2019 China Defense White Paper: Analysis and Evaluation
[Sejong Policy Brief] No.2019-13
Jae Heung Chung (Research Fellow)
○ The second generation of Xi Jinping leadership began through the 19th Party Congress. The Xi leadership announced the strategy of “strong military dream (強軍夢),” which aims to promote the current People’s Liberation Army into becoming a world-class army that can fight and win in any war by the year 2050. This strategy is based on a series of hard-line military reforms, which enhances forces of the Army, the Navy, and the Air Force, warfare capabilities in space, information, and cyber space, and the cooperative ability of civil and military sectors.
○ In 24th of July 2019, a comprehensive defense white paper on the Chinese national defense entitled China’s National Defense in the New Era (新時代的中國國防) was released. This is the 10th defense white paper that has been published since 1998. It is also the first comprehensive defense white paper (comprising 27,000 characters) that has been released to the public since the beginning of the 18th Party Congress. It consists of six chapters: International Security Situation, China’s Defensive National Defense Policy in the New Era, Fulfilling the Missions and Tasks of China’s Armed Forces in the New Era, Reform in China’s National Defense and Armed Forces, Reasonable and Appropriate Defense Expenditure, and Active Contribution to the Building of a Community with a Shared Future for Mankind.
○ According to the paper, the fundamental goal of China’s national defense in the new era is to defend the country’s national sovereignty, security, and development interests. Features of China’s national defense includes that China will never pursue hegemony, nor seek any sphere of influence. Also it will contribute to building a community of common destiny by maintaining the Chinese model of strong military along with the implementation of this national defense strategies in line with the new era.
○ National defense expenditure would be the most important information related to a country’s national defense. The paper stipulates that the ratios of China’s defense expenditure to its GDP and to its government expenditure, and defense expenditure per capita are quite low when compared with those of other major countries. China plans to gradually increase its military spending in line with future economic and weapon development, as well as modernization of military equipments.
○ In this year’s Defense White Paper, China pointed out the regional instability created by several regional actors. It specified the military and alliance enforcement of the US, Korea’s deployment of THAAD, Japan’s attempt to break out from the post-war order, and Australia’s consolidation of military alliance with the US as the reasons of regional instability.
○ Currently, in light of strategic competition with the US, the Xi leadership is investing more on military enforcement. China established a plan to become one of the world’s top military powers by 2049, the 100 the anniversary of the foundation of China, by continuing to root out corruption in the military sector as well as modernizing military systems and equipment.
○ In order to create a modernized military armed with advanced technology, the People’s Liberation Army is continuing its financial assistance and research development centering around the Navy and the Air Force in areas such as strategic (mid and long-range nuclear missiles) and asymmetric weapons, rapid response capabilities, intelligence warfare (IO/IW) and cyber security. Due to continued budgetary support and research and development, the gap between the US in terms of military technology is gradually narrowing.
○ Due to the escalated tension of the US-China strategic competition, China may push for preemptive intervention in the Korean Peninsula along with Russia or North Korea in matters such as deployment of THAAD, regional missile defense, withdrawal from Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF), General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA) and trilateral relations of Korea-US-Japan.
○ China will continue to expand its military capabilities in order to respond to the entrapment strategy of the US aimed against China, to secure China’s core interests, as well as to increase its leverage in the East Asian region. Consequently, level of tension between the US and China is bound to escalate especially in matters of military expenditure, the Korean Peninsula, Taiwan, South China Sea issues, and Indo-Pacific strategy. In light of such situation, it is advised that South Korea build up its relations with both countries in a more balanced way.
○ South Korea should be able to pursue a strategic and flexible approach in promoting amicable US-China relations, building a balanced relationship with the US and China, and securing stable US-DPRK and inter-Korean relations. At the same time, new policy efforts and creative alternatives are needed to lead the discussion of peace regime in the Peninsula and multilateral defense security system of the region, in accordance with the Panmunjom Declaration.
○ As can be found on the 2019 Defense White Paper, China is willing to build up the capability of the People’s Liberation Army into becoming a world-class armed forces that can win in any war (能打仗、打胜仗) by the year 2049. Within is course of actions, It aims to achieve military reforms and modernization of its equipment by the year of 2035. As such, significant changes in the North East Asian region especially in the Korean Peninsula are inevitable.
○ To prepare for China’s military enforcement strategy, it is necessary for South Korea to create various strategic scenarios and responses and at the same time, find ways to increase level of military cooperation and communication with the People’s Liberation Army.
○ Due to the recent deterioration in the relationship between the US and China and the full-fledged initiation of Indo-Pacific strategy, China has begun to reestablish its partner relationship with Russia and North Korea. Consequently, efforts should be made to establish multilateral security peace system in Northeast Asia based on the concepts of multilateral security, common security, cooperative security, in order to prevent the emergence of another Cold-war structure in the near future.
※ Translator’s note: This is a summarized unofficial translation of the original paper which was written in Korean. All references should be made to the original paper.
※ This article is written based on the author’s personal opinions and does not reflect the views of the Sejong Institute.