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
- First and foremost, the issue of the time frame of the transition era itself is uncertain. At what rate is the world moving toward multipolarity, how long will the transition last? Predictions range from vague forecasts about early next century, to more long-range outlooks of several decades.
- There is a question of whether or not the world is actually in a transition period, or if the current era, where there is "one superpower and four powers," can itself be actually described as a world structure.
The Pace of U.S. Decline
- Closely related to the issue of the rate of multipolarization, is the question of the pace of U.S. decline. The eventual U.S. fall from its current superpower status to become one of the equal poles in the future security environment is a given, a premise that is not debated. However, how long this process of decline will take is not a certainty. On one end of the spectrum authors argue that the United States is currently in a serious decline and that its power is weakening; at the other end, there is the view that the United States will be able to maintain its current supremacy for several decades. As was discussed in chapter one, after the NATO strikes in Yugoslavia and the bombing of the Chinese Embassy in spring 1999, a new feature was added to the debate when some authors began to predict that there would be further increases in U.S. power.
- The type of decline the United States is experiencing is described and depicted in different ways. As was seen in chapter two, there is a question of whether current U.S. decline is actual, or is merely relative when compared to the rise of other countries. A similar issue was manifested in the chapter on CNP, where the scores of Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) had U.S. CNP declining through 2020; versus Academy of Military Science (AMS) scores which had U.S. CNP increasing through 2020, but showed that the CNP of other countries was rising at much faster rates.
- Will the United States lose its allies? One of the key factors described as contributing to U.S. decline is that its relationships with Japan and Europe will deteriorate, and direct conflicts and struggles will eventually break up the partnerships. In chapter one, Yang Dazhou argues that the United States will maintain its alliances. However, although they differ in how long they expect it will take for friction to cause the alliances to crumble, in the views of most of the authors presented in chapter two, fierce rivalries are inevitable.
The Future Powers
- Who will be the poles in the future multipolar world? This question involves several issues. The first deals with the potential strength of the European nations--will Germany grow powerful enough to constitute a pole in its own right, or can that role be only held by the European Union? Another question is how many poles there will be in the multipolar structure? The most common premise put forward is that there will be five poles--the United States, China, Japan, Russia, and Europe. However, some analysts debate about what the role of the Third World will be. India in particular, as was discussed in chapter four, is the subject of opposing views over whether it will gain enough strength to become a potential pole.
- What will be the rank order of the major nations in the future multipolar world? In terms of comprehensive national power, will there actually be equality in the future multipolar world? Whose power will increase most rapidly during the transition period? Chapter five illustrated that the quantitative assessments of CNP conducted by CASS and AMS, as well as other individual analysts, result in very different pictures of the future security environment.
The Roles of Japan and Russia
- The main issue of debate concerning Japan is whether or not it will become a militarist power. Chinese analysts differ in whether they consider Japanese culture and society to be inherently militarist, or whether it is only conservatives in the government and some right-wing segments of society that want to lead the country back down the "road to militarism." Will the country's drive to be a world power and its growing military force affect its democracy and foreign policy? Will the general public be able to contain the portion of Japanese society and politics that advocates extreme nationalism?
- During the current transition period, Russia is generally described by Chinese as facing numerous dangers to its security environment, however, authors analyze very differently Russia's responses and ability to deal with these threats. Some analysts depict Russia as passive and weak in the face of NATO expansion (there are even some warnings about the danger of Russia losing its foundation for being a pole); while others see Russia as taking a stand and adopting countermeasures against the United States and NATO.
- Regional wars and turbulence are expected to be constant features of the transition era, but will there be another world war? One of the common themes continuously repeated by Chinese authors is that "peace and development are the main trend" of the times, and that a major global war will not occur. However, after the Kosovo crisis and the bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade in spring 1999, the potential for a WWIII was mentioned by several authors.
- While it is generally accepted that regional wars will be prevalent during the transition period, their characteristics are subject to debate. Where will they occur? Where will be the major hot spots--Central and Eastern Europe, Africa, Central Asia, the Asia-Pacific? Who will be involved? Will there be wars among the major powers? Will China be involved in these wars, or even worse, will China be a source of war?
- Related to the questions of where the wars will occur, what they will be about, and what participants will be involved, is the issue of what kinds of war they will be. Will the doctrines of the People's War School, the Local War School, or the RMA School be needed to deal with these contingencies?
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 rate of relative decline of the sole superpower, the United States
- The types of local wars that may break out
- The precise hierarchy of major powers in 2010 or 2020, "scientifically" ranked according to the indices of Comprehensive National Power (CNP)
- Whether Japan or India will inevitably fall under control of militaristic leaders.
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:
- The United States arranging the Bosnian settlement at Dayton to dominate further its European NATO allies.
- The United States forcing Japan to increase its financial support for U.S. bases and forces in Japan under the guise of the Defense Guidelines, so that it can challenge the Russian and Chinese spheres of influence from the east, while NATO challenges them from the west.
- Japan seeking to embroil the Unites States and China in a struggle that will weaken both Washington and Beijing.
- NATO air strikes against Yugoslavia in spring 1999 as a part of a U.S. plan to gain control over Eurasia.
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:
- "As the world moves toward a multipolar . . . five pole world, when the United States and the Soviet Union are considering problems, they must think about the China factor, and also the other poles."
- Japan "only wants to strive to be on equal footing with the United States economically and politically, but further, it is deliberately planning, when the time is ripe, to surpass the United States, replacing America's world economic hegemony. Once it has economic hegemony, political and military hegemony would not be too difficult."
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:
- The pace of the decline of the United States
- The rate of the rise of "multipolarity"
- Whether the U.S. will lose its allies
- What the future role of Third World nations will be.
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:
- The United States will maintain its superpower status for at least three decades.
- The United States will maintain its alliances with Japan and Germany.
- There will not be a period of "uncertainty" in the next two or three decades.
- There will not be an extended transition period featuring a trend toward multipolarity.
- A "pluralistic" world structure of "one superpower and four powers" already exists.
- Only the United States is really a "pole" able to decide key issues in any region, as in the Dayton Accords. "The United States plays a leading role that no other nation can replace . . . the only country that is a 'pole.' "
- China "does not have sufficient qualifications to be a 'pole.' "
- For more than 20 years, no other nations, including those in the Third World, will emerge as major powers to challenge the five strongest, therefore the phrase used by many analysts " 'one super many strong' is actually not appropriate."
- It is not likely large local wars will break out among nations.
General Huang quoted passages from Yang's article without directly citing it and reasserted the orthodox view on each of these points:
- U.S. decline is inevitable and continuing; U.S. global influence is already severely limited.
- Five-pole multipolarity is inevitable, especially as friction grows between the United States and Japan and Germany (as proved by the new summits between the European Union and Asia, which excluded the declining United States).
- The rise of the Third World has transformed world politics and will continue to restrain the United States.
- Local wars are certain, even though " 'peace and development' is the main trend" during the transitional period of uncertainty in the decades ahead.
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:
- China's forecasted energy needs will be enormous in 2020, which could make China vulnerable to the United States. Therefore, one author urges that China's energy must be sought through pipelines to Russia and Central Asia. He asserts that China's relative military superiority in ground forces can better protect these energy assets than if China purchases oil from the Persian Gulf and must rely on sealanes threatened by American or Japanese naval forces.
- President Jiang Zemin has issued traditional-style, poetic statements in sets of 16 Chinese characters that continue Deng's advice to avoid confrontation with the hegemon.
- Under Jiang Zemin, an additional set of writings (five books in 1996-97) has advocated that China's military programs be focused on the potential revolution in military affairs (RMA) rather than on improving current weapons. According to these books, the potential RMA will not "mature" until at least 2030, by which time Chinese military authors calculate that China (or possibly Japan) will score highest in the world in CNP and be well positioned, as General Mi Zhenyu has written, to "get ahead of all the others."
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:
- The current multipolar world is "amazingly" similar to the Warring States era.
- Ancient statecraft is useful and has been blessed by a commission of China's generals.
- As during the Warring States era, there is currently a great danger to national survival from deception and from falling victim to "strategic deception" by a major power. The United States and Japan are particularly active in strategic misdirection (zhanlue wudao). Chinese analysts maintain that the U.S. deception that caused Moscow to overspend on defense was a factor in the Soviet collapse, and Washington may even have tricked Saddam into invading Kuwait, according to the Vice President of the Academy of Military Science. Articles by two senior analysts at the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations and one at CASS assert that Japan may attempt strategic misdirection of the United States toward conflict with China, in order to mask its own ambitions of surpassing and replacing the United States as the world hegemon.
- In the Warring States era, successful leaders could divine the future and see through their rivals' conspiracies.
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:
- As the United States and Russia reduce nuclear forces, China will attain nuclear equivalence.
- U.S. "digitization" and other initial RMA efforts cannot be completed until 2050, by which time other nations will have surpassed the United States in the RMA competition.
- The United States will be involved in regional wars in the 21st century.
- China may have to use force if the U.S. attempts to "dismember" Taiwan, Tibet, or Xinjiang.
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:
- Attempting to limit Russia's recovery and access to resources
- Practicing limited containment of China's rising influence
- Fomenting conflict between China and Japan
- Investing (too slowly) in a potential RMA
- Using the Bosnia conflict to maintain domination of Europe
- Falsely spreading the China Threat Theory in ASEAN
- Seeking military bases and new NATO allies in Central Asia
- Aiding separatist movements in Tibet, Taiwan, and Xinjiang.
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:
- The status hierarchy in world politics
- The power of potential rivals and potential partners
- Who will best exploit the RMA
- Which side will win a war
- The trend toward world multipolarity and U.S. decline.
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 U.S. quantitative power score by 2010 shows a decreasing gap between the United States and the other major powers.
- By 2020, the U.S. CNP score will equal China's, assuming China's power growth rate continues to be 5.8 percent, double the U.S. rate of 2.7 percent.
- Germany and Japan will also have higher CNP growth rates than the United States and will become the third- and fourth-ranking world powers after the United States and China in 2020.
- If these growth rates are extended another decade or so, China, Japan, and Germany will all three equal or surpass the United States in CNP.
The civilian team's "reformist" results contradict the orthodox view about an emerging multipolar structure, however:
- China's power score will be only about half the United States by 2010 and 2020.
- Japan by 2010 will equal the United States.
- Japan will score 20 percent higher than the United States in 2020.
- China in 2020 will be seventh, behind the United States, Japan, Germany, France, Italy, and even South Korea in CNP.
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:
- Wants to restrain China's rising influence
- Seeks to foment conflict between the United States and China
- Will continue to have a militaristic strategic culture
- Will struggle for resources in Central Asia and Siberia against the United States and Russia
- Will have ever increasing conflicts with both Europe and the United States
- Will develop nuclear weapons eventually, and earlier if Korea obtains them
- Seeks (covertly) to become the military equivalent of the United States.
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.
- China forecasts that Russia will return to the ranks of the top five powers in the future security environment.
- Some nationalistic Chinese authors like He Xin propose that China must form a long-term strategic partnership with Russia in order to balance the rise of a militaristic Japan.
- One orthodox senior analyst explains the geopolitical thinking involved: "Russia needs to rely on China. Because both the United States and Japan regard Russia as a potential force to reduce their influence in the Asia-Pacific region, and Japan has territorial disputes with Russia, Chinese-Russian cooperation can, to a great extent, resist U.S. and Japanese forces, as well as maintain the power balance in Asia." (640)
- Russia has advantages, such as its potential partnership with China and advanced military concepts and technology, that cause China to assess the Russians as far more likely to successfully exploit the RMA than the United States. One military author argues, "Russia will use the RMA to maintain its military superiority . . . and is secretly taking aim at America's commanding position in the RMA." (641) Another military author states that the Russian General Staff Academy is focusing on the RMA. (642)
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.
- Investments Recommended by the RMA Advocates. Since at least 1994, RMA visionaries (represented in numerous articles and five books in 1997) have been calling for China to attempt to leapfrog the United States in the next two decades by investing mainly in the most exotic advanced military technology and in new doctrines and new organizations along the lines of American and Russian writings on a potential RMA. Judging by the tone of the authors in this RMA School, they have not been very successful.
- Investments Recommended by the Power Projection Advocates. A second reformist school of thought, identified by its use of the concept of local war, or power projection, has advocated evolutionary reforms. These evolutionary reformers are caught between the traditional conservatives, who currently have the lion's share of the investment budget, and the RMA advocates, who appear to be championing unrealistic goals in the eyes of the Local War reformers.
- Local War advocates, while satisfied at the current direction of defense investment, seem discontented about the level of funding the central government is providing.
- Investments Recommended by the People's War Advocates. A third school of thought probably still commands the lion's share of Chinese defense investment. It still endorses the concept of People's War, or Active Defense, and opposes troop cuts and the purchase of foreign weapons systems. The People's War school may not be completely antagonistic to the reforms of the Local War advocates regarding limited power projection, as long as the expense does not compromise the large standing army and a suitable defense mobilization base and does not lead to dependence on foreign weapons or foreign technology.
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.
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.