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Upholding the Chinese Approach to National Security

CIIS Time: Jun 11, 2015 Writer: Sun Jianguo Editor: Li Minjie

Sun Jianguo[1]



Two years after the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC), which was held in November 2012, the Party, the State and the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) are experiencing a period of extraordinary development. Based on his vision of world affairs and an acute sense of historical responsibility, President Xi Jinping has put forward the overall outlook on national security and introduced significant strategic thought. He has initiated some integral policies aimed at maintaining national security and made innovations in the Party’s security guidance theory and practice.


The Overall Outlook on National Security—A Scientific Guideline for Chinese National Security


President Xi has made a series of important remarks and explicitly put forward the overall outlook on national security, further enriching and developing the theoretical system of national security.


Accurately assessing the international situation and China’s security environment

After surveying recent global changes, President Xi introduced strate-gic concepts such as the “Three Trends” and “Three Major Dangers”. The Three Trends are from the perspective of the external environment, the international situation is constantly changing and new opportunities and challenges are continually emerging. The international system is experiencing deep adjustments and the international order is undergoing profound changes and development, to the advantage of peace and development. China is now close to the center of the world stage, approaching the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation. China is mainly facing the dangers of being invaded, toppled and separated, while its reform, development and stability face the danger of being sabotaged and the process of the socialist cause with Chinese characteristics faces the danger of being interrupted.

China’s economic and social development has experienced profound changes and there remain numerous thorny issues. Major strategic judgments have scientifically answered a series of basic questions, such as what international environment we now face, what position we are now in, and what challenges we are confronted with, which demonstrates President Xi’s accurate perception of international changes taking place and China’s neighborhood situation.


Affirming the Chinese approach to national security

Starting from actual national and world conditions, President Xi has particularly emphasized that the country must adhere to the CPC’s absolute leadership when it comes to national security, with people’s security as the aim, political security as the fundamental purpose, economic security as the foundation, military, cultural and social security as the guarantee and international security as the support. Xi has also profoundly expounded the Party’s core leadership role in State security and revealed the function of various factors in national security and their interrelations, which accords with China’s socialist system, its peaceful development strategy and the internal requirement of its cultural traditions.


Expanding the scope of national security strategy

With a broad strategic vision, President Xi has put forward the building of an integrated national security system that comprises collective political security, territorial security, military security, cultural security, social security, scientific and technological security, information security, ecological system, resource strategic and nuclear security, which has deepened our perception of security. He has also scientifically defined the national security system, helping the country take comprehensive measures to deal with various security threats, systematically plan the work of national security, and accurately tackle the crux of problems in practice. A good job done in the 11 security areas will offer reliable guarantees for China’s national security.


An overall strategy for national security

The National Security Commission of the Communist Party of China was established to reinforce leadership over the work of national security. To actively adapt to the urgent need to effectively maintain national security, President Xi has pushed for the making and implementation of a national security strategy and the forging of a legal system for national security that incorporates the rule of law into national security efforts. He has pushed for accelerated national security and network security legislation and stronger anti-terrorism laws, in a bid to provide a forcible legal guarantee for maintaining national security, attached importance to national security awareness and education in an effort to forge a high-quality professional national security team, emphasized military personnel are the cornerstone of national security and strived to build a consolidated national defense and powerful military commensurate with China’s international status and its demands for maintaining national security and development interests. He has employed comprehensive and multiple policies and measures, as well as political, economic, military and other available means in a coordinated manner, to vigorously push for the building of various guarantees and form a powerful and comprehensive force for maintaining national security.

These strategic moves have helped establish a centralized, united, efficient and authoritative leadership system for the work of national security, formed the basic pattern for strengthening national security according to the law, made clear the basic force with which to maintain national security and the manner of its use, and forcibly pushed for the modernization of the national security governance system and its capabilities.


Explicitly raising scientific methods for national security work

President Xi has emphasized that we should learn the general situation, develop an overall strategic program, and take initiatives to correctly handle the relationship between external security and internal security, between homeland security and national security, between traditional security and non-traditional security, between development and security, between self-security and common security, and consistently strengthen the “awareness of concern” so that there is no panic in the event of an emergency and are well-prepared to meet any dangers. We should seek to make preparations for the worst-case scenario, but strive for the best result. These demands that we consistently stick to strategic, innovative, and bottom-line thinking in our efforts improve the capacity to win.


Political will to maintain national security

President Xi has stressed that we will adhere to a peaceful development path, but will by no means waiver our legitimate rights and interests, and that no country can expect China to swallow the bitter fruits of its sovereignty, security and development interests being damaged. China must adopt a tit-for-tat approach and fight for every inch of land any time its sovereignty and territorial integrity are being challenged. China dared to maintain its national interests and never yielded to external pressures at a time when it was still poor and backward, so it will never give in to such pressures now it has developed and become stronger, and it will resolutely maintain its core and significant interests. All these have manifested President Xi’s resolve and courage, his determination and will to take action, which has displayed to the outside world China’s redline for its core interests, injected a powerful force into and extended great encouragement to the Party, the PLA and Chinese people to jointly maintain national security.

The strategic thought of the overall outlook on national security, which has rich connotations, an insightful perception and a complete system, is the crystallization of wisdoms employed to know and analyze national security situations through the Marxist world outlook and methodology, and the latest theoretical fruit of the national security strategy with Chinese characteristics. As a powerful ideological weapon to guide the implementation of China’s national security strategy, the overall outlook on national security has led the effort for maintaining national security to a new development stage and it will continue to glow with vitality and vigor.


Initiatives Forging a Good Security Environment for the Rejuvenation of the Chinese Nation


The central authorities have consistently planned for the work of national security from the strategic height of realizing the objectives of the “two 100-year anniversaries” and the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation, and adhered to the correct “morality and profit” perspective to realize comprehensive, common, cooperative and sustainable security. While resolutely maintaining the country’s interests, active efforts have also been made to promote common prosperity with other countries, lay a solid foundation for China’s lasting peace, stability, and prosperity, and make deserved contributions to world peace and development.



Forging a favorable strategic security environment and achieve breakthrough progress in building a new type of relations between powers

Major powers are the decisive force influencing world peace and thus to maintain good ties with other powers is of great significance to maintaining China’s national security. During his meeting with US President Barack Obama at the Annenberg Estate in California in June 2013, President Xi put forward the concept of building the new type of major-power relationship between China and the United States, which features “no conflict, non-confrontation, mutual respect, cooperation and win-win results”. It marks a significant innovation in the history of international relations. In November 2014, the two leaders had an evening talk during a walk at the Zhongnanhai complex, reaching numerous new consensuses under the framework of the new type of relations between powers.

For the new type of Sino-US ties, the two countries confirmed the basic principles they should follow while dealing with each other, which, with “no conflict and non-confrontation” as the precondition, “mutual respect” as the key and “cooperation and win-win results” as the core, have pointed the direction for Sino-US relations. This concept has helped China gain a high moral foothold. Such basic principles for Sino-US relations have followed the trends of economic globalization and the democratization of international relations, won extensive approval from the international community, and thus became a distinctive banner we can hold aloft for the promotion of fairness, justice, cooperation, and win-win results.

The new type of Sino-US relations, as the model for relations between two major powers, has opened a road for peaceful coexistence and common development between an emerging power and an established power. Adhering to this will help avoid Thucydides’s Trap, namely the inevitable confrontation between an emerging power and an established power. Under the framework of the new Sino-US relations, the establishment of new military relations advocated by China, one based on “respect, mutual trust, cooperation and steadiness”, has played an important role in maintaining the healthy and stable development of bilateral ties. “No conflict and non-confrontation” does not mean there is no struggle between China and the US. Sino-US relations have experienced tumultuous periods featuring both cooperation and struggle. But it has been proven time and again that, without any struggle, there would be no respect from the US for our core interests and no win-win cooperation.


Breaking Japan’s unilateral and exclusive control over the Diaoyu Islands

Japan is the neighbor with which China has had the longest historical links. It is also the neighbor that has caused most serious injuries to China in modern times, and with which China has the most complicated bilateral relations. The war of aggression waged by Japan against China caused untold harm to the Chinese nation, and Japan’s rightist forces are a source of uncertainties threatening regional peace and stability. Japan’s reluctance to embrace China’s rise is a fundamental factor sparking bilateral conflict. The Diaoyu Islands have been Chinese territory since ancient times, yet in September 2012, the Japanese government openly announced the purchase of the Diaoyu Islands in disregard of historical facts. The Chinese central government made a resolute and timely response, taking a series of countermeasures: dispatching surveillance vessels to the waters within 12 nautical miles of the Diaoyu Islands and keeping regular patrols to safeguard China’s maritime rights and interests, publishing the coastal baseline of Diaoyu Islands and their affiliated islets, demarcating an air defense identification zone in the East China Sea for the first time, publishing a White Paper on the Diaoyu Islands issue and opening a special Diaoyu Islands website. At the same time, China also held national activities commemorating the “day of victory” in the war against Japanese aggression and a “memorial day” for those who died in the Nanjing massacre. Chinese ambassadors across the world have also published articles criticizing and refuting Japan’s claims to the Diaoyu Islands. These moves forced Japan to reach “Four Consensuses” with China, creating favorable conditions for the settlement of the bilateral disputes on the Diaoyu Islands and forming a strategic posture to China’s advantage.


Resolutely fighting for rights in the South China Sea and taking an historical step toward mapping out its South China Sea strategy

For a long time, while China remained inactive, surrounding countries took reckless measures to explore for oil and gas in the South China Sea. When, in May 2014, China started drilling for oil and gas in the waters off the Zhongjian Island, affiliated to the Xisha Islands, which have long been under its jurisdiction, Vietnam dispatched a number of vessels, including armed ones, to the site to ram Chinese escort ships and also sent frogmen to set fishing nets and floating objects in an attempt to interrupt China’s drilling operations. The smashing, plundering, and burning of Chinese enterprises and the harming of Chinese citizens were also organized across Vietnam.

 The Chinese government lodged a solemn protest with the Vietnamese authorities, refuting Hanoi’s groundless charges against its normal drilling operations. China also sent escort ships to the site to protect the operations of its rig, effectively safeguarding normal maritime activities and its drilling operations. At the same time, China also combined its rights protection activities with publicity campaigns, effectively increasing the international community’s understanding of and support for its stance and proposals. China’s efforts to uphold its rights in the South China Sea have manifested China’s firm will and determination to maintain its territorial sovereignty and maritime rights, and it will be of milestone significance to its efforts to outline a South China Sea strategy and build itself into a seapower.


Increasing influence in surrounding regions

Maintaining smooth ties with surrounding countries will lay a foundation for China’s survival, development, and prosperity. Turbulence in surrounding regions will bring instability and safety concerns. Currently, China’s surrounding regions remain generally stable, but instability and uncertainty have also increased. The central government held a conference on the diplomatic work with surrounding countries in October 2013, the first of its kind since the founding of New China, making clear the strategic goals, basic principles, and overall arrangements for its diplomacy toward surrounding countries and confirming “intimate, candid, beneficial and tolerant” diplomatic concepts. The “Belt and Road” initiative is a far-sighted decision to push for “major-country diplomacy” and a significant move to maintain regional peace and stability. At the 4th Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia (CICA) summit held in Shanghai in May 2014, President Xi put forward the Outlook on Asian Security on a “common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable” footing, offering new thinking for maintaining the security and stability of Asia and the world as a whole.

The increasing improvements in the strategic guidance and layout of the “Great Surrounding Regions” diplomacy, which will be of great significance to guaranteeing China’s strategic security, expanding its strategic space and break the strategic encirclement targeted at containing China, has further forged a more favorable surrounding security environment for China. At the same time, China has unswervingly developed a strategic partnership with India, trying to manage and handle bilateral disputes in a positive and forward-looking way, and continued resolving the border issue through friendly consultations, effectively maintaining peace and tranquility in the border area. China consistently insists that the Korean peninsula be nuclear free and avoid disturbance and conflict, thus contributing to the peninsula’s general stability.


Firmly supporting the Hong Kong SAR government’s handling of the “Occupy Central” movement

 Forces hostile to the Chinese government have always harbored a desire to turn Hong Kong into a bridgehead for political subversion and infiltration into the Chinese mainland. The “Occupy Central” movement launched in 2014 is a kind of “Color Revolution” deliberately plotted by some extremist groups in Hong Kong, on the pretext of universal suffrage in the election of the special administrative region’s chief executive, under the instigation and support of external forces. The central government unswervingly adhered to the “One Country, Two Systems” policy and the Basic Law, and extended its support to the SAR government and its police, which dealt with the illegal activities in accordance with the law, effectively safeguarding Hong Kong’s social order, economic development, people’s livelihoods, and stability of the SAR’s general situation.

After 79 days, the illegal “Occupy Central” movement was brought to an end. During this period, President Xi met Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying three times, showing his appreciation and support for the enforcement of the law in Hong Kong, and demonstrating the central government’s firm resolve and strong will to advance universal suffrage in the SAR according to the Basic Law. The rivalry between the SAR government and the “Occupy Central” movement was in essence a fight to safeguard the “One Country, Two Systems” principle and also a stern warning to the “Taiwan independence” separatist forces. President Xi met with Honorary Chairman of Kuomintang Lien Chan in February 2014, and said that “both sides of the Taiwan Straits are in one family and should jointly promote the Chinese dream”. The confidence and determination displayed by Xi to push for the peaceful development of cross-Straits relations and resolutely curb the “Taiwan independence” conspiracy has ensured the general stability.


Forcibly checking the “Color Revolution”

To plot a “Color Revolution” is an old trick employed by some Western countries to subvert regimes in certain countries under the banner of democracy. With the continuous development of China, Western countries have demonstrated more obvious intentions and more frequently organized activities aimed at infiltrating and sabotaging China and accelerated implementing an online “cultural Cold War” and “political transgenic engineering”. Ideological struggles have become sharper and more complicated and the increased ideological crusades launched against China posed a major threat to its political system and government. To prevent a “Color Revolution” is closely relevant to the Party’s future and destiny and China’s long-term stability and security. We consistently adhere to the Party’s leadership and make active efforts to win the ideological battle and enhance our self-confidence, theoretical self-confidence and confidence in our system, consistently stick to the strategic thinking that development is a top priority, laying the material foundation for national economic prosperity, people’s happiness and social harmony and stability. We consistently persist in the Party’s ideology building and improving its governance capabilities and put in place strong disciplines and rules to resolutely contain corruption.

At the same time, we have struck against various violations of the law and smashed the attempts by hostile forces to stir up a “Color Revolution” in China, winning a tough battle in the country’s efforts to maintain social and political stability. We have maintained high pressure and cracked down on domestic terrorist forces and firmly foiled attacks, helping the country tightly hold the initiative in its anti-terror and anti-violence campaign. We have strengthened our management of the Internet and pushed for comprehensive governance of the Internet.


Military Buildup Opens a New Situation for National Defense and Military Construction


The military is the last resort for the country to maintain its national security. To implement the overall outlook on national security has numerous times raised distinctive requirements for the building up and use of military force. The PLA has persisted in leading troops both ideologically and politically, adhered to the principle that all work is aimed at winning a war, continued improving its working style, and persisted in viewing reform as a key and necessary move.


Consistently regarding the Party’s leadership as the largest ballast for maintaining national security and social stability

To resolutely obey the Party’s command is the soul of the founding of our forces, the country’s military buildup, as well as the key to ensuring the Party’s long-term rule and the country’s long-term peace and stability.

i) Adhere to absolute loyalty to the Party and lay a solid foundation for the military to follow the Party’s command.

President Xi has taken the Party’s absolute leadership over the army as the backbone of ideological and political building of the armed forces, vigorously pushed for the socialist system with Chinese characteristics, and practically laid a firm ideological and political foundation for military officials and soldiers to listen to the Party and follow the Party. Absolute loyalty is the highest standard for people’s troops. This is a significant political issue and efforts must be made to ensure the army’s 100 percent loyalty to the Party without any discount and without even a slight vacillation. Otherwise, it would be sub-loyalty and even pseudo-loyalty.

ii) Successfully convened the New Gutian Conference, confirming the political strategy for building up the military under new situations.

President Xi made the decision to hold the conference of political work for the army, attended it and delivered an important speech, in which he reaffirmed the principles of the Party’s ideology and the army’s political thought. He explained how to do the political work within the military in the face of new situations and confirmed the political strategy for China to build a strong nation and a strong army. He issued a mobilization call for the start of a new journey for military development, erecting a milestone for military reforms in the new era and realizing significant development for the army’s ideological and political building in new situations. Military servicemen at various levels have viewed implementing the conference’s spirit as a major political task, substantially pushed forward theoretical armament, ideological education, Party organization, and the building of the cadre teams involving the political task of the military, and eliminated the negative influences of the Xu Caihou corruption case, enhancing the vitality of our military and helping the people’s troops regain a stronger spiritual power.

iii) Resolutely implement the accountability system of the Chairman of Central Military Commission, and strengthen centralized and unified leadership over all military forces.

The system of responsibilities, which is an important part of China’s military system and explicitly stipulated by the Constitution, is the supreme form in which the Party’s absolute leadership over the military is realized. It has played a fundamental and decisive role in ensuring the firm grip on the command power by the CPC Central Committee and its Central Military Commission. As its supreme political discipline and political mandate, the military will unshakably safeguard the Party’s absolute leadership over the armed forces. We must always regard the firm implementation of the “Chairman’s responsibility system” as the supreme political principle to be followed and firmly safeguard the authority of the Party’s Central Committee, its Central Military Commission, and President Xi.


Innovating and developing military strategic guidance

President Xi has accurately mastered the general situation of world development, China’s historical status and the evolution of war, scientifically answered a series of significant military issues such as strategic planning and warfare guidance, and offered the fundamental principles for China’s army to follow in its effort to strengthen military modernization.

i) Look upon and prepare for the war from the perspective of realizing the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation. Military actions must be subject to the strategic goals of the Party and nation, and crises must be managed from an overall perspective to ensure overall strategic stability.

ii) Stick to and develop active defensive strategic thinking. President Xi has focused more on the creation of a favorable strategic situation by employing military forces and means, and conducted comprehensive planning on war preparation and war prevention, on deterrence and actual combat, on military activities and the use of military forces in peaceful time, to advance the transformation of the military modernization strategy.

iii) Put forward new guidance on contemporary warfare. President Xi has required us to make in-depth studies on the characteristics of modern wars, their laws, and the factors that result in victory.

iv) Focus on making plans for new security areas. Attach high importance to maritime, airspace and cybersecurity, pay attention to the new changes in warfare and the new commanding heights of military competition and strengthen related power building, considerably raising the ability of China’s military in the new security area and comprehensively boosting its military capabilities for diversified missions.


Expanding and deepening preparations for military struggles

All military personnel have adhered to such a fundamental standard, focused on and mobilized all resources for capability building to win a fight, and made unremitting efforts toward this goal, resulting in fundamental changes throughout the armed forces.

i) Comprehensively pushing forward preparations for military struggles in multiple fields. Substantial efforts have been made to advance preparations for military struggles, to provide assistance and protection for the nation’s rights and law enforcement at sea, and to realize regular patrols and effective management and control of the air defense identification zone over the East China Sea. Practical measures have also been taken to maintain land and border security and stability, conduct overseas rescues, increase escorts, peacekeeping and other missions, and effectively fulfill the mission and task of Chinese troops in safeguarding national sovereignty, security, and development interests.

ii) Making in-depth advances in real-combat military training. President Xi has stressed that troops should hold strict and difficult military drills in the manner that we would face real military combat to improve our capability to finish a military task under difficult conditions. President Xi has in person commanded some major exercises and set a good example for all military personnel, senior military officials in particular, to do better planning for possible wars. In 2014, more than 200 exercises above the division and brigade levels were conducted, and the military headquarters directly organized seven synthetic brigades for unified examination and assessments. These exercises, with a considerable rise in the magnitude of training difficulty, intensity and morale, displayed a more obvious combat-like character.

iii) Making greater efforts to raise the PLA’s combat and deterrence capabilities. China’s national defense expenditures exceeded 800 billion yuan in 2014, an increase of 12.2% over the previous year. The rise in military spending has promoted remarkable progress in our military’s self-innovation capability, its new-type of fighting forces and new armaments, obviously improving training guarantees and further raising our combat and deterrence capabilities.


Viewing deepened reforms as an endless power to fuel military build-up and development

 This round of reforms has been planned, decided and pushed forward by the top leaders of the Party and the military, with unprecedented momentum; it is the first time that national defense and military reforms have been included in the overall national reform program and elevated to the level of the Party’s will and national behavior. The chairman of the Central Military Commission has, for the first time, acted as the leader for deepening national defense and military reforms to strengthen centralized and unified leadership and take the helm of the overall advancement of military reforms. This round of reforms is the first time they have been based on extensive opinions and proposals, in which senior military officials and relevant personnel have been free to speak and offer advice. Also for first time, the chairman of the Central Military Commission in person chaired a conference at which leaders from the headquarters and other major military units expressed their opinions and views on military reforms. This inspired enthusiasm among all military personnel for the reforms.

This round of military reforms is aimed at resolving systematic obstacles, structural contradictions, and policy problems that have restricted China’s national defense and military modernization, thus further pushing for the modernization of military organizational forms and forging a modern military power system with Chinese characteristics. This round of military reforms, launched in a correct reform direction, is based on the principle that the reforms are aimed at increasing the PLA’s capability to win a fight and realize the goal that the army should modernize its organizational forms and this should be carried out in an active and prudent manner. Sweeping reforms will be advanced to optimize the military command structure, improve its functioning and its ability to offer powerful support for the building of consolidated national defense and a powerful military. This round of reforms, which will touch many deep contradictions, will be significant and revolutionary reforms in the history of China’s military forces, and their successful implementation will inevitably produce some significant leaps in China’s military revolutionizing, modernizing and normalizing.


Advancing the army’s working style and maintaining its ever-lasting superiority

The Party Central Committee and President Xi have taken improving the working style of the military as the first priority. They have rectified discipline and made particular efforts to resolve outstanding problems in this regard, holding zero tolerance toward corruption and allowing no exceptions in the removal of corrupt officers. With an unprecedented crackdown, a number of “tigers”, or high-profile officials, such as Zhou Yongkang, Xu Caihou, Ling Jihua, and Su Rong, along with many “flies”, lower-ranking officials, have all been investigated for violating State laws and Party disciplines. A total of 53,000 cases involving violation of the Party’s “eight measures”, a campaign launched to fight extravagance and improve the working styles of Party and government employees, have been handled by the country’s anti-graft watchdogs at various levels, involving 72,000 people, of whom 24,000 were punished for violations of Party and administrative disciplines. In 2014, 16 senior military officials were investigated for discipline and law violations.

Over the past years, the campaign against “sifeng”—formalism, bureaucratism, hedonism and extravagance—has achieved obvious effects, stopping the unhealthy trend that developed, and resolved some thorny problems that failed to be resolved for many years. This has brought a new look to the military and greatly boosted the morale of military personnel. This building of an efficient and lean working style has a starting point, but no end; consistent efforts should be made to promote its advancement. In 2015, the special “Three Stricts and Three Honests”—strict with self-cultivation, the use of power and self-restraint and being honest in work planning, business starting and behaving—style building campaigns were conducted among party committees throughout the PLA at the regiment or above levels, in an effort to correct minds, personnel arrangements, and push for the transformation of the military culture.


(Source: ChinaInternational Studies, Mar./Apr. 2015, page 5-22)

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