By Pepe Escobar – posted with permission
The key merit of China’s National Defense in the New Era, a white paper released by the State Council in Beijing, is to clear any remaining doubts about where the Middle Kingdom is coming from, and where it’s going to by 2049, the mythical date to, theoretically, be restored as the foremost global power.
Although not ultra-heavy on specifics, the white paper certainly should be read as the Chinese counterpoint to the US National Security Strategy, as well as the National Defense Strategy.
It goes without saying that every sentence is being carefully scrutinized by the Pentagon, which regards China as a “malign actor” and “a threat” – the terminology associated with its “Chinese aggression” mantra.
To cut to the chase, and to the perpetuating delight of China’s supporters and critics, here are the white paper’s essentials.
What global stability?
The Beijing leadership openly asserts that as “the US has adjusted its national security and defense strategies, and adopted unilateral policies” that essentially “undermined global strategic stability.” Vast sectors of the Global South would concur.
The counterpart is the evolution of “the China-Russia comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination for a new era,” now playing “a significant role in maintaining global strategic stability.”
In parallel, Beijing is very careful to praise the “military relationship with the US in accordance with the principles of non-conflict, non-confrontation, mutual respect and win-win cooperation.” The “military-to-military relationship” should work as “a stabilizer for the relations between the two countries and hence contribute to the China-US relationship based on coordination, cooperation and stability.”
Another key counterpart to the US – and NATO – is the increasingly crucial role of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), which is “forging a constructive partnership of non-alliance and non-confrontation that targets no third party, expanding security and defense cooperation and creating a new model for regional security cooperation.”
The white paper stresses that “the SCO has now grown into a new type of comprehensive regional cooperation organization covering the largest area and population in the world”, something that is factually correct. The latest SCO summit in Bishkek did wonders in featuring some of the group’s much-vaunted qualities, especially “mutual trust,” “consultation,” “respect for diverse civilizations” and “pursuit of common development.”
On hot spots, contrary to Western skepticism, the white paper asserts that, “the situation of the South China Sea is generally stable,” and that a “balanced, stable, open and inclusive Asian security architecture continues to develop.”
There should be no illusion regarding Beijing’s position on “Taiwan independence” – which will never deviate from what was set by Little Helmsman Deng Xiaoping in the late 1970s: “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.”
And the same applies to “external separatist forces for ‘Tibet independence’ and the creation of ‘East Turkestan’.” How Beijing dealt with – and economically developed – Tibet will continue to be the blueprint to deal with, and economically develop, Xinjiang, irrespective of the Western outcry over China’s subjugation of more than a million Uighurs.
In regard to the turmoil Hong Kong and the degree it reflects interference by “external forces,” the white paper shapes Hong Kong as the model to be followed on the way to Taiwan. “China adheres to the principles of ‘peaceful reunification,’ and ‘one country, two systems,’ promotes peaceful development of cross-Strait relations, and advances peaceful reunification of the country.”
On the South China Sea, the white paper notes that “countries from outside the region conduct frequent close-in reconnaissance on China by air and sea, and illegally enter China’s territorial waters and the waters and airspace near China’s islands and reefs, undermining China’s national security.”
So there won’t be any misunderstanding, it says: “The South China Sea islands and Diaoyu Islands are inalienable parts of the Chinese territory.” ASEAN and Japan will have to deal with what Beijing says are facts.
No hegemony, ever
While noting that “great progress has been made in the Revolution in Military Affairs with Chinese characteristics” – the Sino-version of the Pentagon’s – the white paper admits that “the PLA still lags far behind the world’s leading militaries. The commitment is unmistakable to “fully transform the people’s armed forces into world-class forces by the mid-21st century.”
Special emphasis is placed on China’s relatively quiet, behind-the-scenes diplomacy. “China has played a constructive role in the political settlement of regional hotspots such as the Korean Peninsula issue, the Iranian nuclear issue and Syrian issue.” The corollary could not be more clear-cut. “China opposes hegemony, unilateralism and double standards.”
Arguably the most important point made by the white paper – in stark contrast with the “Chinese aggression” narrative – is that “Never Seeking Hegemony, Expansion or Spheres of Influence” is qualified as “the distinctive feature of China’s national defense in the new era.”
This is backed up by what could be defined as the distinctive Chinese approach to international relations – to respect “the rights of all peoples to independently choose their own development path,” and “the settlement of international disputes through equal dialogue, negotiation and consultation. China is opposed to interference in the internal affairs of others, abuse of the weak by the strong, and any attempt to impose one’s will on others.”
So the road map is on the table for all to see. It will be fascinating to watch reactions from myriad latitudes across the Global South. Let’s see how the “Chinese aggression” system responds.
As shown in this article, the Pentagon is particularly concerned about one of China’s most recent military advances:
On the upside, America’s defense contractors must be rubbing their hands together with glee just thinking about how much U.S. taxpayers are going to spend to defend against China’s advancing military capabilities.
The White Paper introduces the entire world community to the first steps of the Dragon onto the full world stage. The Panda with deep pockets has been investing on all continents. Now the PLA will build the assets, and locate some on new bases where the investments and transport corridors can be protected by military force if need be.
This moves beyond blue water navy which in another decade will dwarf the US Navy.
This equips China’s diplomacy and soft power with a credible presence as superpower.
We are at the dawn of the New Era. The multi-polar reality just challenged the post-Cold War Hegemon.
With China embroiled into the IMF as a basket of currency composition, see the chart, where does China see herself as becoming dominant to the USD? The chart shows a divergence from reality. The Panda may wish to dislodge the Eagle from the predominant perch, but how does this physically happen? A great show for us non the less, but for me, I will not see what will be the final move on the chess board, and my age is limited to that occurrence.
The Chinese have always shunned the notion of replacing the Dollar with the RMB. They want a basket of currencies, of which the Yuan is one.
Non-hegemony, non-unipolar is their future project. They may become the biggest economy sometime and might build the largest military but they have no interest in replacing the US. They like the concept of multipolarity, a few superpowers cooperating rather than positioned as mutual threats.
The construction of the AIIB indicates their philosophy. Everyone was welcomed to join. Whoever wanted to help fund it could. China has a large but not exclusive position. Projects are decided by other nations, not just China.
And if you look at SCO, similarly, it is not a China-dominated organization.
China is not throwing its weight around. It prefers to share its knowledge and experience and build consensus on international issues.
Of course, it has national interests, but all of those are very close to home.
China pitches its culture and its civilization, not its home-grown ideology.
“They may become the biggest economy sometime”
It is a simple fact that the Chinese economy already by a large margin is the worlds biggest economy on a GDP by PPP basis. To the US this is a rather disturbing fact as at the end of the day military power equals economic power so this is the simple reason why the US is waging economic war by tariffs and other means on China in order to if not avoid then at least delay the inevitable.
I agree but they want more then a basket of currencies. The world wants to fix all faults in it. A bascet of currencies (or many countries sharing one currency) solves some of the issues but not all and more is needed. The main issue remaining with this solution is that some one else his / her debt is still some one else his / her laibility creating big tensions between the debtor and saver. This can been seen in Europe’s south vs the north. Once savers safe in something else that can be used as an ultimate extinguisher of debt. It seems to me that that gold is intended to do just that. For that reason China, and others, are encouraging their citizens to save in gold. This will make keeping their societies way more stable during a debt reset/ restructuring that will happen since all currency systems (without the ultimate extinguisher of debt) are exponential by nature.
Hope this helps.
But gold is bulky and hard to keep. Currencies can digitalised and electronise. So gold is a partial financial hedge but not a solution for economic stability.
A Switch is A Switch
Switch and there is light – or – Switch and there is no light
The East do not engage in ‘Milk and Harvest’ disguise as consumerism and other fancy entertainment to indulge the body-ego while doing some ‘side business’
The only time that “M&H” happens, in the east, is when one is invited by the gov or some unofficial to a ‘special vacation’ in a room somewhere
For the general public – they dont do those western fancy subliminal circus trick when they could just Switch!
Its abit like the western report of china ghost town – which is true but totally lacking
What the western press did not consider is – how hard is it for china to move ppl into the town and overflow it? 1 plane load in 1 hour? Btw it aint ghost town and they are all occupied by ppl unregistered to the property but thats another serious issue. Point is, if they want to turn ‘The Switch’ on, ghost town it aint no more in an hour.
Just saying the filter/matrix in the west and the filter/matrix in the east are different.
In the east The Switch is just another Switch, except this time, switching in the east, may seriously affect the western ‘game plan’. Thats why we are hearing a lot more of their preferred reality TV narrative broadcast non-stop on their goebbels-style media… Another example, possible healthy concerns aside, 5G…
So you indeed may see ‘THE SWITCH’ – it happens all the time in the east. Unfortunately and I am afraid the west, given their existing mindmap and their preffered entitlement, will have a hard time to adjust to the new ‘Switch’ after losing the “first” war that they cannot longer glorify it, hide it or re-write it…
Respect is the best way to reach a balance between the week and the strong we are all equals if there’s a way to make it work for a real chance to evolve into a new level of understanding and pace and prosperity for all not just for the few we are able to to live in harmony with respect.
The Western elites will not easily let go of their aspirations for global dominance. They will use their puppets in the U.S. to wage war against the rising of a multipolar world. This is a critical time because China and Russia are not yet clearly dominant militarily over the U.S., but are rapidly approaching military dominance. The window for the Western elites is rapidly closing, and they will use the window while they can. WWIII is already happening, but it will go hot and nuclear within the next 5 years unless Russia and China can pull a rabbit out of a hat.
Yes and that is a formal alliance.
and what about the american people…are they really so badly done-in they will go quietly into the night?
it seems a revolutionary time to me….where are the american revolutionaries?
Extinct. Ask Ronald McDonald how they did it…
Fine words (Pepe and China’s White paper), … however, I see no reason to trust the Chinese narrative any more than the U.S. or European (+/- brexit) narratives of ‘fine’ words. They are all playing to an audience. Read Sun Tzu. At that level there are no friends … just interests.
But things seem to be changing and if they/we can keep the lid on it (no ww3) then the trends look promising.
The issues are not now and future visions/projections to mid-century. The issues will be what that generation at mid-century(+) will do with their brand of Hubris (with Chinese characteristics). Mid-20th century Japan may be a case study to review.
A lot less problems would exist in the world if the US followed the foreign policy outlined in this Chinese White Paper. It is an intelligent and peaceful roadmap to the future.
China do not scare me as a man, rather have a new protagonist with delicious food than the gmo burger eaters…
Dear Mr. Escobar,
I hope you are training someone to become your replacement when you can no longer perform your excellent reporting and analysis of current and even former events. You are the top of the line from my viewpoint.