Wednesday, 26 January, 2022
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Chinese military white paper suggests a highly conflicted worldview

The paper stresses on ‘peace & development’ even as it highlights ‘prominent destabilising factors and uncertainties in international security’.

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New Delhi: China has released a white paper on its national defence, which carries the regime’s conflicting views on its strategic environment.

Titled ‘China’s National Defence in the New Era’, the paper released last week said that the modernisation of People’s Liberation Army is still incomplete. It added that the country would continue to manage areas like Tibet and Xinjiang.

Over the past couple of years China has emerged as a key adversary in US’s strategic circles. And this already tense relationship has been further destabilised by the ongoing US-China trade war.

Moreover, critics of a rising China contend that its Belt and Road Initiative is essentially a facade for extending the country’s military footprint across the world.

In such a global scenario, the release of an important strategic document by China deserves close attention. ThePrint highlights three big takeaways from the white paper.

China’s strategic worldview has become considerably ambivalent

The document provides conflicting statements regarding how China’s sees its strategic environment and its role in it.

Former US military officer Dennis J. Blasko observes for the Interpreter that the opening section of the paper states “peace, development and win-win cooperation remain the irreversible trends of the times”.

And just the subsequent line notes that “there are prominent destabilising factors and uncertainties in international security”. The following paragraph goes on to talk about how US’ policies have led to an increase in global strategic competition.

“It (US) has provoked and intensified competition among major countries, significantly increased its defence expenditure, pushed for additional capacity in nuclear, outer space, cyber and missile defence, and undermined global strategic stability,” notes the paper.

Two competing signals can be discerned from here. First, China has been substantially imbibed in an interdependent worldview. So it prefers a peaceful world, where interstate cooperation is the norm.

Second, its parochial ‘Middle Kingdom” view still lingers. This view breeds insecurity and pushes China towards modernising and strengthening its military. Furthermore, the Chinese Communist Party leadership is now trying to reconcile these two perceptions in an increasingly turbulent world.

No change in military strategy, but PLA needs new goals

The paper does not note a substantial change in the military strategy but talks about how China’s military, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), needs to adopt new “goals” and “missions” to be able to achieve that strategy.

It further talks about how PLA’s modernisation is still incomplete.

“(PLA) has yet to complete the task of mechanisation, and is in urgent need of improving its informationisation… The PLA still lags far behind the world’s leading militaries,” states the white paper.

Domestic issues and immediate neighbourhood continue to feature prominently

The paper indicates PLA’s continued role in the restive regions of Tibet and Xinjiang. This shows that the Communist Party still considers managing these areas as essential for “regime security”.

Additionally, on Taiwan, the paper stresses, “Taiwan independence’ separatist forces and their actions remain the gravest immediate threat to peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait and the biggest barrier hindering the peaceful reunification of the country.”

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