The Point: China's latest defense policy explained

The Point: China's latest defense policy explained

a Wednesday China issued it latest national defense white paper the first since President Xi Jinping launched major military reforms in 2015 the document says how China's defense policy and highlights the divers and complex security threads facing China at a time when some Western countries are disregarding China's contribution to global peace and development but just what are the threats facing China and what exactly is China's role in maintaining international security welcome to the point an opinion show coming to you live from Beijing joining me for the discussion from Washington DC is Michael O'Hanlon a senior fellow and director of research for the pouring foreign policy program at the Brookings Institution from London Alexander nekrasov a former Kremlin adviser and in our Beijing studio no dome shall associate professor at China's National Defense University of the People's Liberation Army gentlemen welcome to the point now China issued its first-ever defense-related white paper back in 1995 and this is the 10th white paper on national defense China has issued mr. Yu could you please give us the context of exactly what is the repurpose of the release of such white paper and who are involved in drafting such a report is it a similar common practice among different countries yes I just as you mentioned this is the tense national defense white paper issued by the Chinese government the main purpose is try to be brief the China's assessment of a national security environment the defense defensive defense policy of China and their reform in the China's defense sector and also military and the China's contribution to the word peace and stability the sole purpose for launching or issuing these defense policy white paper is to try to make Tenace different policy more power parent to enhance the understanding of Kenneth's defense policy and improved the mutual understanding and confidence mm-hm well this was the the tenth such paper however it was the foot it is the first such paper that was issued in 2015 meaning it took four years to come up with this latest one whereas the ones before this one came out every two years exactly Wow how to explain this bigger gap between this one and the previous version of such a white paper mr. Yeo is true that in the previous nine white paper issued roughly every two years but the ETA to take sir four years first to issue the latest that tends white paper I think the main reason is that as you know China is undergoing the largest reform in defense sector in the military which is roughly divided into three phases the first phase of the reform of a couple leadership and the command system the second phase is the reform of force structure these two phase are basically completed and the now is the undergoing the last phase the third phase that is the reform of policies rules and institutions so I think this phase is roughly expected to finish next year 2020 so it's the time first to issue of a new light paper what before I go on to our foreign guests what are the central messages or the most important message in your eyes that's been sent to this white paper it give out the fundamental objective of China's military for instance think about China's principle and the way how we achieve a modern army but what is new and what is not I think the whole message of these paper is that a now Chinese undergoing a major Mitri largest military reform since the founding of People's Republic ina in 1949 and the Chinese military capacity and military power increased that nicholae but can still stick to the peaceful development road and the chinese defense policy remain as defensive in nature hana never seeks hedeman ism and never seek the sphere of influence and and there's even one more China never seeks expansion and especially either so let me go to Michael in Washington DC what is your perception of this white paper do you think the key message messages as outlined by mr. Yeo have been read clearly by our friends in the United States well greetings and thanks for having me on I think that as a military analyst if I can just try to imagine myself not being American not being a westerner just looking at this from a pure defense point of view a lot of what China's doing makes sense many of the points that mr. Yeo made about streamlining the military focusing more on high-technology focusing more frankly on power projection despite what you just said about no hegemonic or expansionary ambitions nonetheless from a defense and strategy point of view these are the sorts of things that you would expect a rapidly modernizing country with roughly 200 billion a year in military resources able to devote to defense modernization so that's one category of my response but as an American foreign policy analyst I can underscore that as you well know there are many Americans who see this kind of rapid improvement in China's military capabilities combined with certain Chinese ideas like the nine-dash line in the South China Sea and get very worried that China in fact is still saying that it believes in peaceful development but in fact is developing expansionary ambitions not because China is an evil country but just because big powers behave this way historically and when we see the combination of President Xi reasserting his own control over Chinese politics the Chinese military budget going up this kind of a Chinese defense white paper and then the claims on the South China Sea many of the islands within and so forth many American foreign policy commentators get worried that China is developing the kind of hegemonic ambitions that great powers in Europe let's say used to have in the 18th and 19th and 20th centuries so that's the second category of my response ii which is a little bit more concerned than the first category i see i see mr. you would you like to already to respond at least to some of the key points that michael just highlighted just now for instance that china is spending a lot of money on the military we're going to take a closer look at the kind of military expenditure china has been putting on building its national defense mr. year what is your first in a response here my response that does the american friend mentioned yes there's a strong a strategic suspicion against China's quick the rise in the overall national strengths not oh not China today is not only the second largest economy in the world but also is a political influence in the world it's a military power protection capacity capability also increase the very quickly so this or course I'm not worried in a western country in the United States is I think it's a very nature and that is also the key purpose for this white paper maybe it's not easy or impossible for us to use a one white paper to persuade our Western friends to understand China has no such kind of high demand eager ambition but anyhow we try to demonstrate or to recommit our commitment to peace for development and the for the South tendency we believe that China has the sovereign sovereignty sovereignty over those islands in South China Sea and that also is the legitimate rights for China to take all the necessary measures to safeguard our national territorial integrity and sovereignty over those Islands so basically basically it's it said within this paper that the situation in the South China Sea is actually quite stable the countries that are in the region have this kind of mechanism to discuss to consult with China about any possible fluctuation in the security situation and the situation is not worrisome to countries in the region so mister yield do you understand the kind of concern that countries outside the region for instance the United States has been expressing regardless of the fact that people countries in the region are taking care of the situation I believe that the South China Sea is a very important sea area in the region and I also agreed that is a very important sea land link of a communication lock but I don't think there's any challenge or threat to the safety of slok in the region there's no stress to the freedom of navigation the problems in some countries some maritime powers they sent a warships to these sea area that actually posed the military threat to the regional businesses ability and that force China to take some reaction reactive measures to protect our rights and the security in the region okay well I'm going to give Michael maybe a chance to react to what we just said but let's really not dwell on this issue because we can take a few hours to discuss the South China Sea issue will net not get out of it and I want to get off get to our friend Alex who's standing by in London Michael you want to react very quickly yes yeah I'll be quick thank you first of all I would say it's not quite as simple as to claim that the regional countries are all very happy about the situation I know that the Vietnamese are not entirely happy and of course there are Vietnamese Chinese disagreements over a number of the islands and the Philippines are in a very funny position because they brought a case about the Scarborough Shoal to the International a permanent Court of Arbitration and which ruled against China as you know although admittedly there's a lot of the guilty about the authority of that of that permanent Court because the law of the sea is not ratified by the United States or many other countries and so this is a nebulous area of international law president Duterte in the Philippines has chosen to try to get along with China which is probably a smart move but nonetheless there is a disagreement between the Philippines and China over certain of these islands but when the United States says we want freedom of navigation that includes warships and there are no reasons that US Navy ships or any other countries Navy or merchant ships should be deprived access to sea lanes so I'm afraid we have a disagreement there we're gonna have to work out as well all right let me go to our guest Alex who's standing by who has been standing by thank you very much Alex you want to jump in here and to give your thoughts on any of these topics we have been talking about so far well first of all I'd like to say that white papers on defense are published by different countries as a signal to their friends and foes it's got nothing to do with internal policy because you don't need to tell your own military what you are doing so it's a signal to the world this is what we stand for this is what we are planning and we you'd better take us into account because we are not going to allow our interests to be trampled on this is exactly what this white paper is about and I think it's a it's the right time for China to reassert its position in the world it's a mighty power now and it shouldn't be on the defensive when it comes to protecting its interests and I think it was quite right to mention in the paper and in the briefing after it was published that such internal threats like the Hong Kong riots which will by the way covered by the Western media disgraceful provocative way and also some other internal problems this is very important for the world to know that China is aware of it and China's going to do something about it now the disappointing bit of this new service this latest white paper is that China and the Chinese leadership seem to not understand one important point the NATO alliance and I stress the word alliance is getting more aggressive it is now operating outside its remit area it is spreading its activities way beyond the borders where it should have been operating now China insists that Russia is a partner not an airline not an alliance with with Russia yeah this is a big mistake okay because if China wants to stand up to the knight or lives it has to be in alliance not partnership alright Russia okay that is a key point of this whole period exactly I think I can I can even address the say the last point that you made I think China's position on any alliance especially military alliance is very clear and it has been consistent that China is not going into any alliance especially military alliance that targets any third party I think the reason has been very clear and it has been one of the fundamental pillars of China's foreign policy right which is non aligns and none especially not targeting any third country non-confrontational let's say leave let people decide their own affairs and you know China would like to play a constructive role instead of to gang up with anybody to target anybody else but you mentioned a very important point which is about threats and I want to ask them that mr. Yeo but for instance Michael just now also mentioned the kind of military spending that is worrying what kind of security threats are China facing at this moment has it been the same situation as maybe 20 years ago or even five years ago or has the situation become more complex which warrant greater national defense expenditure I think the white paper very clearly explained the security environment Chinese facing today and compared to the past for example five or four years ago when China issued the last light paper in 2015 the security situation and you might be a basically remain the same for example just eyes white boy have clearly point out please development women cooperation remains irritable trend – in today's world especially the asia-pacific region we are China is located the security remain basically stable but I also believe today's security Rime of China become more complicated than before there are some examples what do you mean what do you mean by being by the security situation being stable but it's becoming more complicated exactly what I mean that is the general situation is because I still remain stable there are no major military threats to china national security there are no very high possibility of a large-scale military conflict between China and the other countries but I cannot rule out those possibility of small-scale conflict between China and some countries for instance in South China Sea or some in some other areas so that is why I say there the city security situation there's although basically remain stable but there are still a lot of or complicated factors just now our American friends mention about the freedom of navigation I just went to a South China Sea I don't want to highlight three points why is that the disputes in South China Sea between China and how some as South China South Asia claimants is not a new one it for many years but just because Americans new policy of rebalancing policy and the retaining to asia-pacific in 2010 the sea to become more hot second point can I don't want to reiterate Anna's position on the so called arbitration case if you are between China and the Philippines we believe it is illegal and they will not recognize is the legality of the ruling yes the third point is that we this new ending threat to the freedom phonetic of any country including both civilian commercial ships and the warships in the South China Sea just a wondering why American want to enjoy the freedom of an occasion close to those small islands why they are so vast the area American lists know anywhere prevent or hambar Americans he enjoys the freedom okay and let's not continue on the South China Sea because this is really about the national defense white paper and there is a lot more about this paper but I do want to ask you this question mr. you and Michael and Alex if you want to jump in please go ahead I do want to ask you this question so China's military spending has been going up although the percentage of China's military spending has been at a very stable level as to the GDP right around 1.6 percent to 6 percent in 2017 well below 2 percent for the past a three decade so how do you explain the continuous growth of China's military expenditure if the if the overall security situation has been stable one two reasons why is that I have mentioned although the basic security remains stable but we do face more security challenges I just give two examples one either the increase of China's outgoing investment and the more and more Chinese go abroad to do business to study so China's overseas interests are on the rise and these overseas interests face more challenges because of the turbulent regional security situation for example in the Middle East for example in Libya and the in Yemen and the so that it requires China to provide more security coverage or protection for China's overseas interests and also trying to take more responsibility to provide more public opposed to the internet community as one of the p5 and the second at the situation in Taiwan in 2015 when we issued a lot of the previous that white paper at that time mr. Manuel was that a leader of the time an authority the county with the ruling government a ruling party but now today after the Changmin led the DPP came to power in 2016 the cross street relation because remain tense and the cross street come relation in great difficulty so that is are the new challenges to our national security so Michael do you think these these security threats are understood or perceived by the the military analysts or relevant scholars who are studying these view do you think they are there is a fair understanding of the kind of complex security threats that China is faced with I think so you probably took note a couple weeks ago of a letter that Michael Swain of the Carnegie Endowment and others organized that probably several dozen American foreign policy experts signed and they were very concerned about the growing tone of much American discourse that sounded almost echoing the Cold War in regard to China and and they were trying to say that you know while we have real concerns about Chinese foreign policy and Chinese domestic policy nonetheless the signers of that letter did not think we should interpret the current moment as anything similar to the Cold War and I agree with them and I do worry that we might slightly overdo it in the United States you know even in the United States we tend to assess that China's military budget is a little bit larger than you said but even our estimates are still less than two percent of GDP and you've got three different countries represented on your panel today my Russian friend and I we reach from countries that spend more than three percent of our GDP on our militaries and so in that regard the Chinese defense budget or military budget is not that unusually large but it's grown so fast because the Chinese economy has grown so fast that nonetheless there is this growing sense of worry and the last point I'll make mr. Yeo I think very correctly pointed out the way China views its growing overseas interests and the need to protect them militarily because now it has the potential and the capability to protect them China had overseas interest before but it had no means of protecting rank so it had to hope that those interests would be stable or protected by the United States any country is going to prefer to have some capability to protect its own interests so it's natural that as China becomes more capable of protecting its own overseas interests it will want to do so but I think Americans look and say listen the whole international order has worked pretty well for China they've grown economically largely because of this order that the United States has protected and so we would like to see a little bit more cooperation from China on issues like handling the South China Sea the nine-dash line really concerns us that's a relatively new development in Chinese foreign policy to place such emphasis on that nine-dash line that's one of the reasons why American strategists are concerned fair enough Alex what is your take I mean Russia is seeing seems to be out of the picture for the moment but nevertheless Russia is a very important partner to China and China considers Russia's role extremely important what kind of security challenges do you think the two countries share in in today's world well first of all the biggest one currently is the information war which is waged by the West against China and Russia and other countries and this war is becoming more and more aggressive and unfortunately China and Russia does not do not have the coordinated policy in resisting that war now look at the at the way for example developments around the run now this basically what we're seeing now is that both all the Western countries are presenting the whole case in a way that Iran is causing the problems in the Persian Gulf that Iran is a danger to the oil routes and so on and so on which is that which is not true at all the Americans have started this process by pulling out of the nuclear agreement the British have continued this provocations with seizing an Iranian ship but the Russian and Chinese media not that aggressive in defending Iran and defending their position on the run and I didn't see the Russian and Chinese media have a you know take a good good hit at the Western media for Hong Kong for example or Ukraine where the situation is so dire that they're basically a big new a big war can happen in Europe now this information war is a very serious with information aggression I would call it is a very serious security threat and this has to be tackled very seriously there has to be a United position on China and Russia on this fret they have to have some sort of coordination in how they respond and how they tackle all this international issue and then there's another one a cultural threat now we know a lot about Chinese students going to the west to study now there's obviously a beneficial cited but there's a very damaging side trait when they become influenced by the liberal ideology of the West they're saying the Russian students as well this gets to be tackled as well all right I get your point Alex and I think there is a some element of truth in there but I do want to concentrate on the information war the information war that you mentioned by the way we hear on this program we talked very aggressively or very intensively about the Hong Kong issue trying to bring the other side of the picture to our international audience nevertheless I do think there is a information imbalance between China or between Russia with versus the West which is very much powerful in having a say on international affairs or how international affairs are perceived by international audiences so mr. Yeo how do you look at this issue of this information war that could be waged at this moment by the West against China and Russia yes I just the I saw our Russian friends many I totally agreed with him that now there's a strong influence to pala information balance and between China Russia and the Western countries for the information embodying balance in in balance and that there is a information warfare against China in many issues so it's an uncommon issue and are some other youtubes I just give you one example I come from the International College of different studies of a National Defense University we have the International Fellows those officers from all of the world but before they come to China what we they know about Chinese from Western media on the internet there are in Greece or French language dominant information so what they know about and actually are quite a negative but when they come to China when they contact with Chinese listen to our professor lectures they can know have a more comprehensive or balanced the view of China so indeed one of the very important things highlighted in our beer in the white paper is the kind of international exchanges right that is being undertaken by Chinese military with their international counterparts Michael I want to go to you real fast maybe try to limit it in 30 30 seconds what is your reaction to this question that Alex mentioned about this information war information imbalance between China and Russia and the Western countries and what kind of security threat that poses to these two countries well Alex had a lot in his comment and there are fundamentally different challenges I believe in regard to the us-russia relationship and the us-china relationship and I actually think the information problem is much worse in the us-russia relationship so personally I don't lump them together we do have issues with China we have different political systems we have important disagreements over economics and military strategy right now but I don't think of this as being fundamentally an information war I think of it as a policy disagreement whereas with Russia we know there is subterfuge there is covert activity there are a lot of elements that add to the intrigue that add to the confusion that do perhaps deserve the name information war but I don't use that expression in the us-china relationship all right we are going to leave it there many thanks to my guest Michael O'Hanlon in the today's Alexander necklace off in London and yo dome shell here in Beijing and that's it for this edition of the point with me Lucien you have been watching a very special edition I'll see you next week

24 thoughts on “The Point: China's latest defense policy explained

  1. U.S wants to secured it own interest over the South China Sea and to leave North East Asia like Japan,Taiwan and Korea as an alternative political route there. Inviting the U.S into South China and the mainland S.E.A will only continue to provoke and threaten China and China neighbors in S.E.A future along with other regional S.E.A neighbors from ever advancing socially and peacefully.

  2. Laos, Cambodia do not want U.S back after it bombed our homeland and we cannot be self sustainable because of American made chemical weapon that is still a critical hazard throughout Laos and Cambodia country side!

  3. China's century-old historical experience tells us that if we do not want to be bullied by others, we must be strong.

  4. What is to prevent the Generals of USA, China and Russia to get together and fake a state of war condition, just to scare the populations into increasing taxes for defense? In short, when is no defense the best of all evils?

  5. If there is to be a future war, no doubt it will start by millionaires and billionaires bribing politicians. A better way, make politics a vow of poverty profession and make the rich donate all their wealth to a worthy cause other than museums and art galleries.

  6. I found it interesting that the Russian very boldly and honestly stated that it is Russia's preference to enter into a formal military alliance with China. I had never heard it spoken so clearly before. I think China is mistaken to take a non-commital approach and only want partnership. However, once Germany solidifies its economic ties with Russia and China, China's rejection of a Sino-Russian alliance should diminish. China needs to solidify western friendships against American hegemonic dominance of the entire world.

  7. Please be prepared …the decease of the West is growing and spreading toward the East . This cancer of the American Totatarian Dominant will only get worse . You have seen this sickness before back in the 1845 . It plunge China into a century of poverty and hardships . There's nothing new , it is the same Enemy . This Foe is cunning , Rudeless and persistent . I hope the Chinese people are not as brain dead as the American people which is control by this Entity . This is not a joke or a bias statement…It is a message from the West .

  8. I share Russia's concerns about China's categorical rejection of any military defense alliance, the strict application of one of the pillars of the Multipolar World – the non-interference in the internal affairs of another state. On the other hand, the Chinese rejection to get pushed over time into a kind of hegemonic role in the SCO, then to be confused with an Anti-Nato is well-founded in the long-standing Chinese history as self-centered Middle Kingdom focused on trade within historically defined borders of the Han culture and thus comprehensible.
    However, as long as there is no paradigm dealing with the collective defense of the Multipolar World and its principles, it remains totally vulnerable to hegemonic, unipolar attacks in Western divide and conquer fashion (cf. Iran 2019) cos the attacked stands all alone, which is totally counterproductive to the giant Chinese OBOR 'Silk Road' projects.The only backdoor on the prelude stage of war I can think of is to run sanction blockades against one trading partner immediately, thus continue with business as usual and to launch collective counter-sanctions against the aggressors.

  9. Whatever l only know the only most serious threat to the world is non other than the US by its action or words it had already shown its crystal clear evil intent n hypocrisy n with the blessing if its western allies. So every countries should be ready n prepared to counter any US n its allies aggression.

  10. Your God hates rebellion and He has appointed China to test if you can live peacefully under a Chinese King! The Jews can so why can't Muslims and Christians.?

    May God bless China 10 thousand years of rule for keeping rebels in check 💪🐼


  12. The western world is worried about China only because they want to contain China, they don't want China to progress. CHINA had never attacked any countries oversea since ancient time. They have border wars only to defend their sovereignty. On the other hand look at france, u.s and u.k. They are the true warmongers.

  13. The PLA will modernize to the point that donkeys will be completely eliminated from land transport. 😂🤣😂🤣😂🤣😂😃🤣🤣😂🤣😂

  14. The central message is China is undergoing military reform. Soon the PLA will have weapon systems almost as good as Taiwan. 😁😁😁😁😁😁😁😁😁

  15. China's contribution to world peace: building heavily armed artificial islands in the middle of international shipping lanes. 😂🤣😂🤣😂🤣😂🤣😂🤣😂

  16. western fear = pure projection from their own evil past
    lol. cos historically the usa cared about vietnam and the philipines

  17. A Western Soldier is free… 4.000.000 chinese soldiers receive an order to open their mouth in the same time, to repeat some “Winnie the Pooh” song from CCP Politburo Propaganda!
    So, who could win?
    God save Xi’ Qeer

  18. poor chinese soldier = only 400$ copied 5000years CCP historical equipments (US Soldier Army +50.000$ More Advanced Technology Weapon Equipments)!
    Ratio x125.000

    China doesnt need any ennemy, with CCP Politburo mistake:

    China explosions: What we know about what happened in Tianjin
    17 August 201

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