Ancient theory of “Three Capabilities” namely economic, military and political remained pivotal in shaping China’s security vision throughout history. Rational analysis of these capabilities always dictated the policy and strategy for peaceful co-existence. China believes that careful analysis and application of three capabilities always help to avoid war and pave way for success. It is exactly in line with the concept of Sun Tzu “win war without fight”.
China has also created National Security Commission to reform decision making according to modern needs. It is being headed by President Xi and also includes the Prime Minister. China is also refining and introducing new means and instruments for national security. Deep dive into security, defense documents and policies highlight emergence of four new pillars of engagement at the global level. Although these pillars have roots in “three capabilities” but it is designed according to the needs of present and future. The four pillars are: a) information warfare, b) regional security emphasis, c) innovation, and d) shared prosperity.
Chinese leadership followed the conventional thoughts and focused on building national economy and ensuring well-being of people as a basic, first and foremost tool of security. Economy, well-being, and prosperity were considered the key elements to apply a comprehensive security vision.
President Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao started the process of “constructive engagement” but non-interference remained the guiding principle. It helped China move from non-involvement strategy to engagement strategy. The marvelous economic success of 1990s and two decades of 2000 have further strengthened the position and resolve of China for constructive engagement. President Xi Jinping moved one step ahead and took lead in playing a formidable role on the global stage. China started to move from economic leadership to active participation in global diplomatic and security discourse, and frameworks.
China’s policy of incremental reforms, continuous learning and rational behavior helped it to achieve its current status. Learning behavior and incremental reforms are again assisting the country to redefine its tools of engagement according to the needs of modern era. It has created a new office under the command of Central Military Commission with the name of Office for Reform and Organizational Structure. The main responsibilities or functions are “planning and coordinating national defense and military reform, guiding and promoting the implementation of the reforms in major areas, and the organizational structure management of the armed forces”.
China has also created National Security Commission to reform decision making according to modern needs. It is being headed by President Xi and also includes the Prime Minister. China is also refining and introducing new means and instruments for national security. Deep dive into security, defense documents and policies highlight emergence of four new pillars of engagement at the global level. Although these pillars have roots in “three capabilities” but it is designed according to the needs of present and future.
The four pillars are: a) information warfare, b) regional security emphasis, c) innovation, and d) shared prosperity (Figure 1). China realized that present and future warfare will be heavily dependent on capacity and capabilities in the information sector. Therefore, for the last two decades, China has been focusing and investing on strategies and tools of information warfare. Innovation is playing a lead role to enforce the vision of information warfare. In recent years China exhibited leadership in innovation of cutting-edge technology for all fields. Quantum computing, 5G and stealth technologies are a few examples. Huawei is a leading player in 5G technology’s infrastructure. U.S. and West are hellbent against it. U.S. has declared Huawei as a security threat and is pushing its allies to not work with the company. However, China is not stopping here. It has announced to venture in 6G technology and infrastructure for the technology.
Military equipment development is another area to watch. In recent years China almost doubled its expenditures in defense (Table 1). The biggest increase can be observed in equipment section. In absolute term it increased by 251.48 RMB billion. It is in line with China’s goal and strategy to modernize its equipment and focus on innovation in the sector. A huge amount of resources have been deputed for research and development in defense.
Breakdown of China’s Defense Expenditure (2010-2017)
(in RMB billion yuan)
It is worth mentioning here that China’s increase in defense does not correspond with the economic growth and development. It still falls at sixth place in terms of percentage expenditure on defense to GDP (Graph 1).
Moreover, China does not want to become global policeman. It is focusing on regional context. It is busy in formulating and strengthening regional security framework and platforms. It is actively pursuing ASEAN for forging a comprehensive deal to manage defense of the region. It is consolidating the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) to ensure peace and sustainable development. SCO is the largest regional organization in terms of population and geography. It is also host to four nuclear powers and two arch rival nuclear powers. SCO is a very important and rising organization for paving the way for economic development and security cooperation. It has even engaged Pakistan and India to jointly work on terrorism policies and execution of plans.
Although China enhanced its expenditure and contribution for security, it is still sticking to the basic principle of security, human security. China is putting efforts to invest in human security. It has created multiple regional and global economic forums for sharing its fortune. Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is one of such initiatives. It is a very ambitious and multi-trillion dollar program. It is open for everyone and there is no discrimination. This is also in line with fourth pillar of Chinese strategy, “Shared Prosperity”. From ancient times to present China strongly believes that peace can only be ensured by creating harmony and sharing prosperity. It is also a necessary condition for securing human security.
President Xi Jinping is championing this cause. President Xi, at numerous places, explained his vision of shared prosperity. He has also initiated different programs to realize the vision of shared prosperity. In 2014 he launched the BRI. He has been continuously creating, expanding and strengthening existing institutions, organizations and programs since then. Under President Xi Jinping, SCO is turning into a global player. The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) was created to facilitate multiple programs and projects by providing easy investment. For enhancing trade and cooperation, President Xi launched “China International Import Expo” in 2018.
The discussion on China’s security vision highlights seven important messages. First, human security (individual) is key. It can only be ensured by providing decent living, sustainable food and security. Therefore, it is paramount to consider it as a top priority before moving to the next step. The only way to ensure it is sustainable economic growth and social development. China is still sticking to this principle. It can be verified by comparing data of defense expenditure with overall expenditures of the country (Table 2). Defense sector’s share has fallen from 5.31 percent to 5.14 percent.
Second, there is no need to get involved in conflicts or problems. A good strategy would be to avert any such attempt and concentrate on national issues and development. But it does not mean that you compromise on the national threats, border issues or national territory. Third, it is always good to be humble and deal with international affairs rationally and without the involvement of emotions. Fourth, play a policy of patience and wait for appropriate time to exhibit its force. Grey area strategy can help to sustain the pressure and movement toward the objectives. It is an important tool to secure victory without fighting, which is also the core message by Sun Tzu. Fifth, non-interference is the best strategy for defense. Sixth, partnership is the only viable strategy for peaceful co-existence. Alliances always need opponents to fight, which provide the basis for future conflicts.
Lastly, always keep an eye on the future, be ready for reforms and build according to the need. China is now concentrating on these dimensions. Technological development and innovation in technology and weaponry are the prominent features of China during the last two decades.
Pakistan can learn from these seven highlights of China’s security vision. The learning is that human security, sustainable economic growth and development leads the way for a sound security vision.
The writer is Director, China Study Center, SDPI and also teaches digital diplomacy, negotiation skills and conflict transformation at Foreign Services Academy.
E-mail: [email protected]
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