserves the unconditional right to retaliate in the event of a threat or attack.
What is Beijing concerned about? The white paper cites the growing military activity of a number of neighboring countries in the Asia-Pacific region as the main potential risk – especially the increased militarization of islands that are thought to be illegally occupied by China. It isn’t hard to guess which countries China is referring to.
The debate on the delimitation of maritime boundaries in the South China Sea has been the main arena for years of conflict with Malaysia, Taiwan, Vietnam, the Philippines, and Japan, which are the United States’ closest allies.
Beijing’s growing claims of unconditional leadership in the region are obviously rousing a nervous reaction from Washington.
It is no coincidence that territorial disputes in the South China Sea became the main argument during US Secretary of State John Kerry’s two-day visit to Beijing in mid-May, just a few days before the white paper was issued.
The US is unwilling to let China set the economic and political agenda in the Asia-Pacific region. It has every reason to believe that China’s ambitions go much further – all the way to world leadership – which is clearly proven in the white paper. For the first time, China stated its aspirations to combine a coastal defense and ocean fleet building. Up-to-date aerospace and strategic nuclear force building is another top priority, which implies growing informatization, as well as strengthening competencies in cyberspace.
Even though the US is not named as China’s potential enemy in the white paper, it points to an obvious conclusion: competition between Beijing and Washington is reaching a new level. The question of who will be the world’s dominant superpower is at stake.