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Chinese State Media on the Change in U.S. Military Strategy

[Editor’s Note: After President Obama announced the change in military strategy on January 5, 2012, Chinese media published a series of comments about the new U.S. strategy of “targeting China.” Rear Admiral Yang Yi, a researcher at the National Defense University Institute for Strategic Studies, stated in a commentary in People’s Daily that China is the “protector” of regional peace and the U.S. is the “troublemaker.” [1] A Huanqiu editorial suggested that China use Iran both to counter the U.S. and to gain more time for economic development in order to beat the U.S. [2] The following are translations of the two articles.]

I. Rear Admiral Yang Yi: The U.S. Is Creating Turmoil in the Asia-Pacific Region

On January 5, 2012, President Obama held a press conference at the Pentagon with Defense Secretary Panetta and General Martin E. Dempsey, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. They announced “Sustaining U.S. Global Leadership: Priorities for 21st Century Defense,” the new military strategic guideline for the U.S. This indicates that the Obama administration is focusing on the U.S. military strategic adjustment. The new guideline clearly lists China and Iran as the U.S. targets.

In recent years, the important factors that have constrained the U.S. defense strategy and its military strategy are the U.S. overextending its frontier, a lack of capacity, and conflicts between its overly-ambitious desire to dominate the world and its limited resources. The financial crisis and the economic recession, along with two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, have weakened its overall national strength. The U.S. is indeed stretched too thin for the challenges it faces. In 2010, the U.S. national security strategy report established the goal of restoring U.S. global leadership and the strategic approach of “domestic development and rebuilding overseas.” Since then, the U.S. has strengthened its strategic position in the Asia Pacific region significantly. Its starting point was to stir up the regional security issue in order to generate “chaos” and to create a fear of China in other countries so that the U.S. would be invited to return to Asia and march to the East.”

Since 2010, the U.S. has successfully used the incident of (South Korea’s) sinking the Cheonan ship and (North Korea’s) bombardment of Yeonpyeong to improve its relations with Japan, strengthen South Korea’s dependence (on the U.S.), and create a poor environment for China. In the meantime, the U.S. mounted a high profile intervention in the South China Sea dispute and encouraged the Philippines and other countries to take a hard line against China. It just wanted to create chaos in the area. The U.S. criticized China for the legitimate buildup of its military capability. It used the excuse of countering a “denial of access” (to China’s offshore areas) and “regional denial (of the U.S.)” to implement its “Air-Sea Battle” concept. Throughout all of this, it tried to stimulate new competition in the area of security and to undermine our regional peace, stability, and prosperity.

The release of the new U.S. military strategic guideline indicates that its military deployment in the Asia-Pacific region has shifted from the strategic planning phase into strategic implementation. What impact will its high-profile deployment have on the region? The U.S. publicly declares itself the “provider” of “public security products,” and (it does this to counter) the “unclear strategic intention of China’s military modernization,” which is simply deceitful logic designed to confuse cause and effect.

We can clearly recall that, in the past few years when the U.S. was busy fighting the “war against terrorism” and did not pay much attention to Asia, the Asian region, particularly East Asia, was a model of stability, peace, and prosperity. Regional economic cooperation, highlighted by 10+1 (10 ASEAN countries plus China) and 10+3 (10 ASEAN countries plus China, South Korea, and Japan), greatly facilitated the improvement of the region’s economy, security, and political relations. Since 2009, with the U.S. high-profile “return to Asia,” a variety of events that threaten regional security have emerged, and regional turmoil has taken over. Anyone with even a little understanding of strategy can easily see who is the real “protector” of regional security and who is the real “troublemaker.” The U.S. economic recovery is weak. “Lack of money” has made it hard (for countries to) welcome the U.S. “return to Asia” strategy. Thus, the U.S. created conflicts and chaos in the region, so that it could sell arms and seek economic benefits while the countries in the region seek “security protection.”

With more U.S. warships and aircraft being active in the Asian region, regional security is likely to be more volatile. The U.S. strategic plan may fail if more countries in the region gradually come to realize its true intention.

II. Huanqiu Editorial: The U.S. Uses Military and Political Weapons to Deter China’s Successful Economic Development

The Pentagon released a new U.S. military strategic guideline. (It stated that) the U.S. will reduce its defense spending over the next 10 years and change its goal from “winning two regional wars simultaneously” to winning one major war while still being able to meet and deter any aggressive designs by a second adversary. Overall, this is a strategy of contraction, but the Asia-Pacific region commands a higher position in U.S. strategy. Pentagon officials said that the main targets of this strategic adjustment are Iran and China.

This strategic adjustment on the part of the U.S. should awaken us. The U.S. strategic fixation on China as its rival is impossible to change. All the efforts we have made to improve the Sino-U.S. relationship can no longer offset the great anxiety generated in the U.S. over China’s rise. From now on, only our real power—which means no attempts to “please” or “implore”—will be able to earn a friendly gesture from the U.S.

There is no historical precedent for the current Sino-U.S. game. Globalization and the close Sino-U.S. economic relationship have made it impossible for the U.S. to implement a real strategic blockade against China. Thus it is also easier for China to counter any roadblocks the U.S. may try to implement. China needs to adapt to the new situation, to set the forestalling of any U.S. strategic deterrence of China as one of its most important diplomatic goals, to unite all its possible allies, and to make sure that it at least maintains a strategic lead over the U.S.

With the rapid growth of its national power and interests, China does not need to make its opposition to the U.S. the sole focus of its diplomacy, yet its cooperation or conflicts with other countries should not interfere with its overall strategic position against the U.S. Not only should China’s diplomats keep this in mind, but the Chinese people also need to understand it.

The recent U.S. strategic adjustment once again reminds us that Iran is very important to China. Whether we like that country or not, its existence as well as its significance in our diplomatic positioning have made (Iran) an important piece (for China to use) to deter the U.S. Chinese society should not base its preference for Iran on American cultural and social political values.

The U.S. sees containing China’s capability of “denying access” as a focus of its strategic adjustment. China does not need to engage in a tit for tat strategy, yet we should take some actions to increase the difficulty for the U.S. to implement its containment strategy. In addition, China should continue to gradually widen the circle of the Sino-U.S. combat area, enhance its long-range military strike capability, and develop its military capacity to directly threaten U.S. territory. China should use facts to let the U.S. understand that it cannot raise its hand to hold back China’s rise and that a friendly Sino-U.S. relationship is most effective and cost-effective for the U.S. national interest.

Strategic relations with the U.S. are critical for China’s future and destiny. We may still have time to adjust our policies if we make mistakes in dealing with certain other countries, but any significant deviation from the correct Sino-U.S. policy may lead China down a wrong path. Therefore, when dealing with the U.S., China must not be impulsive, nor can it cling to stereotypes or rely on fantasy instead of reality.

When making comprehensive plans against the U.S., we should see that China’s rapid economic rise is by far the greatest force in changing the balance of power between China and the U.S. It is also the area that worries the U.S the most and where the U.S. has difficulty determining how to react. Hence, it is an area where it is hard for the U.S. to be direct in criticizing China. On the other hand, China’s military development is an area that will enable other countries to find many more excuses to suppress us. Regarding the competition between the U.S. and China, the longer it stays in the economic arena and the wider the arena extends, the better it is for China.

The rise and fall in economic strength reflects the “growing trend” for the U.S. and China. It is both the starting point and the end point for the competition between modern great powers, although military and political factors will always be a powerful tool to interrupt or reverse such a “trend.” We must be aware of this kind of interruption or reversal on the part of the U.S. Of course, we want to prevent a new Cold War with the U.S., but we also should avoid sacrificing the security perimeter around China in exchange for our primary competitor’s peace of mind in Asia. Such a sacrifice, along with a new Cold War, would be equally bad for China.

[1] People’s Daily Online, “Yang Yi: What Is the Goal of the New U.S. Military Strategy?” January 7, 2012.
[2] Huanqiu, “Be Alert to U.S.’ Interruption or the Trend in Asia-Pacific Development,” January 6, 2012.