Major Power Perspectives on Peace and Security in the Asia-Pacific

Policy Speech

Lieutenant General Wang Guanzhong

StoryDeputy Chief of the General Staff of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Wang Guanzhong speaks during the fourth plenary session at the 13th International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) Shangri-La Dialogue (SLD) in Singapore on June 1, 2014. Here is the full text of his speech:

Thank you, Dr. Chipman,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I wish to express my sincere appreciation to the host for inviting me to attend the Shangri-La Dialogue 2014. Shangri-La symbolizes a beautiful, serene, harmonious and prosperous dreamland. To live in such a peaceful, tranquil and wonderful world is the shared aspiration of people all across the Asia Pacific. Today, I’d like to take the opportunity to share with you the values, policies and practices of China for maintaining peace and security in the Asia- Pacific region.
Not long ago, the fourth Summit of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia was held in Shanghai, China. At the Summit, Chinese President Xi Jinping put forth the security concept for Asia featuring common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable security. This concept, which is a profound summary of the Asian historical experiences as well as the cherished aspiration for Asia’s future, has been widely acclaimed by the Asian countries. Asia today is in a critical period of development. Asia is increasingly becoming a community of common interest, destiny and responsibility. The stability of Asia is a blessing for world peace and the rejuvenation of Asia is a boon for world development.
The security of China is closely linked to that of Asia. China advocates and implements the security concept for Asia in real earnest, and stands ready to work with other countries to pursue Asian security that is established, shared by, and win-win to all. China is a constructive, proactive and positive force for Asia’s peace and security.
China pursues the path of peaceful development. Peaceful development is a strategic choice as well as a long-term and abiding strategy made by China, based on its historical and cultural traditions, historical experiences, lessons learned in the rise of major powers in the past, the reality of our time and the fundamental interests of China. China sticks to open development, cooperative development and win-win development. China strives for self-development through maintaining a peaceful international environment, and in turn contributes to regional and world peace with its own development. China is committed to building a harmonious Asia as well as an amicable world of lasting peace and common prosperity. China will never contend for or seek hegemony and foreign expansion. China adheres to peaceful development, which is its major contribution to security in Asia. The tremendous achievements of China’s peaceful development constitute a positive factor of critical importance to the security of Asia.
China upholds the banner of fairness and justice. China believes that all countries, regardless of size, wealth or strength, should have the equal rights to independently choose their own social systems and development paths. We need to learn from each other to offset our own shortcomings and oppose interference in other countries’ internal affairs. All countries should enjoy equal participation in regional security affairs. We need to strengthen coordination on the basis of mutual respect, and oppose attempt by any country to dominate regional security affairs. All countries should respect and accommodate the legitimate security concerns of others and enjoy common security through mutual accommodation. We oppose the practices of flexing up military alliances against a third party, resorting to the threat or use of force, or seeking so-called absolute security of one’s own at the cost of the security of others.
China advocates dialogue and cooperation. China upholds that, all countries should enhance strategic mutual trust, reduce misgivings and coexist in harmony through dialogue and communication. We should continuously strengthen and expand areas of cooperation, take innovative approaches, and seek peace and security through cooperation. All countries should respect each other’s sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity, and resolve disputes peacefully through negotiations.
China stands for coordinated progress of security and development. In China’s perspective, development lays the foundation for security, which in turn provides the conditions for development. Development is the most important security and the master key to resolving Asia’s security issues. China pursues a neighborhood diplomacy that aims at bringing harmony, security and prosperity to its neighbors. China practices the principles of amity, sincerity, mutual benefit and inclusiveness. We work to promote the sound interaction between regional economic cooperation and security cooperation, and to maintain both traditional and non-traditional security in a coordinated way. In 2013, China contributed nearly 30% of the world’s economic growth and over 50% of the growth in Asia. China will continue to promote sustainable security through sustainable development, and work together with other countries for lasting peace and prosperity in the region.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
China always pursues a defense policy that is defensive in nature. The PLA is endeavoring to contribute to maintaining regional security.
We actively conduct friendly military exchanges and cooperation with countries in the Asia-Pacific. China’s military-to-military cooperation with other Asia-Pacific countries is showing unprecedented dynamism. We have established defense consultation and dialogue mechanisms with 13 neighboring countries. In recent years, we have held over 50 joint exercises and drills with other Asia-Pacific countries. A sound momentum has been witnessed in high-level visits, professional exchanges and personnel training. Overall, we are enjoying military cooperation in the Asia-Pacific that covers all dimensions, broad areas and multiple levels. We continue to add to the security contents of the comprehensive strategic coordinative partnership with Russia, build towards a new model of military-to-military relationship with the United States, and enhance friendly military security cooperation with India and other major Asia-Pacific countries. The robust military cooperation among major powers plays an important role in maintaining regional security.

We extensively participate in regional multilateral defense and security cooperation. We are actively engaged in security cooperation within Shanghai Cooperation Organization, the Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia, ADMM-plus, the ASEAN Regional Forum and China-ASEAN framework. We make joint efforts to fight terrorism, extremism and separatism, conduct disaster relief operations, safeguard the security of land and sea routes and promote a security architecture in line with the common interests of regional countries. Not long ago, we successfully hosted the biennial meeting of the Western Pacific Naval Symposium. Participants of the meeting agreed on the revised version of the Code for Unalerted Encounters at Sea, contributing to the prevention of accidents at sea in the region.
We are committed to properly handling disputes over territory, sovereignty and maritime rights and interests. China has settled land border demarcation with 12 out of 14 of its neighbors and completed the delimitation of Beibu Gulf with Vietnam. The PLA has set up 64 border meeting stations. Over 2,000 meetings were held between Chinese and neighboring border troops in these stations in 2013. We are actively engaged in maintaining maritime security and stability in the neighboring area. 16 joint patrols of Beibu Gulf have been carried out by China and Vietnam. In 2002, China and ASEAN countries signed the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, and jointly set forth the principle that all disputes over territory and jurisdiction should be resolved peacefully through friendly consultation and negotiations between sovereign states directly involved in the disputes. The PLA actively supports the implementation of the DOC and pushes forward the consultation on the Code of Conduct on the South China Sea, with a view to maintaining security and stability in the South China Sea. While firmly safeguarding its sovereignty and legitimate interests, China has demonstrated utmost sincerity and patience in its commitment to settling disputes peacefully through consultations and negotiations with parties involved. China has never threatened to use force, and has never taken provocative actions. We will never accept provocation by others under the pretext of “Proactive Contribution to Peace” that stirs up tension for their selfish interests.
I would like to depart a bit from my prepared script and share some of my perspectives on the speeches of Prime Minister Abe and Secretary Hagel during the Dialogue. Initially I only planned to deliberate on China’s policies and make proposals in my speech, not to debate or argue with others. But, unfortunately, after hearing their speeches, I have to offer some comments.
After Mr. Abe’s speech, a foreign friend attending that session advised me to “be patient”. After Mr. Hagel’s speech, he again advised me to “be patient”. He said that, as for where a country is heading for, what matters is action rather than rhetoric. I believe that was well and correctly said. But today, I have to apologize to this friend of mine that I still have to say a few words in spite of his two-time advice. I will only make a few remarks, in contrast with the lengthy remarks by Mr. Abe and Mr. Hagel to condemn China. I have two considerations. First, as a Chinese proverb goes, it is not polite not to reciprocate. Second, this dialogue is meant to be a forum for everyone to discuss and speak out. And truth can emerge from discussions and debate. Since Mr. Abe and Mr. Hagel have voiced their views about China, I would like to comment on their views, as a way of discussion.

I think the Chinese delegation, the other Chinese as well as many foreign friends attending that session would share my thoughts that the remarks of Mr. Abe and Secretary Hagel staged provocations to China. A foreign friend of mine told me that it was unimaginable for Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and US Secretary of Defense Mr. Chuck Hagel to make such unwarranted accusations against China. He was right. Those remarks were totally beyond my expectation.
I feel that the speeches of Mr. Abe and Mr. Hagel have been pre-coordinated. They supported and encouraged each other in provoking and challenging China, taking advantage of being the first to speak at the Dialogue. The focus of Mr. Abe’s speech was on China, although he did not name China openly. No matter whether he named China or not and how he tried to whitewash his speech, I believe the entire audience understood that he was targeting China. Mr. Hagel also focused his remarks on China and the entire audience could feel it. Mr. Abe, overtly or covertly, explicitly or implicitly and directly or indirectly condemned China. Mr. Hagel was more frank and straightforward when he made unwanted accusations against China. As for their different approaches and attitude, I would say I prefer those of Mr. Hagel. If you have something to say, say it directly. As an invited government leader, Mr. Abe is supposed to promote peace and security of the Asia-Pacific region with his constructive ideas in line with the principles of the Shangri-la Dialogue. Instead, in violation of those principles, he was trying to stir up disputes and trouble. I do not think this is acceptable or in agreement with the spirit of the Dialogue. Mr. Hagel was more outspoken than I expected. And I personally believe that his speech is a speech with tastes of hegemony, a speech with expressions of coercion and intimidation, a speech with flaring rhetoric that usher destabilizing factors into the Asia-Pacific to stir up trouble, and a speech with unconstructive attitude. Therefore, one can judge from the two speeches, as well as Mr. Abe and Mr. Hagel’s deeds: who is really stirring up trouble and tension in the region and who is initiating disputes and spat? China has never initiated disputes over territorial sovereignty and the delimitation of maritime boundary. China only takes countermeasures against others’ provocation. Moreover, China has never initiated provocations on any bilateral or multilateral occasions or at the Shangri-La Dialogue. Who has initiated the ongoing debate? This is well-known to all. Second, from the speeches of Mr. Abe and Mr. Hagel, we know who is really assertive. Assertiveness has come from the joint actions of the United States and Japan, not China.
Such additional comments are simply my passive, reactive and minimum response. Now I will come back to my prepared speech.
We work hard to deliver public goods of security. In the aftermath of disasters such as the earthquake and tsunami in Japan and Typhoon Haiyan that hit the Philippines, the PLA promptly dispatched professional disaster relief forces and a naval hospital ship to participate in the relief missions. Since early 1990’s, we have participated in 24 UN peacekeeping operations. In 1992, we dispatched the first non-combat unit to Cambodia. In 2013, we committed the first force-protection unit to Mali. In all, the PLA has provided over 25,000 peacekeepers, which makes China the largest TCC among the five permanent members of the UN Security Council. Since the end of 2008, we have dispatched 45 ships in 17 task forces to the Gulf of Aden and waters off Somalia to carry out escorting operations. So far, we have provided escort for over 5,600 ships, half of which are foreign ships.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
The PLA is ready to work with other militaries to make further contribution to regional and global peace and development. To that end, I would like to make the following proposals:
1. To Promote Mutual Strategic Trust by Deepening Dialogue and Exchanges. We will continue to work with regional countries to carry out in-depth bilateral and multilateral security dialogues and exchanges, and we welcome senior defense officials and scholars of regional countries to join us at the Xiangshan Forum in Beijing in October. China will continue to step up dialogue, communication and coordination with ASEAN countries in the defense and security areas and support the development of the ASEAN Community. Before long, China’s State Councilor and Defense Minister General Chang Wanquan invited defense ministers of ASEAN countries to China in 2015 for a Special China-ASEAN Defense Ministers’ Meeting. We expect the meeting to achieve significant results.
2. To Support Common Development by Strengthening Security Cooperation. China has proposed to work with regional countries to build a Silk Road Economic Belt and a 21st Century Maritime Silk Road. The two major cooperation initiatives offer new opportunities for China and regional countries to achieve common development. Common development cannot be made without a secure environment. The building of the Economic Belt and the Maritime Silk Road has to be driven by two wheels–development and security. The PLA is ready to work with regional countries to strengthen practical cooperation in counter-terrorism, disaster relief, protection of sea lines of communication and other fields, thus ensuring common prosperity of countries along the Economic Belt and the Maritime Silk Road.
3. To Jointly Tackle Challenges by Promoting Disaster Relief Cooperation. The Asia-Pacific is prone to various disasters. The importance of regional disaster relief cooperation is further highlighted by the recent search and rescue operations for the missing Malaysian Airliner MH370. This year, in order to improve regional capacity building, we have arranged five bilateral and multilateral joint disaster relief exercises and drills of all services with regional countries. In 2015, China and Malaysia will co-host the 4thARF Disaster Relief Exercise to promote regional capacity in HADR.
4. To Maintain Maritime Security by Highlighting Maritime Cooperation. The ocean serves the common interests of all Asia-Pacific countries. It is therefore the shared responsibility of all to strengthen maritime cooperation and maintain maritime security. China and Russia have conducted a number of joint naval exercises, including the recent successful “Joint Maritime 2014” in the East China Sea. We are working with the United States to deepen military maritime consultations and actively advance the formulation of the Standards of Behavior for Air and Sea Military Safety at High Seas. PLA Navy will soon participate in RIMPAC 2014. China and Indonesia have established Navy-to-Navy Cooperation Talks. The Chinese government has set up a China-ASEAN Maritime Cooperation Fund of 3 billion RMB yuan, to support, among others, joint maritime search and rescue operations and the establishment of hotlines for search and rescue and other programs. China will continue to deepen multi-faceted maritime security cooperation with its regional partners through joint exercises, ship visits and maritime liaison mechanisms.
5. To Effectively Manage Differences by Establishing Security Mechanisms. In order to maintain regional security and stability, it is crucial to properly manage differences, ensure timely communication, and dispel misperceptions and miscalculations. China has established defense telephone links with Russia and the United States and we are exploring the possibility of establishing similar telephone links with ASEAN countries. In order to effectively cope with disasters and emergencies, communication and coordination should be strengthened among regional countries in an effort to establish an early warning and information sharing mechanism for disasters and emergencies.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
Peace does not come easily, and security should be cherished above all. Next year marks the 70thAnniversary of the victory of the world’s anti-Fascist war. China will work with all other countries to safeguard the fruits of victory of the Second World War as well as the post-war international order. We will never allow the ruthless Fascist and militarist aggressions to stage a comeback. Major countries shoulder major responsibilities for maintaining security and stability of the Asia-Pacific, while medium and small countries can also play a constructive role. As a responsible major country, China is ready to join hands with all other Asia-Pacific countries to achieve mutual benefit and win-win results. Let us work together to create a better future for the Asia-Pacific region. n
Courtesy: IISS

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