Asian Security Concept and Its Implications for Regional Order: From a Normative Perspective

Peace and Development,No.5, 2014 | 作者: Jiang Zhida | 时间: 2014-11-26 | 责编: Li Minjie
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 Jiang Zhida



. Current Asian Security Features


At present, Asia is one of the regions in the world where economic cooperation between various countries is brimming over with vigor and vitality on the one hand, while on the other hand its development prospect is in a stew because of growing complexity of its security environment. In some parts of the region, “security predicament” and even “security of peril” emerges in their wake. Generally speaking, security situation in Asia has presented itself as in the following three main features:


A.   Traditional and non-traditional threats are interwoven with each other and new threats and challenges continuously emerge

Right now, traditional threats facing Asia not only have not disappeared altogether but instead have become even more complicated and confused. The Korean nuclear issue in North East Asia is full of twists and turns. Bitter rows over islands sovereignty and maritime rights are heating up. Due to lack of mutual confidence, some countries find themselves in the mire of “security predicament” in one way or another. Asia also faces a series of non-traditional security challenges and some of them are quite conspicuous. Among them, many  traditional and non-traditional security issues are mutually mingled together and one exerts influence over the other, thus leading to the emerging of new threats and new challenges. By making full use of its high-tech tricks, the United States tries to wiretap communications worldwide, mounting new challenges to national security of other countries. And some countries and groups with ulterior motives have turned their sophisticated biotechnology to their advantage and “quietly” carried out their military and political designs by means of the so-called “biological weapons” in bio-species intrusion, spread of major diseases and bio-violence, etc.


B.   Regional security games increasingly become complex and military blocs develop contrarian

After the end of the Cold War, Asia enjoys sustainable economic growth and regional economic integration is still making progress. Major developing countries, such as China and India, rise up speedily. In face of never-ending changes and development in Asia, the United States would have to get involved in Asian regional integration process with an open heart, and jointly promote peace and development by working cooperatively with China and other emerging countries. Far from doing so, it began to “pivot to Asia” high-profile, implement “rebalancing to Asia-Pacific and air-and-sea battle plan”, strengthen its traditional alliance relationship with Japan and ROK, create various kinds of contradictions in Asia and incite regional arms race. At the U.S. instigation, some countries in East Asia make changes to their security policies, which have greatly complicated the rivalries over security in the region. Japan’s Abe government avails itself of the U.S. implementation of rebalancing strategy to speed up its defense capabilities, quicken the steps in amendment to the Constitution and augment its military forces, with an aim of lifting restriction on the rights of collective defense. On the Diaoyu islands issue, Japan insists on taking a tough stance and strengthens its security countermeasures against China. Counting on the U.S. support behind the scene, a small number of ASEAN countries stir up incessant provocations on China’s maritime rights in the South China Sea. In an effort to strengthen the alliance system in Asia, the U.S. openly supports Japan, the Philippines and other countries to confront China. For taking more countries under its wings, the U.S. attempts to build up a so-called “encirclement ring” to contain and deter China. This kind of conduct by the U.S. is nothing but a product of the zero-sum game of the Cold War mentality, which can easily invite new challenges to the stability and development of various countries in the Asia-Pacific region.


C.   Regional security cooperative mechanisms are numerous but none of them covers the whole Asia

Because of the clear disparity in the level of economic development and the cultural, religious and geographical differences, there are numerous sub-regional organizations in the region, but no platform for security and political dialogue that can represent the whole of Asia. For this reason, an external big power exploits the situation to have a hand in regional security affairs. It intensifies contradictions and clashes between various countries in Asia by knocking together a regional security mechanism with itself as the core. As a result, regional security cooperation is going slower than economic cooperation. At this moment, the security mechanisms in East Asia can be characterized as multi-lateral, multi-functional, multi-purpose, cross-correlation and intercrossed between the official and non-official organizations. However, there is still no security cooperative framework that covers the whole of Asia, serving the needs of various sides and in keeping with actual realities of the region. Right now, many security frameworks in the Asia-Pacific region are either sponsored or promoted by ASEAN, such as the East Asia Summit, ASEAN Regional Forum and Enlarged Meeting of ASEAN Defense Minister, but they are not quite enough. The other frameworks are those that are sponsored by the West, such as Council for Security Cooperation in the Asia Pacific and Shangri-La Dialogue. The former ones, in sponsoring and promoting security cooperation in the region, have been either constrained by their own defects or edged out by the alliance system. So it is difficult for them to play a leading role in building up a regional security order. The latter ones are used as a tool by the U.S. and Western countries to play a leading role in the security order of East Asia as well as to guard against and contain China’s rise. Therefore, “it is imperative that a regional security framework to be set up in line with regional realities and meet the needs of all parties.” Under such a complicated security situation, countries in Asia are badly in need of new security concept that can be formulated to effectively manage and control differences and conflicts, find some common grounds for cooperation and maintaining peace and security. At the Summit of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA), the new Asian security concept initiated by President Xi Jinping which characterized as common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable security, is just exactly the right time to meet the needs of the development in our time.


. Normative Meaning of Asian Security Concept


How to deal with these security challenges in view of the complicated and diversified security issues in Asia today? To answer this question, the key is what kind of security concept you are talking about. On the issue of regional agenda, is it proper to insist on seeking common security or seeking absolute security for oneself? On the issue of security cooperation, is it better to be open-mined and inclusive or to form clique? On the issue of state-to-state relationship, is it proper to persist on peaceful coexistence or to resort to mutual threats? On the issue of upholding interests, is it better to seek for win-win results or seek “you lose and I win” results? All told, the answer to those questions are how you will respond to those security challenges of Asia, whether to face them with the old ideas and methods left over by the Cold War or with the new ones in face of the 21st century. In general, new Asian security concept mainly has the following three basic normative features:


A.   Development

Today, countries in Asia maintain a favorable momentum of stability and thriving as a whole. This has been achieved ever since they lose no time in their developments. Asia is now the most dynamic region in the world, bursting with vitality and great potential. China attaches great importance to regional security in light of development, believing that development is the biggest security and sees it as a “master key” to solve regional security issues. A series of outstanding development issues still remain and confront Asian countries, placing major constraints on further improving regional security. It is therefore that countries in Asia should give main focus on development and continue to lay a sound foundation for security in Asia by actively improving livelihood and narrowing the gap between the rich and the poor. China will continue its commitment to building good neighborly relationships and partnerships with neighboring countries, bringing harmony, security, prosperity and inclusiveness in its neighborhood diplomacy, and try its best to deliver more benefits to other Asian countries. Together with those countries concerned, China will accelerate the steps of building the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, early start the opening of Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and further deepen involvement in regional cooperation processes with an aim of pushing security and development in Asia to the track of achieving mutual progress and benefit, so as to complement each other.

As one of the core principles of Asian security concept, “development” requires countries in the region to cherish the hard-won situation of stability and development and jointly resist the negative remarks and conducts about regional development. The world is now in dire need of a sustainable, stable and harmonious Asia. External countries should take an active part in preserving good momentum of development in Asia, and by playing a constructive role, jointly push forward the speedy-car of Asian development to move even faster and steadier. If only sustainable economic development can be achieved, then Asian security and peace will be guaranteed.


B.   Cooperation

Cooperative security is to provide various countries and the region with security by means of dialogue and cooperation. It is a kind of perception or model that can be applied to achieve international or regional security through wide-ranging cooperation between countries in political, economic and other areas and gaining security goals by respective countries; it is also a kind of important strategic option to deal with security predicament or a kind of non-confrontational model that can be used to achieve security. Cooperative security is based on the idea of inter-dependency and calls for insurance of security by peaceful means and by entering into political and security dialogue among the conflicting parties over security interests, thus protecting peace in the region and the world. In this sense, cooperative security is a comprehensive and common security. Not only countries with the same view can sit together and talk, but also those countries with conflicting views on security interests are able to get together and conduct security dialogue. So it is open and non-exclusive; it is also extensive, consisting cooperation not only in traditional security areas, but also in non-traditional security areas, including political, economic, human rights and environmental protection.

It is worth mentioning that, although bilateral or multilateral military alliance are also security cooperation one kind or the other, there exists substantial distinction between the military alliance and cooperative security in norms. The military alliance is exclusive, zero-sum and directed against a third party implicitly or explicitly, while cooperative security is an active security with opening, inclusiveness and win-win result.


C.   Inclusiveness

Inclusiveness means accommodating and tolerance. It is a positive attitude transcending tolerance and an endeavor to promote harmony in international relations. Inclusiveness means not to impose one’s wills on the others; it also means not to treat the interests of different countries with entirely conflicting views and not to regard state-to-state relationship as those of gains in zero-sum game. It also holds true that “not to make use of opportunities of all forms in the changing international environment opportunistically and not to give priority to the use of force in gaining benefits from the other side”. Those are the basic requirements for China to follow in its efforts to build a “Community of Shared Destiny”.

Asia is vast in territories, with different sub-regions having distinguishing features, and the most diversified continent in the world where different nationalities, religions and civilizations meet. The region is unique in its diversified development path. The Asian security concept recognizes the varieties and manifold colors of the world and the diversification of different countries in the region. The security cooperation is all inclusive, the main participating bodies can be state actors with different social systems, ideologies and national strengths, or can be similar or identical actors.


. Impact of the Asian Security Concept on Regional Order


Practices of international politics since the end of the Cold War have repeatedly proven that regional security framework guided by the military alliance is not stable by itself. It has been changed into one of the unstable factors in the region, lagging behind the development of our times and security requirements of the regional security, and has to be abandoned. But the U.S. runs against the current of the times and continues to enlarge the alliance system and form clique, with a hope of bringing in more countries to its wings in forming a so-called “encirclement ring” aimed at containing and deterring China. These actions on the part of the U.S. are the same as tearing up security and cooperation in Asia-Pacific region, resulting in the increased risk of turmoil in the region.

Asian security concept is a normative perception, and in essence a perception in order. It has been raised under the backdrop of tremendous changes and transformation in international order, thus it carries an important theoretical and practical guiding significance. General speaking, the impact of Asian security concept on regional order can be felt in the three “transitions”.


A.   Asian security concept will lead the transition of Asian order from the model of external-generation to internal-generation

After the end of the Cold War, economic growth of Asian countries has been accelerating and regional economic integration deepening. Asia has become the region with the most dynamics and potentials in the world, showing the trend of collective rising-up. However, in contrast to the economic development, Asia has never escaped the fate of being controlled by outside powers during the nearly 70 years after the end of WW. The roots of this phenomenon can be found in the perception of Western superiority theory. The U.S. substitutes the diversity and divergence of world development history with the characteristics and rules of its own security development history, and manages international order of other regions with its values, norms, system and mechanism framework, to achieve the goal of maintaining its predominant position in the world at the expense of the interests of other regions and countries. The way the U.S. has done in putting its own security interests above the others, has proven to be one of the important roots of world instability.

Asian security must be handled by Asian countries themselves, because only Asian countries know what they want the most and what their wishes are. As Asia gains more weight in world economic and strategic setup, the appeals, confidence and abilities of its peoples in getting things done by themselves have increased. Therefore, President Xi’s initiative of new Asian security concept has been warmly welcomed by various countries in the region because it conforms to the requirements of our times. The success of CICC Summit in Shanghai has promoted the strengthening of dialogue and increased mutual trust between various countries in the region. Asian security has begun the transition from the model of external-generation to internal-generation.


B.   Asian security concept will lead the transition of Asian order from the model of conflict to cooperation

As globalization and regional integration develop in greater depth, mutual dependence between countries in the world will continue as well. In the meantime, traditional security threats are mounting and pose great threat to human society as a whole. While non-traditional security threats have the characters of diffusivity and correlativity, so a clear need exists for all countries to cooperate to deal with them. On account of the diversity and multiplicity of security threat, it becomes a realistic requirement and common desire for all countries in the region to seek and promote peace by way of cooperation. Unlike other parts of the world, security order in Asia now is still built on the basis of conflict and confrontation. The U.S. security concept is based on the perception of “dual antagonism”. It regards the development and reasonable increase in military capabilities of other countries as a threat and challenge to its national security, thus seeing them as rivals or potential rivals. The U.S. strengthens its alliance system in Asia and tries to encircle and contain China by means of those alliances, in order to preserve its leading position in Asian security and its own absolute security. It is clear that military alliances lay stress on antagonism, and for this reason the U.S. even goes so far as to fabricate some security threats and used them to prove the legitimacy of military alliances.

Facts prove that the U.S.-led military alliances have already hindered the development of integration and brought about great damage to the region. In order to pursue its own absolute security, the U.S. has caused insecurity of other countries, and created tension and instability in the region. China proposes new security concept and the core values of which lie in openness, inclusiveness and cooperation with win-win results. Meanwhile, China promotes mutual political trust and security cooperation and attaches great importance to building a collective consensus between countries in Asia by pushing regional cooperation forward. Cooperative security will also become the universal code of conducts for the whole Asia.


C.   Asian security concept will lead the transition of Asian order from the model of power to mechanism-formulation

With major developing countries like China and India rising to power, the U.S. still follows a traditional power perception of realism. It tries hard to restrict and even disrupt the ascendancy of the developing powers and preserves its hegemonic position in Asia. The implementation of “rebalancing” strategy in the Asia-Pacific is exactly the actual edition of the U.S. power politics. But this strategy has been conditioned by two factors: first, most countries in Asia want to be benefited from China’s development, they are unwilling to make enemy with China; second, handicapped by the relative decline of power, the U.S. is falling short of willingness to implement rebalancing strategy for long. Besides, non-traditional security threats arise and pose great challenges to the security of Asian countries. In order to solve those security issues, special need exists to pool wisdom and efforts of every country in jointly managing the situation, and this calls for setting up various governance norms and security platforms by countries in equal and consultative manner. Realistic power perception and balance of power policy followed by the U.S. can neither be able to hold back the legitimate rights of peaceful rise by China and other developing countries, nor be able to resolve the complicated security challenges that Asia faces.

The Asian security concept underlines the need to jointly build security for the region by all countries on an equal footing. All of them are entitled to take part in regional security affairs equally and also duty-bound to ensure collective security of the region. No country is allowed to monopolize regional security affairs or to encroach on the legitimate rights of other countries. What China proposes and aims at is that, all Asian countries are equal partners and able to pull all their efforts in tackling major issues in security areas. As a regional power, China has no intention to simply provide Asia with public products, since that does not conform to China’s own interests, nor to its abilities, and even not to the current of our times. Recent trends suggest that Asian affairs should be handled only by the Asian people themselves. It is unfeasible to set up military and political alliances of an exclusive nature to deal with a particular country or country bloc, instead extensive dialogues and cooperation should be encourage.


The article is from Peace and Development, No.5, 2014, pp. 122-132.  The author is Associate Research Fellow at the Center of China-U.S. Relations with China Institute of International Studies, and consultant to the platform for “Free Navigation, Security and Stability of South China Sea” with China Coordination and Innovation Center for South China Sea Studies.