China’s external environment has two primary components: its development environment and its security environment. [a] From a developmental perspective, despite new challenges, China’s external environment is—when seen in total—a good environment that presents [us] with extremely clear opportunities. From a security perspective, despite numerous opportunities, China’s external environment faces prominent challenges. This essay will attempt to conduct a comprehensive examination of China’s external security environment through the lens of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics using the Total National Security Paradigm as a guide.
1. A View of the State’s External Security Environment Through the Lens of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics
The “Total National Security Paradigm” was proposed by General Secretary Xi Jinping at the first meeting of the National Security Commission. [b]1 The key idea is to integrate political, economic, military and other areas of security into an organic whole by taking into account China’s special national conditions.2 Compared with other major countries in the world, the most distinctive element in China’s national conditions is its implementation of socialist institutions and its adherence to the road of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics. Therefore, to examine China's external environment, especially the country's external security environment, we must first grasp this basic national condition. An examination of the state’s external security environment that takes into account Socialism with Chinese Characteristics has more to offer than a [conventional] examination of [interstate relations].
First: this approach highlights the challenges posed by “one country, two systems” and the reunification of the motherland.
Although Hong Kong and Macau3 are already part of the People’s Republic of China, their capitalist institutions and high degree of autonomy may be used by Western powers to interfere in China's internal affairs, or even as a position to spread Western values to mainland China. Although Taiwan is an inseparable part of China, and the fact that both sides of the Taiwan Strait belong to the same China has never changed, the latent threat of Taiwan separatism still exists. On the security front, Taiwan currently maintains close relations with the United States and Japan,4 while on the ideological front it has obvious differences with the mainland. Therefore, if Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan are not posing a serious challenge to the “external environment of China,” their challenge to the “external environment of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics” is more acute.
Second: this approach is helpful for forming a more objective and sober understanding of the external challenges China faces.
If we look at the world only from the perspective of “China’s external environment,” we tend to view China as an ordinary rising power, restricting our field of vision to conventional issues in interstate relations—such as security and economic relations between countries—while ignoring the ideological factors in international politics. However, the reality of international politics is that Western countries have been incorporating ideological factors into their foreign policy. For example, in the economic sphere, they have suppressed China’s state-owned enterprises that “went global” and restricted the export of high-tech products to China; in terms of military development, they have treated China and India differently, preventing and restricting China while encouraging and supporting India.5 It can be said that China as a rising power in an ordinary sense poses a concern only to large countries that have geo-strategic conflicts with China such as the United States, Japan, and India, as well as to small and medium-sized neighboring countries. But China as a rising socialist power poses a concern not only to the above-mentioned countries but also to many Western countries that are not able to view a country with a socialist system as one of their own.
Third: this approach is helpful for a more rational perception of our own strength.
If we only look at the “external environment of China,” our focus tends towards comparisons of different countries’ hard power and the changes in the international political landscape that are based on hard power. This perspective reveals more opportunities than challenges. For example, if we purely look at hard power – such as economic and military power – it is very easy for us to assume that the power gap between China and the United States is rapidly closing. If we simply examine the international political landscape through the lens of hard power, it is very easy for us to think that as multipolarity advances, China, as a pole, will increase international influence and discourse power accordingly. However, when we look at the "external environment of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics” the situation is different.
First, although the power gap between the United States and China is narrowing, the United States still possesses a very clear advantage by virtue of its values-based alliance system. Second, in the international arena it is easy for the United States to suppress China under the banner of “democracy promotion” and “universal values,” and to gain the understanding and support of its Western allies and the significant portion of developing countries that practice Western democracy. As Thomas Carothers, vice president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace,6 has emphasized, “[A]lthough the relative power balance between the West and ‘the rest’ is shifting, many of the major new non-Western powers are in fact democracies. The socio-economic dynamism of Brazil, India, Indonesia, Turkey, and other rising democratic powers is giving a boost to global democracy both through their example and through their increasing efforts to support democracy in their neighborhoods.” [c]7
Finally, the U.S. uses “universal values” as an important [tool of] soft power that has severely constrained the construction of China’s own soft power.
The “external environment of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics” and the “external environment of China” are not unrelated to each other; they are actually two dimensions of the same thing: the former is the core of the latter, and the latter is the vehicle of the former. If the vehicle does not exist, the core would lose its basis of existence; and if the core does not exist, the nature and appearance of the vehicle will also change radically. In other words, if something goes wrong with the “external environment of China,” the “external environment of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics” will not be untouched. It will in turn hinder the cause of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics. In this sense, the challenges of the “external environment of China” are naturally the challenges of the “external environment of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics”; conversely, if the [internal] work of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics does not advance successfully, the “external environment of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics” will also deteriorate, thus affecting the “external environment of China.”
2. Political Security’s External Environment Presents the Greatest Challenges
When General Secretary Xi Jinping proposed the Total National Security Paradigm and China’s [new] national security system, he emphasized the central position of political security. [d] This [guidance] is given on the basis of an accurate grasp of China’s special national conditions and the new characteristics and trends of the national security situation. One of the most significant characteristics of China's national conditions is that it follows the road of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics, which makes the challenges facing China's political security even greater than those facing ordinary countries.
Historically, the greatest security threats to small, weak states come from the military domain. But for large and powerful countries, threats to military security are relatively insignificant. The Soviet Union, for example, faced many foreign invasions but survived them all. When the Soviet Union disintegrated, its superb military power was intact; the United States and NATO did not fire a single bullet. Nor is economic [insecurity] enough to cause the disintegration of a great power. In its 69 years of history the Soviet Union suffered several[periods of] serious economic difficulty yet endured them all. The Soviet economy was not unsalvageable before its collapse. The security problem[threatening] the Soviet Union was first and foremost a problem of political security, especially ideological security. [e] The Soviet Communist Party’s change of banner led to the loss of its sovereign power and [a situation where] socialist institutions could no longer be sustained.8 It [led to] the loss of national cohesion and stimulated secessionist tendencies in some of the constituent republics. It [led to] various factions sprouting within the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, which eventually split apart and disintegrated.9
Historical experience makes clear that from the perspective of the security of a socialist state encircled by capitalism, the greatest threat of being overthrown [arises in the domain of] political security. Although Socialism with Chinese Characteristics has attained impressive results, it has yet to escape from capitalist encirclement. The state’s political security is of crucial importance. The most prominent [part of political security] is ideological security. For this reason, ideology has been recognized as “an extremely important work to the Party.” [f]10
For the time being, China’s ideological security is facing both internal and external challenges.
Internally, the ideology of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics has been facing challenges from two directions: From the “right” some people try to replace scientific socialism with Western democratic socialism. From the “left” some people ignore [our] basic national conditions at the initial stage of socialism, emphasizing the opposition of socialism to capitalism and ignoring the need of developing countries to learn from developed countries. If [we listen to the “left”], Socialism with Chinese Characteristics will lose its “Chinese characteristics” and may revert to the old path of rigidity. In February 2014, General Secretary Xi Jinping delivered an important address at a special seminar for leading cadres at the provincial and ministerial levels, emphasizing that “we will neither take the old path of closure and rigidity nor the crooked path of changing flags and banners.” [g] For the road of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics, both the “old path" and the “crooked path”11 are dangerous and will endanger China’s ideological security.
Externally, the United States and other Western countries have not abandoned their Cold War mentality due to their “anti-communist” ideology. [h] They are increasingly fearful of China’s insistence on the socialist path and its rapid rise, and they are even more concerned about the growing influence of the “China model.” The U.S. has implemented a strategy of promoting democracy and universal values, attempted to build a “Concert of Democracies” in Asia,12 interfered in China’s internal affairs on issues related to Xinjiang, Tibet and Taiwan, supported various anti-communist and anti-China forces overseas, and secretly thwarted the efforts of mainland China on the issue of constitutional development in Hong Kong. These are all part of the U.S. strategy to “Westernize” China. These strategies and policies of the United States can easily win the support of other Western countries. What the United States and other Western countries are doing poses a very serious challenge to China's ideological security.
The challenge posed by the U.S. strategy to promote “universal values” deserves special emphasis here. After taking office, the Obama administration has made the promotion of “universal values” the primary focus of its ideological diplomacy. The 2010 edition of the U.S. National Security Strategy Report explicitly sets “respect for universal values at home and around the world” as one of the main goals of U.S. global strategy. [i]
There are two types of universal values: one type [includes] the values that all countries in the world develop and promote, such as peace, development, good governance, order, harmony, justice, equality, cooperation, and the protection of the environment; the other type [includes] the values that the West first developed and the rest accepted, such as freedom, democracy, human rights, and the rule of law. In other words, universal values are not the same as Western values. The second category of values easily leads people into theoretical errors. Although they were first created by the West, they are not monopolized by the West, and many developing countries and socialist countries also adopt these values as the philosophy of their own governance, the most emblematic one being democracy.
However, we need to be sober about the fact that the Western countries hold themselves up as models of democracy and act like missionaries to evangelize their so-called “universal values” to the world for the sake of realizing their own interests. When Western countries promote these so-called “universal values” they assign the values of democracy and freedom a connotation and standard that they proscribed. For example, according to Western standards, all democracies must have a multi-party system, separation of powers, universal suffrage, and so on. This actually equates the representative system as a way to realize democracy with ‘democracy’ itself.13 It equates the Western model of democracy with all democracy. Western countries pretend that the “universal values" they espouse are general universal values, and this [fraudulent] practice has led to confusion and bad consequences. Some people who respect democracy mistakenly believe that if China wants to develop its democracy, it must copy the Western model; on the contrary, some people who oppose liberalization and want to maintain China’s ideological security mistakenly believe that universal values are Western values, and that China cannot develop democracy, nor can it have freedom and human rights. The United States and other Western powers often apply double standards when promoting “universal values” and use them to suppress their competitors in order to protect their self interests, which makes people even more suspicious of these universal values. Universal values can easily cause ideological and theoretical strife, thus endangering ideological security.
China’s political security faces a very complex external environment, especially from factors that are not conducive to China’s maintenance of political security—[such as] economic globalization, the development of the market economy and of the internet, which happen to be necessary for China’s development and cannot be avoided. They make the external environment for political security even more challenging.
3. Assessing the total national security situation and the external environment
Looking at China’s national security system from the perspective of the Total National Security Paradigm, we can see that the security situation and the main sources of threats vary greatly in different areas.
The political security situation is relatively severe, with the main source of threat arising from within with the main external source of threat coming mainly from the United States and other Western countries. The lessons of the history of the international communist movement show that any external threat to political security must work through internal factors to have an effect.
The [threat] of overthrow is also seen in the domain of military security. When China assesses the international situation and external security environment, it must first look at the military security environment, [assessing] whether peace and development are still the theme of the times and whether China will encounter a large-scale war. At present, China’s military security has only potential threats, with the main source of threat coming from Japan and the Japan-US alliance.14 Of course internal factors are also important. If we are weak or our security awareness is found lacking, this would give competitors an opportunity to take advantage of us and transform latent external threats into actual threats.
The economic security situation is relatively good, with the main source of potential threats coming from within the country. China’s experience in dealing with the global financial crisis shows that as long as the domestic economy is functioning well and the government responds promptly and effectively to the impact of external crises, economic security will be guaranteed.15
Such is also the case with territorial, social, cultural, technological, environmental, resource, and nuclear security issues, where domestic threats are dominant and external threats are secondary.16 While there are many adverse factors in these security areas, the overall situation is manageable.
The WikiLeaks17 and Snowden incident18 demonstrate that threats to information security are relatively imminent and acute, with the main source of threats coming from the outside, from the United States and its allies. Information threats, however, come into play through the military, political, economic and technological domains. Information by itself is not capable of overthrowing China’s national security.
Addressing the various security challenges and threats mentioned above and maintaining national security requires effort both at home and abroad. We should manage domestic and international issues in an integrated manner, continuously improve our ability to maintain security internally, and continuously create a favorable external environment. Creating an external environment, whether it is a security environment or a development environment, requires good diplomacy and good relations with other countries. On the chessboard of China’s foreign relations, the most challenging and most prominent issues are China-US relations, China-Japan relations, and China's relations with certain neighboring countries.
In terms of the external environment, the United States is the only country in the world today capable of hindering China’s peaceful development and interfering with its peaceful rise. The key issue is to have an accurate judgment and assessment of the U.S. willingness and determination to block China's peaceful development and its strategy for doing so. For the time being, the United States, for the sake of its own interest, is unwilling to engage in direct confrontation with China, but rather seeks to cooperate as it competes–of course, it does not rule out the use of all possible opportunities and tricks to check China's rise without harming its own vital interests.
The U.S. strategy toward China can be summarized with one word: “sculpting.” In essence, [they seek to] sculpt China into a partner through cooperation and integration, [aiming] to prevent China from becoming an enemy of the United States after it has risen. [j] However, with the rapid growth of China’s comprehensive national power, the U.S. has a growing incentive to curb and contain China. [k] Especially with the shift of the U.S. strategic focus to the East, strategic friction between China and the U.S. in the Asia-Pacific region has increased significantly. Properly handling China-U.S. relations is crucial to China's security environment.
Japan is not an East Asian country and China’s neighboring country in an ordinary sense. Even though China-Japan relations are no longer great power relations on the global stage, the relationship remains important in East Asia and China’s near abroad. In recent years, China-Japanese relations have deteriorated significantly. This has much to do with Japan's political shift to the right. The Abe administration’s stance regarding the Diaoyu Islands and on the erroneous historical issues,19 and the lifting of the ban on collective self-defense rights despite strong opposition from China, South Korea and other countries,20 highlight the rampant right-wing forces in Japan. A more important factor affecting China-Japanese relations is the Japan-US alliance. From the perspective of its global strategic interests, the United States will not accept a trilateral relationship in which China-Japan relations are better than Japan-U.S. relations. The Democratic Party of Japan administration of Yukio Hatoyama tried to adjust Japan’s foreign policy to bring relations with China closer and build an equilateral triangle between Japan, the U.S. and China, but it was not long before it was forced out of office, and it is almost an open secret that the U.S. was behind it.21 China-Japanese relations are at a stalemate. The result of this stalemate is that both sides lose, with the United States as the biggest beneficiary.
In the future China-Japanese relations face two risks: First, Japanese right-wing politicians are moving further and further down their path, playing the China card for their own political interests and gaining public support by being hawkish on China; second, if the United States is determined to do all it canto contain China, Japan will willingly act as the vanguard of the United States. This tendency is reflected in the fact that the Abe regime is more active than the United States in establishing an “alliance of democratic Asian nations.”22 If China and Japan move toward military confrontation, it is likely that the United States will be stimulated to intervene and side with Japan, leading to a simultaneous confrontation between China and the United States and Japan. If this happens, China’s military security environment, and indeed the security environment in many other areas, will seriously deteriorate.
China has many neighboring countries and has disputes regarding territory and marine rights and interests with a number of them. Territorial disputes between China and India have been an important element in the two countries’ bilateral relations. In recent years, the disputes between China and some Southeast Asian countries over the South China Sea have intensified. One contributing factor is the United States’ adjustment on Asia-Pacific strategy, in which the United States hopes to contain China and rebuild its influence in Southeast Asia.23 Relevant Southeast Asian countries are also attempting to use American strength for their own profit.
The Chinese government thus faces a dilemma when dealing with South China Sea disputes: if it does nothing to safeguard territorial sovereignty it will provoke strong reactions from the masses inside the country and damage the prestige and image of the Party and the government; [but] if the government overreacts, it will lead to a serious deterioration of relations with the countries concerned. Such circumstances will harm border stability, impact the international recognition of China’s path of peaceful development, and ultimately benefit Japan and the United States while worsening China’s strategic environment.
Nonetheless, the impact of the three external factors mentioned above is still partial and has not fundamentally reversed China’s external security environment, including its neighboring security environment. In an era when peace and development are the theme of the times, most neighboring countries are reluctant to provoke an ideological confrontation with China. Even the United States and Japan have not made ideological confrontation with China the main axis of their policy.
From the perspective of total national security, the often discussed “C-shape Encirclement” only exists in certain domains [of activity].24 It is by no means total. Economically, there simply is no encirclement against China. All neighboring countries have close economic and cultural ties with China and are generally willing to further these ties. Militarily, there is at most an arc of encirclement against China in East Asia, namely the United States-led Japanese-American alliance. However, in North Asia, Central Asia, South Asia and Southeast Asia, there is neither behavior nor willingness to [engage in behavior] that poses a military threat to China.
However, in political terms the “encirclement” does exist, since the vast majority of countries around China have social institutions different from China’s. These countries either actively support or welcome the U.S. strategy of “democracy promotion” and “universal values,” or [they] do nothing to either support or deter it. Such a surrounding environment undoubtedly poses a serious challenge to China in maintaining political security.
To examine China’s external security environment from the lens of the Total National Security Paradigm, it is necessary to take Socialism with Chinese Characteristics into account. In this perspective, political security is the core, and political security is the most challenging [domain] in China’s external environment.
An assessment of China’s security situation and external environment using the Total National Security Paradigm as a guide shows that although the security situation in certain areas is relatively complex and severe, the fundamentals of China's total national security situation and external environment are good. Although China-US relations, China-Japan relations, and China's relations with certain neighboring countries have recently been marked by more friction, challenges. and risks, the impact of these external factors is manageable and will not have a destructive impact on China's external environment as long as they are properly managed.
In summary: Between security and development, security has not yet overtaken development as the primary task. China’s development still faces an important period of strategic opportunity, [thus] development is still the central task and the first priority of the Party and the state.
[Author's Footnote] This paper is the result of the 2011 key research project of the Party School of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China funded by the National Development Bank, entitled “Building the External Environment of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics.”
[a] The external environment can be subdivided into political environment, social environment, diplomatic environment, cultural environment, public opinion environment, ecological environment, etc., but all of these can be reduced to the development environment and the security environment. The political environment mainly refers to the environment concerning the survival and development of the state’s political institutions and ideology, which usually has a significant impact on its development environment and security environment.
The U.S. National Security Strategy Report released in 1994 set out three objectives, namely, maintaining security, expanding the economy, and advancing democracy. In effect, it juxtaposes politics with security and economy as one of the main considerations in [the U.S.’s] foreign relations.25 However, the theme of the current era is peace and development, and the status of ideological confrontation has declined. [As such] the political environment also takes a secondary position compared to the development and security environments. When talking about the external environment, scholars sometimes use the term “strategic environment” to express the overall situation that combines various factors of the environment.
[b] “General Secretary Xi Jinping proposes at the first meeting of the National Security Council: adhering to the total national security paradigm and taking the road of national security with Chinese characteristics,” People’s Daily, 16 April 2014, p. 1.
[c] Thomas Carothers, “Reenergizing Democracy Promotion,” Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 29 November 2012.
[d] “General Secretary Xi Jinping posited at the first meeting of the National Security Council: adhere to the total national security paradigm, walk the road of national security with Chinese characteristics.”
[e] Political security mainly includes ideological security, security of the state institution and sovereign power, security of national unity, and security of the ruling party’s own organization. The collapse of the Soviet Union was affected by all four aspects: the change of banner of the ruling party and the state, the demise of the original institution and sovereign power, the disintegration of the multi-ethnic state, and the splitting and subsequent disintegration of the ruling party.
[f] Propaganda Department of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China,“Readings from the Series of Important Speeches by General Secretary Xi Jinping,” Study Publishing House and People’s Publishing House, 2014, p. 105.
[g] Huang Zhongping, “Focusing on improving governance capacity to effectively prevent ‘two traps’”, Qiushi, No. 7, 2014, pp. 50-52.
[h] Liu Jianfei, “Study of the U.S. Democratic Alliance,” Strategy (Contemporary World Press, 2013), pp. 3-48.
[i] The White House,National Security Strategy, May 2010, p. 7 & p. 17（online date：June 30, 2014)
[j]The U.S. strategic idea of “shaping" China was most clearly articulated in the 2006 Quadrennial Defense Assessment. See Liu Jianfei, “Shaping China: New Trends in U.S. Strategy Toward China," China Party and Government Cadre Forum, No.3, 2006, pp. 33-35.27
[k] The U.S. 2014 Quadrennial Defense Review claims that the security situation in the Asia-Pacific region is deteriorating, and that China’s rapid military modernization and lack of military transparency are important causes of this deterioration. See U.S. Department of Defense, Quadrennial Defense Review, March 2014,p. 4, http://www.defense.gov/pubs/2014_Quadrennial_Defense_Review.pdf. (Accessed: June 30, 2014)
1. Xi Jinping introduced the Total National Security Paradigm in 2014 in an attempt to overhaul China’s national security apparatus. The paradigm integrates “traditional” security concerns such as territorial integrity with “non-traditional” concerns such as threats to state security emanating from the political, economic, cultural, social, and ecological realms. The Central National Security Commission (CNSC) [中央国家安全委员会] was established in November 2013 to coordinate work across these security domains.
2. In the early 20th century Chinese thinkers who wished to modernize Neo-confucian political forms instead of adopting a socialist or liberal model defended their program by describing Western political imports as incompatible with China’s “national conditions” [国情], a phrase that might also be translated as “national characteristics” or “national essence.” The term was resuscitated as the 20th century turned to the 21st. In both the early 20th century and the early 21st,“national conditions” were presented as a set of immutable elements of Chinese social life that flowed from China’s unique geography, longstanding cultural traditions, and specific historical experiences, each constraining the type of social arrangements or political structures the Chinese people could fruitfully adopt. In the early 20th century the term was often used against Chinese communists; after several generations of Communist rule, China’s “national conditions” are now used conterminously, as historian John Fitzgerald notes, with a “wealthy and powerful Communist Party-governed state that lacks democratic accountable government…[and has] no constitutional or institutional restraint on its exercise of power.” See John Fitzgerald, “Beijing’s guoqing versus Australia’s way of life,” Inside Story, 27 September 2016.
3. Neither Hong Kong nor Macau are governed as normal Chinese cities, a legacy of their former status as imperial possessions of Great Britain and Portugal. The Sino-British Joint Declaration mandated Hong Kong’s return to China in 1997, ending 156 years of British rule. The Declaration set the conditions for the transfer, with China agreeing to maintain existing structures of government and economy under the principle of “one country, two systems” for a period of 50 years. The Sino-Portuguese Joint Declaration, signed on March 26, 1987, established a similar process and the conditions of the transfer of sovereignty over Macau from Portugal to the PRC. This transfer was formally completed on December 20, 1999, after a twelve year “transition”period when the Basic Law of Macau was drafted and approved by the PRC’s National People’s Congress.
4. Although Japan broke off diplomatic relations with Taiwan in 1972 as a precondition to normalizing relations with the PRC, Taiwan and Japanese maintained cultural and economic ties. These ties were strengthened as relations between the PRC and Japan deteriorated over the dispute of the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands. Japan and Taiwan concluded a landmark agreement that addressed fishing rights in the East China Sea in 2013, a year before the publication of this article. This may be the “close relations” on “the security front” that Liu alludes to. However, in contrast to the United States, Japan did not (and still does not) support Taiwan through arms sales and to this day lacks any legal framework for military collaboration with the Taiwanese armed forces.
5. American law has prohibited arms sales to China since 1989. Congressional legislation and the executive branch directives have also regulated the export of dual-use goods (items and technology that may have both civilian and military use) to Chinese firms. In contrast, arms sales are a major component of America’s strategic partnership with India. The year this article was originally published (2014) the United States was India’s third-largest source of arms. See Karen Sutter and Christopher Casey, “US Export Controls and China,” Congressional Research Service, 24 March 2022. Dinshaw Mistry, “US Arms Sales to India.” Asia Pacific Bulletin, 8 July 2014.
6. In 2014, Thomas Carothers was the vice president for studies at the Carnegie Endowment of Peace. He is now the co-director of Carnegie’s Democracy, Conflict, and Governance Program.
7. The essay from which Liu pulls this quotation does not express the triumphalist sentiments this isolated passage suggests. Carothers' central argument is that “the loss of global democratic momentum, problems of Western political credibility, and the rise of alternative political models” are making democracy promotion a more challenging task than it has been since the end of the Cold War. Carothers consequently urges the Obama administration to make democracy promotion a key item of its second term agenda less the tide of global politics turns against democratic reform. See Thomas Carothers, “Reenergizing Democracy Promotion,” Carnegie Endowment of Peace, 29 November 2012.
8. The term zhèngquán ānquán [政权安全] is difficult to render accurately into English. When Chinese translate English phrases like “regime change” into Chinese, 政权 (zhèngquán) is the word they most often us for “regime.” “Regime security” is therefore an acceptable gloss. Yet unlike the English “regime,” zhèngquán does not describe institutional architecture of rulership so much as the sovereign power that rulership grants. Thus its appearance in Mao’s most famous aphorism: “枪杆子里面出政权” [usually translated as “political power (zhèngquán) grows from the barrel of a gun”].
9. Liu Jianfei’s assessment of the disintegration of the Soviet Union official narrative on the collapse of the Soviet Union during the 2010s, which attributes the failure of the CPSU to the poison of “historical nihilism.” Yet debate over the cause of the USSR’s fall has been wide ranging, with critics of the official position pointing to the systemic decay of the Soviet economy or the failure of the USSR to reform the inflexible and rigid political structure it inherited from Stalin. For examples of critical arguments, consult Wang Xiaoxiao 王笑笑, “Sulian Jubiande Genben Yuanyin 苏东剧变的根本原因 [The Fundamental Reason for the Transformation of theSoviet Union]” Aisixiang 爱思想, 4 March 2013; Huang Lifu 黄立茀, “Sulian Yinhe Sangshi Gaige Liangji 苏联因何丧失改革良机? Why did the USSR miss the chanceto reform?” Aisixiang 爱思想, 15 October 2009; Liu Xingyi 刘新宜, “Sugong Kuatai, Sulian Wangguode Yuanyin 苏共垮台、苏联亡国的原因 [Reasons for the Collapse of the Soviet Communist Party and the Demise of the USSR]” Aisixiang 爱思想, 14 November 2004. For longer presentations of the official view published around the same time as Liu’sarticle, see Cheng Zhihua 陈之骅, “Lishi Xuwuzhuyi Gaoluan Sulian 历史虚无主义搞乱苏联[Historical Nihilism Ruined the Soviet Union],” Aisixiang 爱思想, 18 September 2013 and Wang Tingyou 汪亭友, “Liang Zhong Duiweide Shijieguan he Lichang Guanchuan SulianYanbian Yanjiu 两种对立的世界观和立场贯穿苏联演变研究 [The Ideological Divide in the Study of the Soviet Collapse],”Aisixiang, 20 Feb 2014.
10. This was said by Xi Jinping in a conference on national propaganda work on August 20, 2013. See “Xi Jinping: Yishi Xintai Gongzou shi Dang de Yixiang Jiduan Zhongyaode Gongzuo 习近平：意识形态工作是党的一项极端重要的工作 [Xi Jinping:ideological work is an extremely important work of the Party],” Xinhua, 20 August 2013.
11. Xie lu [邪路] could also rendered as the “evil path,” but the Chinese word xie [邪] does not carry the theological baggage that comes along with the English “evil.” Xie [邪] in this context does not imply a transcendent malevolence forever in opposition to the ideal good, but simply deviation from the “correct path.” Alternate translations of xie lu [邪路] might include the “lost path,” “incorrect path,” or “unrighteous pat.” For a longer explication see Tao Wenzhao 陶文昭, “Ruhe Lijie Bu Zou Yalu 如何理解不走‘邪路’ [How to Understand ‘Don’t Travel the Crooked Path’],” People’s Daily, 20 May 2013.
12. Debate over whether democratic countries in the world should form a “concert” or a “league” of democracies to promote peace and counter autocratic influence first arose in American foreign policy circles in 2004, with prominent scholar-officials like Ivo Daalder, James Lindsday, John Ikenberry, and Anne-Marie Slaughter all endorsing the idea. The proposal reached its zenith with John McCain’s 2008 presidential election, when the senator championed this imagined league as an alternative to the United Nations. However, the proposal largely died with his campaign and had no purchase within the Obama administration.
The possibility of a league of democracies alarmed Chinese analysts, including Liu Jianfei. In a 2011 article, Liu argues that the league would disrupt international order with the United Nations at its core and divide the world between democratic and non-democratic countries based on American standards. See author’s footnote h.
13. The PRC understands democracy in the context of its socialist and autocratic rule. Introduced by Mao Zedong, the idea of a “socialist democracy” or “centralized democracy” seeks to increase the input of average citizens into the political process without surrendering the Party’s monopoly of power. In the eyes of the CPC, democracy most fundamentally means the CPC’s single party rule on behalf of the people.
14. The US-Japan alliance was formalized in 1960 by the signing of the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security. The alliance has been strengthened over the years by joint military exercises and other forms of cooperation.
15. For more than a decade, Chinese analysts have characterized China’s successful weathering of the 2008 financial crisis as proof of the strength of the CPC political model, and have likewise characterized the crisis as the beginning of the end of American hegemony. For a particularly influential example, see this 2009 essay by Yuan Peng, now President of China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations (CICIR), the think-tank linked to the Ministry of State Security: 袁鹏 [Yuan Peng], “金融危机与美国经济霸权：历史与政治的解读 [The Financial Crisis and American Hegemony: Interpreting the History and Politics],” 更新时间 [Renewal Times], 29 May 2015, http://www.aisixiang.com/data/88470.html.
16. This is a list of security concerns that Xi Jinping specifically mentioned in his 2014 speech that introduced the total national security paradigm. “Xíjìnpíng: Jiānchí zǒngtǐ guójiā ānquán guān zǒu zhōngguó tèsè guójiā ānquán dàolù 习近平：坚持总体国家安全观 走中国特色国家安全道路 [Xi Jinping: Insisting on Total National Security Paradigm Walking a Path of National Security with Chinese Characteristic]” Renmin, 16 April 2014.
17. WikiLeaks is an international non-profit organization that publishes leaked information, documents, and classified media provided by anonymous sources. The organization was founded in 2006 by Julian Assange and a group of like-minded activists and journalists. WikiLeaks has published several documents related to China over the years, revealing a variety of sensitive information about the Chinese government and its activities.
18. The Snowden incident refers to the events that began in 2013 when Edward Snowden, a former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor, leaked a large amount of classified documents to journalists. The documents revealed the extent of the NSA's surveillance programs, which collected data on American citizens and foreign governments and individuals. In an interview he gave with the South China Morning Post in 2013 while he sought asylum in Hong Kong,Snowden claimed that the US government had hacked into Chinese telecommunications company Huawei's servers, and that the NSA had been targeting Chinese officials and businesses in its surveillance programs.
19. Diaoyu Island is the Chinese name for a string of islands in the East China. In Japanese they are known as the Senkakus. Possession of the islands is claimed by both countries, and has served as a significant source of tension between the two powers after evidence for the existence of oil reserves around the islands surfaced in the latter half of the 1970s.
20. On July 1, 2014, Japan passed a Cabinet decision that changed the interpretation of Article 9 of its constitution, which restricted Japan’s use of force overseas. The new interpretation allows Japan to exercise the right of collective self-defense. See Kawasaki Akira and Celine Nahory, “Japan’s Decision on Collective Self-Defense inContext,” The Diplomat, 3 October 2014.
21. As Prime Minister of Japan from 16 September 2009 to 8 June 2010, Yukio Hatoyama attempted to shift Japan’s America-centric foreign policy to become more Asian-centric. Relations with China warmed under his leadership. Hatoyama’s administration came to an abrupt end, however, after he failed to fulfill his campaign promise to move a US marine base off Japanese shore, a promise that he originally hoped to signal his determination to end Japan’s subservience to Washington foreign policy. Yet, due to pressure from the United States and the lack of a viable alternative site, he agreed to merely move the marine base to a less conspicuous location, a concession that cost his political support at home.
Hatoyama remained a controversial figure after his resignation due to his dovish stance on China. In 2013, during a private visit to China, he told reporters that theJ apanese government should acknowledge the territorial dispute for the Senkaku Islands, a remark that contradicted the Japanese government’s position on the issue. On the same trip, Hatoyama also visited the Nanjing Memorial built for the Chinese victims of the Japanese army during the second Sino-Japanese War.In the eyes of the Chinese public, Hatoyama’s visit was valuable as it was an indirect acknowledgement of Japanese misdeeds during WWII.
22. Liu is likely referencing Shinzo Abe’s attempt to form the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QSD or “the quad”)—composed of the United States, Japan, India, and Australia—during his first term as prime minister in 2006-2007. The origin of the quad can be traced to the “Tsunami Core Group,” an ad-hoc grouping that sprang up to respond to the devastating Boxing Day tsunami of 2004. Later, in 2007, Prime Minister Abe would use the template to push for an informal security framework to address Japan’s concerns regarding China’s growing power. However, during its initial inception, the proposed quad existed more in concept than reality, its development floundered on the unwillingness of Australia and India to risk trade relations with China. At the time of writing, therefore, Liu’s worries might have seen overblown. In reality they proved prescient: Australia and India’s calculations changed as the 2010s progressed. After an eight year hiatus the quad reconvened in 2017, and its joint exercises and meetings are acrucial part of the security architecture of the region. For a longer analysis of these developments, see Patrick Gerard Buchan and Benjamin Rimland, “Defining the Diamond: The Past, Present, and Future of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue,” Center for Strategic and International Studies, 16 March 2020.
23. See “Fact sheet: Advancing the re-balance to Asia and the Pacific,” The White House Office of the Press Secretary, 16 Nov 2015. https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/the-press-office/2015/11/16/fact-sheet-advancing-rebalance-asia-and-pacific
24. The idea that the U.S. is constructing a c-shape encirclement in Asia-Pacific was popularized in 2009 by Dai Xun [戴旭], a Colonel Commandant in the Chinese air force and a professor at the National Defense University. Dai argued that the c-shape encirclement was America’s primary strategy in the Indo-Pacific in order to thwart China’s growth. See Dai Xun 戴旭, “Zhōngguó zhèng miànlín dì sān cì bèi guāfēn de wéijī 中国正面临第三次被瓜分的危机 [China is facing the third crisis of being divided up],” Honggehui, 18 November 2012.
25. Liu is referencing the National Security Strategy Report published in July 1994 by the Clinton administration. As Liu notes, the report outlines a threefold goal for the U.S. post-Cold War national security: “to credibly sustain our security with military forces that are ready to fight; to bolster America’s economic revitalization; to promote democracy abroad.” The peport attempts to craft a comprehensive strategy to address these goals, believing that they are mutually supportive: “Secure nations are more likely to support free trade and maintain democratic structures. Nations with growing economies and strong trade ties are more likely to feel secure and to work toward freedom. And democratic states are less likely to threaten our interests and more likely to cooperate with theU.S. to meet security threats and promote sustainable development.” See “A National Security Strategy of Engagement and Enlargement,” National Security Strategy Archive, 1 July 1994, accessed Feb 21, 2023. https://nssarchive.us/national-security-strategy-1994/
26. The abstract of “Shaping China: New Trends in U.S. Strategy Toward China” reads:
The new Quadrennial Defense Review shows that the United States will continue to pursue a global strategy focused on counterterrorism and counter-proliferation. In this strategy, China is the most important “strategic crossroads” country, but it is not the enemy. The United States wants to shape these “crossroads countries” to prevent them from choosing a strategy that is hostile to the United States. The U.S. strategy toward China remains primarily one of cooperation, supplemented by prevention and containment.