China's core interests
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Issue Net Edition | Date : 30 Aug , 2010

“¦rise of China will probably continue to be the official motto for some time, but many other forces are at play. Let us not forget that China is not a monolithic empire, but a puzzle of many disparate forces.

On July 3, an article debating the strategy behind the US use of its aircraft carriers was published in the China Review News. According to the author there were four reasons for the US to send its carriers: (1) pushing China to buy more US bonds; (2) using war threats to hammer China’s development; (3) reducing US debt pressure; (4) confirming that China doesn’t dare to start a war. The author believed that Americans manipulated all of the issues troubling China (Taiwan, Tibet, Xinjiang, India, Vietnam, the South China Sea, Mid-Asia, and Falun Gong). He argued that the right way to handle the US carrier situation was to sink the carriers having a joint naval exercise with South Korea in the Yellow Sea.

Another Chinese analyst, Real Admiral Yang Yi accused Washington of double-dealing exacerbating its time-honoured containment policy against China. On August 13, Yang wrote in The PLA Daily: “On the one hand, (Washington) wants China to play a role in regional security issues, on the other hand, it is engaging in an increasingly tight encirclement of China and constantly challenging China’s core interests.”

General Yang added that American military drills were a provocation aimed at creating “enmity and confrontation in the Asia-Pacific region — and that the Chinese must make a firm response”.

One could ask, why are the generals seemingly speaking out of turn or at least in opposition to the official policy promoted by Hu Jintao of a peaceful rise of China. Major General Xu Guangyu, a researcher at the China Arms Control and Disarmament Association, explained that “it was natural for the PLA to speak out first on these issues. It’s the PLA’s sacred duty to defend China’s territory and interests.”

Many analysts believe that it is probably an occasion for hardliners among the PLA and PLAN (Chinese Navy) ‘to lobby for more economic and political resources to upgrade their arsenal. Particularly in view of large-scale personnel changes scheduled for the upcoming 18th CCP Congress.’

Undoubtedly, jockeying has started for the elevation of several generals to a revamped Central Military Commission in 2012. President Hu probably needs some hawks to help him to keep his chairman’s cap after he resigns from his two other posts — president of the republic and party general secretary. However, several think-tanks and influential commentators do not agree with the generals.

On August 1, in an article published in Xinhua, Han Xudong, a professor at the Strategy Department of the PLA National Defence University said it was currently not appropriate for China to explicitly state what its ‘Core National Interests’ are. He gave reasons why: China’s military capability is not as good as America’s military capability in many respects. Publicly identifying China’s core national interests will place the armed forces in a passive position and China does not have the power to protect all of its core national interests yet.

The peaceful rise of China will probably continue to be the official motto for some time, but many other forces are at play. Let us not forget that China is not a monolithic empire, but a puzzle of many disparate forces. Only the future will tell who will prevail. By the way, what are India’s Core Interests?

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The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the Indian Defence Review.

About the Author

Claude Arpi

Writes regularly on Tibet, China, India and Indo-French relations. He is the author of 1962 and the McMahon Line Saga, Tibet: The Lost Frontier and Dharamshala and Beijing: the negotiations that never were.

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