We must pay close attention to two premises when studying the security order in the Asia-Pacific region
First, different judgments on the characteristics of the times will lead to different security concepts and behaviors, and form different strategic choices and historical trajectories. China believes that the world has entered an era of peace and development. Peace, development, cooperation and mutual benefit have become an irresistible historical trend. However, the US believes that the world has returned to the era of competition among major powers, and it must follow the “America first” value orientation to seek comprehensive advantages in strategic competition and confrontation.
Second, the strong uncertainty demonstrated by the US in the security field, as well as its contempt for international rules and the brutal interference in the internal affairs of other countries, will lead to or exacerbate the complexity of regional hotspot issues, disrupt the normal pace of regional economic development, and offset the efforts of Asia-Pacific countries for regional security.
Priority defined: maintaining independence while seeking security
Pluralism and co-existence are the most obvious features among countries in the Asia-Pacific region. The national security will be difficult to safeguard without political, economic and military independence.
Independence is mainly embodied in three levels. In the first level is the right to independently choose the development path and model that suit the best. One model can’t solve the problems of all countries, and it will be unacceptable if it is implemented blindly or imposed on other countries. In second, it is the ability to resolve domestic or intra-regional security issues, which means relying on their own strength or independently solving domestic and foreign problems within the bilateral or multilateral framework. Any military alliance is a double-edged sword which leads to alienation of sovereignty to some extent and will undermine the balance of regional strategic forces. In third level is the ability to unequivocally reject hegemonism and unilateralism. The Chinese people’s handling of the Taiwan question is a matter of national reunification. If there is anything that China will not compromise on or concede to, the Taiwan question is an untouchable bottom line.
Focus confirmed: enhancing the importance of sustainable security
Both history and reality have proved that war and conflicts, terrorism, and immigrant refugee crises can find their roots in poverty and backwardness. Focusing on the theme of development and actively improving people’s livelihood is the fundamental guarantee for political parties to maintain their legal status.
The South China Sea issue is both a security issue and a development issue. Peace and stability in the South China Sea is an important lifeline for ensuring the development of all countries. Disrupting the freedom of navigation in the South China Sea will do no good to China. The political wisdom of China and ASEAN countries in resolving the South China Sea issue is embodied by jointly preserving peace and stability in the South China Sea and working together to achieve “the Code of Conduct (COC) in the South China Sea” to safeguard common security and promote joint development.
The Asia-Pacific region is an important part of the Belt and Road Initiative which has no geopolitical and military strategy considerations. The Belt and Road Initiative objectively aims to create favorable conditions for the development and security of the countries along the route and related countries, promote the modernization and the economic and social development of relevant countries, and continuously contribute to regional security, stability and sustainable development.
Difficulty overcome: build a security community of shared future for the Asia-Pacific
As early as in 1951, an American think tank deduced during the reasoning of the US-Japan Security Treaty. The Americans could feel fairly secure in the presence of a truly friendly Japan and a nominally hostile China, and nothing very bad could happen from this combination. A nominally friendly China and a truly hostile Japan, the damage has been demonstrated by the Pacific War. If it were a hostile China and a hostile Japan, it would be even worse. Traces of this theory can still be seen in America’s latest Indo-Pacific strategy, but today’s China is no longer a nominal US rival or friend.
More crucially, it has long been the US that has defined whether China is friendly or hostile. In the history of China-US exchanges, China is named friendly when the US wants to be friendly to China on an equal footing. When the US rudely interferes in China’s internal affairs or threatens militarily against China, China was accused to be hostile. When the US wants to contain China, while cooperates with China in some respects, China would be described as both hostile and friendly. However, for the US, China has never taken the initiative to define it as an enemy.
In the context of globalization, the security of countries has never been as closely related as it is now. Without global and regional peace and stability, there can be no national security. In the absence of a collective security mechanism in the Asia-Pacific region, building a healthy and stable relationship between major powers will surely become a key link in the joint building of a security community of shared future for Asia-Pacific.
(The author is Retired Major General and Professor of the PLA National Defense University)
Disclaimer: This article is originally published on Global Times, and is translated from Chinese into English and edited by the China Military Online. The information, ideas or opinions appearing in this article do not reflect the views of eng.chinamil.com.cn.