Global Insights: Parsing China’s Defense White Paper

Global Insights: Parsing China’s Defense White Paper

The Chinese government recently released a white paper on national defense, continuing its trend of publishing documents that provide additional details about the evolving nature of Beijing's defense programs as well as their underlying justifications. Nonetheless, the information still pales in comparison to that made available by the U.S. Department of Defense on the Internet. Except for a few classified "black programs," the department gives independent researchers (and foreign governments) substantial information about the characteristics of current and planned defense policy and weapons programs.

"China's National Defense in 2008" contains the usual stock phrases found in the other security white papers that have appeared periodically since 1995, designed to reassure readers about China's peaceful rise. The paper stresses that, despite China's growing economic and military capabilities, "China will never seek hegemony or engage in military expansion now or in the future, no matter how developed it becomes." Instead, Beijing "will persist in pursuing the new security concept featuring mutual trust, mutual benefit, equality and coordination, and advocating the settlement of international disputes and hot-spot issues by peaceful means." Notwithstanding its military buildup, "China pursues a national defense policy which is purely defensive in nature."

Yet, the authors are clearly aware of foreign criticisms that their past publications offer rich generalities about China's good intentions but few specifics about its actual capabilities. American, Japanese, and other officials have repeatedly called on the Chinese government to make its defense plans and programs more transparent in order to minimize misunderstandings about China's intentions. These experts caution that Beijing's excessive military secrecy has alarmed its neighbors and impeded China's integration into regional security institutions.

Keep reading for free!

Get instant access to the rest of this article by submitting your email address below. You'll also get access to three articles of your choice each month and our free newsletter:

Or, Subscribe now to get full access.

Already a subscriber? Log in here .

What you’ll get with an All-Access subscription to World Politics Review:

A WPR subscription is like no other resource — it’s like having a personal curator and expert analyst of global affairs news. Subscribe now, and you’ll get:

  • Immediate and instant access to the full searchable library of tens of thousands of articles.
  • Daily articles with original analysis, written by leading topic experts, delivered to you every weekday.
  • Regular in-depth articles with deep dives into important issues and countries.
  • The Daily Review email, with our take on the day’s most important news, the latest WPR analysis, what’s on our radar, and more.
  • The Weekly Review email, with quick summaries of the week’s most important coverage, and what’s to come.
  • Completely ad-free reading.

And all of this is available to you when you subscribe today.