Interpretation of China's position at 15th Shangri-La Dialogue

Source: China Military OnlineEditor: Zhang Tao
2016-06-06 16:28

BEIJING, June 6 (ChinaMil) -- The 15th Shangri-La Dialogue concluded in Singapore on June 5. During the dialogue, representatives from all countries held discussions and dialogues about many issues concerning regional security, such as terrorism and cyber security, and many of them called for strengthened cooperation of all countries for win-win outcomes.

A Chinese military delegation attended this year's Shangri-La Dialogue for the first time after China launched the national defense and military reform. Under new circumstances, the international community was watching closely what message the Chinese military was going to deliver.

Admiral Sun Jianguo, deputy chief of the Joint Staff Department of China's Central Military Commission (CMC), gave a speech titled "Strengthen Asia-Pacific Security Cooperation and Promote Regional Security Governance" at the dialogue on the morning of June 5. In his speech, Admiral Sun introduced China's and Chinese military's policies, practices and proposals.

Giving up "Cold War" mentality, promoting regional peace

The Asia Pacific boasts the fastest-growing economy, greatest potential and most active cooperation in the world, but security governance in the region obviously lags behind its economic growth. Here the Cold War mentality doesn't vanish along with the end of the Cold War, but has developed in certain aspects.

The intensified military alliance and deployments have brought factors of insecurity to the region, and sowing discord and playing favorites has kept escalating disputes over territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests that have been kept under good control for many years. Those actions have seriously challenged regional peace, stability and prosperity.

Admiral Sun urged all nations to follow the trend of times centered on peace and development, keep to the right direction of security governance, abandon the zero-sum mentality, and replace confrontation with cooperation and domination with win-win development. He also stressed that a nation should accommodate other nations' reasonable concerns while pursuing its own interests and respect other nations' security while safeguarding its own.

Advocating inclusiveness and mutual learning for harmonious co-existence

Diversity is an important trait of the Asia Pacific region, where countries differ greatly from each other in ethnicity, religion, culture, social system, development path and economic level, and they have different perceptions and concerns regarding security issues. In the current international strategic layout characterized by "one super power and multiple large powers", the "one super power" is doubtlessly in a dominant position.

However, if a nation believes its own social system is the "ultimate system" and rejects all other systems, its own development concept is "universal" and despises all other concepts, and its own security judgment is absolutely correct and imposes it on other nations, that's a sign of its disrespect to civilization diversity and national disparity.

Sun Jianguo called for efforts to promote the communication and mutual learning among different civilizations and consolidate the foundation for security governance, so as to make the Asia Pacific region an example for the peaceful co-existence of different civilizations. He added that China objects to linking terrorism with specific religions and civilizations and upholds harmony without uniformity.

Upholding mutual understanding and accommodation in managing and controlling divergences and crisis

Asia Pacific is faced with many security issues, including those left from history, such as the confrontation on the Korean Peninsula, disputes over territorial islands and reefs, such as the East China Sea and South China Sea issues, and non-traditional security issues, such as international terrorism and the proliferation of weapon of mass destruction (WMD).

As the U.S. has been implementing the strategy of "Rebalance to Asia Pacific" in recent years, some hot issues have escalated, and the international community generally has two ideas of how to solve them. One is stepping up military activities, maintaining military pressure, and forcing the other side to give in through "containment"; and the other is upholding the security outlook featuring inclusiveness, sharing, cooperation and sustainability in order to push for a peaceful solution.

According to Sun Jianguo, countries should show mutual understanding and accommodation through dialogue and consultation and innovate in the concept of security governance. When it comes to complicated regional hotspots, concerned parties should keep calm, keep to peaceful actions, mitigate the tension by enhancing mutual trust, and defuse the crisis through political approaches. On the premise of safeguarding national sovereignty, security and development interests, the Chinese military is committed to joint risk management and control and peaceful settlement of disputes.

He noted that the current escalation of the South China Sea issue is intentionally caused by individual countries for their own interests. The South China Sea arbitration case unilaterally initiated by the Philippines is a political provocation in the disguise of law, and its essence is negating China's territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests in the South China Sea and covering up the Philippines' illegal occupation of certain maritime features of China's Nansha Islands.

Sun stressed that America's muscle flexing in the South China Sea is intended to gather allies and support them in confronting China. China never wishes to make trouble, but it's not afraid when trouble comes its way. China will not allow the infringement upon its sovereignty and security interests, or stand by when few trouble makers mess up the South China Sea region.

Stepping out of zero-sum game, improving mechanisms

For a long period the Asia Pacific has lacked a security framework that covers the whole region, and it is the United States' bilateral security alliance that is actually taking the lead in regional security affairs. Taking form in the early period of the Cold War, this system has inherent defects.

As the U.S. is busy ganging up in the international community and its actions are clearly targeting a third party, it has caused division in the Asia Pacific while preserving the security interests of itself and its allies, driven up the regional military expenditure, and eventually put itself and its allies in a "security dilemma" that the harder they try, the less secure they are.

According to Sun Jianguo, the key to developing a security architecture suitable to the region and strengthening the security governance mechanism is abandoning the Cold War mentality, deepening and expanding security cooperation featuring no-conflict, no-confrontation, no targeting a third party, mutual benefit and win-win result. He proposed to blaze out a new path of "dialogue rather than confrontation, partnership rather than alliance", so as to fundamentally solve security issues that have bothered Asia Pacific nations for a long time.

Sun Jianguo also refuted U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter's "self-isolation" claims about China that he made in a previous speech. Sun said China's initiatives such as the Belt and Road and the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank have been extensively and highly spoken of by the international community, and more and more countries and international organizations have made objective and unbiased statements in support of China's position on the South China Sea issue.

By Senior Colonel Zhao Xiaozhuo, director of Center on China-America Defense Relations of the PLA Academy of Military Science.

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