Military reform measures rolled out by Chinese President Xi Jinping in late November have stirred intense scrutiny abroad.
The news has brought up concerns by some foreign media over China's possible hawkish intentions. In light of recent territorial disputes over the South Chinese Seas, signs of a streamlined and modernized military, navy and air-force added fuel to a contentious question: Will China seek hegemony in Asia, and will the relationship between the United States and China be affected?
Those who suspect China of seeking hegemony through the current round of military reforms are overreacting. It is natural that any country, China included, would want to safeguard its national interests. Invading other countries, however, is simply not what Chinese people want. Influenced by Confucian thoughts of harmony and filial piety, the Chinese have advocated peace and cooperation amongst themselves. As Xi harks back toward traditional values, and encourages Chinese people to take up the mantle of Confucius, it is no surprise that these ideas have spread into the army. Soldiers are tasked with an important role--maintaining the peaceful interests of their home, family and friends. Logically, they must modernize in order to fulfill their responsibilities to the best of their capabilities.
Over the past 150 years, China has suffered under foreign aggression, ultimately bringing the downfall of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). China's comparatively weak military during that era was partly to blame for the catastrophes that befell the country. At its prime national strength, China was at peace with the rest of the world. However, when China fell behind in terms of national strength, its counterparts around the world bullied it with improved weaponry.
Since China launched the reform and opening-up policy in the late 1970s, the nation's economy has achieved rapid growth. The frequent trade and mutual investment made between China and other countries and the globalization of the world economy require a strong army in order to protect the country's wealth and interests. Currently, the Chinese army is far from satisfying such demands. Therefore, China must bolster its army in order to meet the safety conditions of economic development.
As one of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, China is expected to shoulder obligations proportionate to its size including cracking down on pirates, carrying out search and rescue missions, peacekeeping, disaster relief, anti-terrorism and enforcing the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons. From this perspective, the Chinese military also needs to improve its capabilities to take part in global operations under the UN framework.
China takes its responsibility as the largest country in Asia seriously. Japan's recent reinterpretation of its constitution in September that enables them to exercise their right to collective self-defense suggests that the country is once again endorsing militarism. Given Japan's history of military aggression, that obviously puts China on notice. Furthermore, tensions caused by action in the South China Sea have put China and the United States at odds, at the same time that the United States supports Japan's militarization without hesitation.
Conditions such as these require China to upgrade its army to ensure military preparedness for its own protection. But it is worth restating that China is not interested in conflict.
It is understandable that the international community shows interest in China's military policies as the country continues to grow in power. China's increase in military spending a few years ago had also spurred similar concerns among some Western media, prompting calls for financial transparency.
These worries are unnecessary. China's military strategies have always been clear, as stated by spokesman of the Ministry of National Defense Yang Yujun: "China will always adopt a defensive national defense policy and pursue a path of peaceful development. The Chinese army will always strive to firmly maintain world peace and regional stability."
Copyedited by Bryan Michael Galvan
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