7: conclusions


multiple debates

chinese analysts have a clear picture of what the overall future security environment will look like--there will be a multipolar world structure, where the major nations have relatively equal Comprehensive National Power (CNP), international relations will be governed by the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence, and the world will no longer be dominated by power politics and hegemonic superpowers. However, the characteristics of the transition period to this multipolar world are not subject to the same clarity. As has been discussed, Chinese authors do not debate in the Western sense of the word. Not only do they rarely admit publicly to the existence of debates, but usually they do not even refer to, let alone criticize, other author's views in their writings. However, through excerpts and quotes from the writings of over 200 civilian and military analysts, by allowing the authors to "speak for themselves," it becomes clear that Chinese analysts hold a variety of views on the features of the current and future security environment. These various and differing views, while they do not always constitute debates--they range from conflicting and opposing ideas, to merely a difference in emphasis--are important to our understanding the premises of Chinese national strategy. The basic "debates" are outlined below, followed by the book's major findings.

The Rate of Multipolarization

The Pace of U.S. Decline

The Future Powers

The Roles of Japan and Russia

Future Wars

a clear picture

The public writings of Chinese authors from the major research institutes portray a clear picture of the future security environment. The main trend will be "peace and development" and a "multipolar world." But, there could also be wars and other future dangers for China from the same four nations that, back in the 1970s, Chairman Mao and Premier Zhou Enlai told Henry Kissinger threatened China--Russia, Japan, India, and America. Chinese analysts still study and respect Mao's essays and explicitly confirm that the line established by Deng Xiaoping in the 1980s about the coming "multipolar" world is still accurate. Chinese authors have added new details to Deng's assessment, however, and a few issues have become the subject of scholarly debates:

The Chinese assessment of the current and future security environment depicts the present world as being in an era of transition to a new world structure. During this period, great rivalries will emerge among the powers, and many local wars will be fought, as a "re-division of spheres of influence" and a struggle for world leadership takes place. Chinese analysts point to some examples of the current struggles to divide spheres of influence:

After the transition to the multipolar world, a new "world system" will emerge to govern international affairs, one that will probably resemble the current Chinese proposal of the "Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence." Chinese authorities assert that world politics since the 1800s always has had a "system" or a "strategic pattern." Under the rules of such a "system" or "strategic pattern" there is a competition among powers that includes a global division of spheres of influence. Chinese historical textbooks discuss the "Vienna System" of 1815-70; an intermediate system when Germany and Italy each unified and Japan launched the Meiji Reform; the "Versailles System" of 1920-45; the "Yalta System" of 1945-89; and the present "transition era."

Huan Xiang, Deng Xiaoping's national security adviser, first announced the features of the current view of the future security environment in early 1986, just after the U.S.-Soviet summit:

Chinese authors rarely refer to each other and almost never criticize other authors by name, but in 1997, two unusual articles broke this apparent taboo in two national journals. The episode began when Yang Dazhou, a well-known senior analyst at the Institute of American Studies of the Chinese Academy of Social Science (CASS), published a direct and detailed criticism of the orthodox assessment of the coming world of multipolarity. The article met with a vigorous response from a senior general in military intelligence, Huang Zhengji. In a departure from the tradition of merely stating a view without debating anyone else, the People's Liberation Army general actually quoted long passages from the reformer's article, then wrote that these views were ridiculous, without foundation, and unsupportable, and worst of all, they played into the hands of the United States. The two articles reflect a difference among the senior leadership of China about:

In his article, Yang Dazhou heretically argues against each of the key features of the orthodox view of the future security environment, putting forward a reformist scenario:

General Huang quoted passages from Yang's article without directly citing it and reasserted the orthodox view on each of these points:

The NATO strikes on Yugoslavia and the NATO bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade in spring 1999 have given prominence to the debate concerning the future world structure. One of the biggest outgrowths of the Kosovo crisis and the bombing is that they led to the reevaluation of previous assessments of the pace of U.S. decline and of the rate at which the world is moving toward multipolarization. It appears that the reformist view, represented by Yang Dazhou, has gained support as a result of U.S. and NATO actions in Yugoslavia. A clear post-Kosovo trend has been the number of Chinese authors admitting that the transition to multipolarity has been delayed. A key element in the new assessment is the issue of why the time frame for the transition to the new world structure has been greatly extended--the United States remains powerful. Not only are some authors no longer focusing on current U.S. decline, but rather they are predicting that its strength may even continue to increase. However, other Chinese analysts, while recognizing that the pace of the multipolarization process has slowed, also emphasize that the current trend does not mean that the United States will be able to establish a unipolar world. It is only a setback in the transition to a new world structure.

After the U.S. bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade, some authors seemed to question whether the main trend of the times still is peace and development, and some authors even mentioned the possibility of a third world war.

Chinese analysts explain the outbreak of local wars in the 1990s as having two major causes: first, the ethnic, religious, historical, and territorial disputes previously covered up and restricted by the U.S.-Soviet confrontation were free to emerge following the end of the Cold War; and second, as the new world structure is forming, there is competition and contention for power, influence, and economic sources. Chinese analysts differ about where they see future local wars occurring. Some see the main local war "hot spot" as shifting to Africa or the Middle East, while others focus on Central Asia and the Asia-Pacific.

A number of analysts cite hegemonism and military interventionism as contributing to and exacerbating local wars. Following NATO military strikes against Yugoslavia in spring 1999, there was a tremendous increase in criticism and alarm about U.S. hegemonism being a source of war. In what is characterized as its pursuit of global hegemony and a unipolar world order, U.S. military intervention is expected to continue to occur throughout the transition period.

Chinese analysts suggest that a potential cause of war in the Asia-Pacific has to do with China's rise as a global power. Several authors have written about likely U.S. efforts in the next decade or two to contain China's development and prevent its rise in international affairs. They warn of potential conflicts between China and the United States, as China's power increases and the "desperate" United States struggles to maintain its leading position. These predictions conflict with Deng Xiaoping's assertion that China will never be a source of war--although apparently a war could be forced on China.

Debate about the future role of the United States concerns not only the decline of future U.S. capability, but also how other nations may affect U.S. policy. One author asserts China will face danger earlier because Japan (or some elements in Japan) is instigating long-term confrontation between the United States and China. He maintains Japan will do this in order to mask its own ambitions to replace the United States as the world's hegemon. Other Chinese authors claim to see through other conspiracies, pointing out that there are already many "hidden signs" of the struggles now shaping the future multipolar world. For example, U.S. officials use the China Threat Theory to scare Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) into maintaining military relations with America. There are also "hidden signs" in Central Asia, Bosnia, and Eastern Europe that the United States is maneuvering to maintain its "hegemony" and "carve up" the former Soviet "sphere of influence." Chinese authors use words right out of Warring States texts to describe alleged U.S. strategies to maintain its position as "hegemon," the ancient name for the leading state in the Warring States era.

Deng Xiaoping himself used expressions from the Warring States and other ancient texts to advise future Chinese leaders on strategy. China, he said, must "taoguang-yanghui"--the literal translation means "Hide brightness, nourish obscurity" or, as the official Beijing interpretation translates the four-character idiom, "Bide our time and build up our capabilities." He suggested that China at present is poor and weak and must avoid being dragged into local wars, into any conflicts about spheres of influence, or into struggles over natural resources. Deng's advice is, "Yield on small issues with the long term in mind." Deng Xiaoping's additional word of advice was bu chu tou--never be the leader or, literally translated, "Don't stick your head out."

In the Warring States era, states that rose too fast suffered attack, dismemberment, and even complete extinction. In the final phase of the Warring States era, as every literate Chinese knows, Su Qin, a brilliant strategist, formed a coalition that stood for several years against the newly rising state of Qin. The United States and Japan, if provoked, could do this to a rising China. To counter this, nationalistic authors like He Xin want to take the initiative to form a coalition against the United States that "under the banner of opposing the hegemon," would align China with every anti-American nation in the world. Other proposals to protect a rising China from the ruthless hegemon are more defensive:

warring states

The Warring States era in China gave rise to a series of classical texts on statecraft warfare that are currently being re-examined by Chinese analysts. According to China's authors:

america's decline

Chinese national security specialists have been describing America's role in the future security environment in the same way for a decade: dangerous but declining. Chinese authors project a sharp decline in the global role of the United States, asserting:

In the picturesque terms of ancient Chinese statecraft, America is a decaying hegemon whose leaders are as yet unaware that their fate is unavoidable. Authors claim the United States is pursuing strategies, such as:

Other authors sound warnings. The Vice President of the Academy of Military Science urges vigilance because the declining United States will attempt "strategic deception" of other major powers, including China, as it did in the case of both the Soviet Union, with the phony "Star Wars" threat, and Iraq, with the invasion of Kuwait so the United States could dismantle Iraq's growing power. The Director of the Foreign Policy Center at China's largest security research institute warns that the United States may form a coalition to "strangle" China if the proponents of the neo-McCarthyist China Threat Theory become too strong in the United States.

Chinese assessments do not treat the United States as "weak" in any absolute sense at the present time, however. For example, a series of books on the U.S. Armed Forces asserts that the U.S. has military technological superiority in practically every field, despite U.S. reductions since 1991. Nevertheless, the United States will fall behind in military innovation after 2010 for a variety of reasons.

future national power

In the mid-1980s, Deng Xiaoping asserted that it was important to calculate future trends in Comprehensive National Power (CNP), the concept that helps guide China's reforms, and that CNP calculations should include economics, science, defense, and other factors. Although calculating CNP was developed in 1984, Chinese authors justify the concept as stemming both from ancient Chinese strategists and Chairman Mao. CNP scores are important for major powers because they can help identify:

Two contending scientific teams in Beijing have calculated estimates of what the CNP scores of major powers will be in 2010. The military team's results parallel the "orthodox" authors:

The civilian team's "reformist" results contradict the orthodox view about an emerging multipolar structure, however:

threats from japan and india

China's assessments of Japan and India are similar because both "fit" the analytic premises the Chinese use about nations that have territorial disputes with China, and both are capitalist and democratic. India is assessed as a sort of half-scale version of Japan. Chinese authors suggest that Japan:

As a smaller scale version of Japan, China's analysts write that India, too, has a militaristic, religion-based strategic culture. They assert that it seeks to dominate its neighbors, had covert nuclear ambitions for two decades prior to its nuclear tests in 1998, attempts to foment conflict between China and other nations, and has some areas of military superiority over China, such as its current navy. However, India's economic reforms are judged insufficient to catch up with China and enter the multipolar world as the sixth pole. India's CNP scores for 2010 place it no higher than ninth (AMS) or thirteenth (CASS), only about half of China's CNP score in 2010.

partnership with russia

Chinese analysts evidence sympathy for Russia in the wake of the Soviet Union's dissolution. That sympathy perhaps foreshadows interests in some form of future strategic partnership.

forecasting future wars

China's authors appear to be debating several future paths for defense spending, two of which represent reforms. Advocates of these two reform schools seemed to be arrayed against a third group of conservative traditionalists who have been losing their share of the allocation of defense investments. The outcome of this muted debate among these schools may affect defense resource allocations.

China's defense reformers of both the RMA and Local War schools need to free up resources by resolving the threats and challenges that the programs of the People's War school are designed to handle. Otherwise, conservatives will continue to dominate the defense investment process.

sensitive debates

No Chinese author has yet publicly identified the relationship among the three different "schools of future warfare" and alternative future security environments. It is plausible that such debates are still too sensitive a subject for open publication. One could speculate, however, that a long-term security environment of "peace and development" would be a forecast that favors the RMA advocates and those who propose that China should identify new technologies and new operational concepts and even set up new types of military organizations in order to leapfrog ahead a generation, as Mi Zhenyu and others advocate. Similarly, Local War advocates would welcome a second type of forecast about the future security environment over the next two decades that emphasizes the high probability of local wars along China's frontiers. These local wars might include Taiwan's declaring independence, or maritime border disputes in the South China Sea or Central Asia. Such a forecast would mean that Beijing would have to invest heavily in the program of these advocates.  Finally, one could imagine that People's War advocates would welcome Chinese authors who emphasize the threat of dismemberment, foreign subversion, or a land invasion by a future fascist Japan, or even the rise to power of a madman like Hitler in India, the United States, or Russia.