China must make efforts to ease the concerns of neighbouring countries
The nation’s rapidly growing strength and assertiveness are causing unease: reaching out with a message of peace and cooperation would be a good start
China’s first policy white paper on Asia-Pacific security cooperation is timely, amid uncertainty over American policy towards Asia under the administration of President Donald Trump. It also came as a group of Chinese warships led by the country’s first aircraft carrier the Liaoning returned from exercises in the South China Sea that reflected intentions declared in the white paper: “China will shoulder greater responsibilities for regional and global security, and provide more public security services to the Asia-Pacific region and the world at large.”
That said, the paper does not strike a hawkish tone in laying out important issues of interest, and makes it clear China is willing to talk to the US and Japan about them. Citing “diverse and complex” security concerns in the Asia-Pacific, China has vowed to upgrade the regional security framework and continue building up its armed forces.
Introducing the white paper, vice-foreign minister Lie Zhenmin blamed an unsatisfactory regional security situation for mistrust among nations, and singled out American alliances with China’s neighbours for causing instability.
In that respect, to be fair to other countries’ sensibilities, it is not easy for them to dispel mistrust, doubts and specific concerns in the face of China’s rapidly growing strength and assertiveness. Therefore China needs to make greater efforts to ease the concerns of other countries, in parallel with the pursuit of the strategic task identified in the white paper of “building strong national defences and armed forces that are commensurate with China’s international standing and its security and development interests”.
If China wants to take greater responsibility for maintaining world peace, it needs to command a credible military force and uphold its repeated assurances that its military is for peaceful purposes. More military exchanges with other nations in the region would be a step in the right direction.