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Qiao Liang Speech: Regional Power with Global Influence

[Editor’s Note: Qiao Liang is a China Air Force Major General, a professor at Air Force Command College, and the Deputy Secretary General of the National Security Policy Study Commission under the China Society for Policy Study, a state-run think tank. In his speech “China’s Strategic Position and Relationship with Big Powers,” he described a “Proxy Containment” strategy adopted by the U.S. toward China, proposed a strategic position for China – regional power with global influence, and ranked the most important international relationships China should deal with. The following are excerpts from the article published on Xinhua. Titles and subtitles were added by the editor.] [1]

The U.S.’ International Status and “Proxy Containment”

 “… Due to the decline of the U.S.’ position (in the world) and shrinkage of its real power, there appears to be a power vacuum in the international arena. For some of the power vacuum, we should fill in; for some, the Americans want us to fill in; and for some, the Americans do not expect us to fill in. In the vacuum where they don’t expect us to fill in and they don’t have the power to fill in as before, they will create some power to fill in. This is what I called ‘Proxy Containment.’ When Americans cannot take care of these issues, they will encourage the countries in opposition to or in conflict with you to step in to contain you on behalf of the U.S. In incidents such as the South China Sea and the China-India border issue, the Americans attempted to ally with Indian and Southeast Asian countries, creating a possibility of ‘Proxy Containment.’ In the past, the U.S. has waged proxy wars. My judgment is that the Americans will use a ‘Proxy Containment’ strategy toward China.”

The U.S. Financial Colonization and China’s National Strategy

 “… Today, we will start to discuss the rise of the nation. However, what kind of great nation do we want to become, a weak great nation or a strong great nation? It is not clear at all! All the big powers in the world have ended up with the destiny of empire, including the U.S. The U.S. had already learned all the lessons from all the empires in history. Why would I say so? Britain’s colonial history told the U.S. that the old way of the empire enslaving the world would not work. Therefore, Americans created a new way – financial colonization. It is not like Britain that turned the world’s countries into its colonies for resources. Instead, it turned all countries into its financial colonies. Many countries first benefited from the U.S. ‘Marshall Plan.’ The strategy of this plan was to feed the sheep before you cut the wool, suck the milk, and eat the meat. … In one word, you will come back to feed the U.S.”

 “As a financial colonial empire, the U.S. has accomplished the colonization of the entire world financially, or financial globalization. However, the U.S. has neglected a point. This explains that the U.S. is inexperienced as a financial colonial empire. It is that the U.S. believes that as long as it occupies the commanding height of the world economy, it can control the world once and forever. It has ignored that any country must be based upon its real economic power. Equating its financial power with the real economy is the biggest mistake that the U.S. has ever made, and today the Americans are starting to suffer from the devastating consequences of that mistake.”

 “Having learned the lessons from the U.S., China must reflect upon the path to take. This is the question that we have not thought through thoroughly until today. Our nation lacks a clear strategic position. We haven’t even sorted out a short or medium term strategy. What should our position be? Since we have already understood the real intention that western countries want us to become a responsible great nation, it is impossible for us not take any responsibility to became an influential great nation. In the meantime, we understand that we are not capable of many responsibilities in the short run. We should position ourselves as a ‘regional power with global influence.’ This will enable us to take responsibility in the region, but it will not be necessary to take any global responsibility that we are not capable of.”

 “In addition, we need to ‘base ourselves in Asia,’ which allows us not to exclude the U.S. completely, as it is just impossible to get anything done if we exclude the Americans. Any ambitious country might fail because of being too anxious. So let’s include the U.S., ‘take the foothold in Asia, and radiate (our influence) to the world.’”

Big Power Relationships and Geopolitical Strategies

“… In my opinion, there are only two most important relationships for today’s China: one is the Sino-U.S. relationship because it is a relationship that you cannot exclude when handling any business or other relationship. The influence of the U.S. is so big that it is the most important. The second one is the relationship with resource rich countries. As China is the world’s number one manufacturing nation, and the path we choose for our ascent as a major power is manufacturing, our development will not be possible without obtaining resources and energy from the globe. Therefore, we must get along very well with all resource rich countries. We take gas and oil from Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Iran, Kazakhstan, and from Russia. We take iron ore from Australia. Relations with all these resource rich countries are important. We must get along with them well. Let them fully benefit from China’s development, but not pursue predatory acquisition. Getting along with them and winning their support will guarantee our status as the top manufacturing nation. Handling these two relations well is more important than other relations.”

 “Moreover, I would like to talk a little bit about geographic strategy. What I want to stress is that we should not care too much about the so-called full-moon shape that surrounds China. In fact, geographic strategy is no longer a decisive influence strategic factor in the world. Several emerging forces are exerting strategic influence in today’s world: finance, the Internet, public opinion, and strikes from outer space. These four forces will decide the world’s future trend. Of course, geopolitical influences are not dispensable. We just don’t need to be nervous on this too much and overreact. Whenever someone says that the hostile forces have pulled up the full-moon shape encirclement ring around us, we feel all the enemies are here and we are trapped. In fact, as long as we use smart diplomatic leverage, all these issues will be resolved. The key is that our diplomacy should embody good strategy backed up by real power.”

[1] Xinhua, February 2, 2010
[2] “摸着石头过河,” translated as “crossing the river by feeling the stones.” It is widely believed to have been first proposed by Deng Xiaoping in the late 1970’s to describe the regime’s learning by doing process when building “socialism with Chinese characteristics” as exploring something new.