Cooperation key to regional security
China Daily

Editor's note: Three People's Liberation Army officers delivered speeches on Friday and Saturday at the 17th International Institute for Strategic Studies Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore.

Excerpts follow:

Strengthening security of strategic importance

He Lei

To ensure long-term stability and prosperity of the Asia-Pacific region, China has put forward a number of proposals in recent years that have been highly valued by the international community.


He Lei (R), vice president of China's Academy of Military Science, attends a dinner at the Asia Security Summit in Singapore on June 1, 2018.

Now, I'd like to share with you my views on three other issues of interests.

First, on China's reform of national defense and the armed forces. Since 2015, China has embarked on military reform, which goes roughly through three stages.

The first stage is the reform of the military leadership and command system. The general principle established is that "the Central Military Commission exercises overall leadership, theater commands are responsible for military operations, and military services focus on developing capabilities".

"Four General Headquarters" of the CMC were reorganized into 15 functional organs. We perfected the services' leadership and management system by establishing an Army Leading Organ, the Rocket Force and the Strategic Support Force. We built and perfected the joint operations command system, and resized the seven Military Area Commands and established five Theater Commands: eastern, southern, western, northern and central.

The second stage is to adjust and optimize the size and structure as well as the composition of the forces. We cut the number of active personnel by 300,000, reducing the armed forces from 2.3 million to 2 million. We optimized the proportion of each service and reorganized 18 combined corps into 13. The proportion of the army in the whole armed forces is now less than 50 percent. We streamlined the number of officers and strictly limited the number of administrative organs and personnel. The ratio of officers and soldiers has been significantly optimized.

The third stage is policy and system reform. We will deepen reforms in major policies and systems, such as the officers' professionalization system and civilian personnel system, and promote the transformation of military management. We will run the armed forces strictly according to law, fundamentally transform the way of governing troops, and raise the level of the rule of law in building national defense and the armed force. We will deepen reform of science, technology and industry sectors for national defense, strive for in-depth civil-military integration, and build integrated national strategic system and strategic capabilities.

Through the three stages of reform, the Chinese military will realize system restructuring by 2020. By then, it will not only greatly improve its ability of safeguarding national security, but also shoulder more international responsibilities and obligations, and provide more public security goods.

Second, on the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue, over the years, China's position has been very clear and consistent. China remains committed to the goal of denuclearizing the peninsula, upholding peace and stability on the peninsula, and resolving the peninsula issue through dialogue and negotiation.

Since the beginning of this year we are pleased to see that the situation on the Korean Peninsula is moving in the right direction of dialogue and political solution. A rare historical opportunity to realize a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula and establish a peace mechanism has emerged. It has been proved that saber-rattling and confrontation can only make the issue more complicated. Dialogue and consultation are the fundamental solutions.

We hope the expected summit between the Democratic People's Republic of Korea and the United States will take place smoothly and produce positive results, and all parties concerned will value the progress achieved recently, make remarks that are good intentioned and helpful to ease tensions, take more actions that are conducive to furthering dialogue and mutual trust, remain committed to addressing each other's concerns through dialogue and consultation, promote the political resolution process and make more contributions to establish long-lasting peace and security on the peninsula.

Finally, on the South China Sea issue. Recently, the US, in disregard of the facts, hyped up so-called militarization in the South China Sea, and used it as an excuse to renege on the invitation to China to the "RIMPAC-2018" joint military exercise. We consider such moves as neither constructive nor inclusive. China's participation in the RIMPAC military exercises is not only of great military significance, but also of more political significance. It is a symbol of China-US military mutual trust and cooperation. China and the US should respect each other, meet each other half way, and advance toward the grand goal of China-US cooperation.

Nansha Islands are an undisputable territory of China. It is the natural right of China to carry out constructions on its own territory and to deploy necessary defense facilities. It is also a necessary measure to defend China's national sovereignty security, and maintain regional peace and stability.

The current situation in the South China Sea has calmed down visibly as a result of the joint efforts of China and ASEAN countries. The US, in the name of "freedom of navigation", sent military vessels and aircraft to the waters off and airspace above the Chinese islands and reefs, challenging China's sovereignty and security. This is real militarization. This is also in contradiction to its consistent claims that on the South China Sea issue, the US does not hold a position and does not choose sides as to the sovereignty of the features in the South China Sea.

As a major power in the Asia-Pacific, China knows that its peaceful development is closely related to the future of the Asia-Pacific. China has always made it its mission to promote prosperity and stability in the region. It pursues a national defense policy that is defensive in nature, and a military strategy of active defense. The Chinese armed forces are advocators and facilitators of, and participants in international security cooperation, and are committed to developing non-aligned, non-confrontational military cooperative relations that are not targeted at any third parties. China's armed forces, as such, have infused strong positive energy into world peace.

The author is a lieutenant general and deputy president of the Academy of Military Sciences.

Cooperation key to regional security

Zhou Bo

Deeply aware that its peaceful development is closely linked to the future of the Asia-Pacific, China has put forward the concept of common, comprehensive and cooperative security, and it supports active bilateral and multilateral security dialogue and collaboration to strengthen economic and security cooperation in the region.

China advocates that no country should pursue its absolute security at the expense of others'. It also advocates that a small country should not be marginalized by a large country, and a large country should not be taken advantage of by the small country. What China wants is not to change the existing Asia-Pacific security architecture, but to supplement and improve it with cooperation instead of conflict.

How can we guarantee security in the Asia-Pacific?

First, sound interactions among major countries hold the key. It is no exaggeration to say that the Asia-Pacific can enjoy stability only when Sino-US relations remain stable. China upholds non-conflict, non-confrontation, mutual respect and win-win cooperation with the United States, which on the one hand focuses on bilateral relations, and on the other hand accommodates the security in Asia-Pacific and even the whole world.

Also, China speaks highly of the positive progress in crisis management made by the two sides in recent years, but we have also noted that over the past year and more, the US has not only reinforced its surveillance against and reconnaissance of China by aircraft and ships, but also increased its military activities in the South China Sea, posing a challenge to China's sovereignty and territorial integrity. This is inconsistent with the calming situation in the South China Sea as well as the US claim that it won't take sides on the South China Sea issue.

As an extra-regional country, the US has become a prominent factor of instability on the issue, which has impeded effective cooperation between China and the US within the Asia-Pacific multilateral mechanisms.

Second, any regional security architecture should be open and inclusive. Indeed, there are military alliances left over by the Cold War in the Asia-Pacific, but the allied countries are only a minority not majority, so the Cold War mentality that defines by ideology and friend or foe has long been outdated. Under no pretext can the expansion of military alliance represent the trend of the times.

We have also taken note of the "Indo-Pacific" concept raised by some countries. We believe any new initiative should promote its transparency, inclusiveness and openness, move in the direction of global economic integration, political multi-polarity and shared security, and further win-win progress of all sides, otherwise it won't be universally accepted and may turn out to be a monologue and a flash in the pan.

Third, compared with traditional security, countries in this region have reached more consensuses on non-traditional security and made more relevant endeavors in this regard, thus we should continue to give priority to cooperation in non-traditional security fields and gradually accumulate experience and mutual trust. For example, ASEAN Regional Forum, established in 1994, initiated multilateral security dialogues among Asia-Pacific countries, providing a useful platform for security dialogue and cooperation for its 27 member states over the past 20-odd years, but it has its limitations. ASEAN is only one of the pillars of the Asia-Pacific security architecture and cannot dominate major country relationships.

The "ASEAN way" reflects a distinct ASEAN mode of work, but in a way it discounts efficiency and implementation. ADMM-Plus (ASEAN Defense Ministers' Meeting with its eight dialogue partners), set up in 2010 has made notable progress in implementation, but it still faces problems such as duplicate subjects and excessive exercises. What's more, these two mechanisms have overlapping functions.

The key to the settlement of these issues lies not only in reducing the number of meetings and exercises, but also in more practical security cooperation. China highly appreciates the counter-piracy cooperation in the Sulu Sea among Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte once said that he hoped the two navies of the Philippines and China could stage joint military exercises in the Sulu Sea. We are open to this and ready to start with humanitarian assistance/disaster relief and counter-piracy operation. We also hope that more ASEAN countries and extra-regional states can strengthen their cooperation and jointly cope with all the non-traditional security challenges in the Asia-Pacific.

The author is a senior colonel and director of the Center for Security Studies, the Ministry of National Defense.

Joint efforts to keep Indian Ocean peaceful

Zhao Xiaozhuo

The Indian Ocean has become increasingly important to China with its rise. The strategic interests of China in the Indian Ocean can be found in the following areas.

The first interest is resource security, particularly oil security. Now, China is the largest oil consumer and the largest oil importer in the world, and the Indian Ocean has huge reserves of oil and natural gas. The Persian Gulf contains 62 percent of proven oil reserves in the world and 35 percent of natural gas. Over the past years the Persian Gulf has been China's largest source of oil imports, and the total amount of oil imported from the Persian Gulf account for half of China's total.

The second interest is the security of the trading route. China is the largest trader in the world with dependence on foreign trade of more than 80 percent, and 90 percent of its foreign trade is through the sea. It means the sea line of communication is of extreme significance to China. The Indian Ocean is an important passage linking China to South Asia, the West Asia, Europe, Africa and Oceania. And the oil transported through the Indian Ocean accounts for 80 percent of the total imported to China, and China's trade via the Indian Ocean accounts for 40 percent of the total. So it is no exaggeration to say that rapid development of China's economy is based on the booming trans-Indian Ocean trade.

The third interest is the security of China's western border. There are many countries in the Indian Ocean region with different levels of development, and different social and political systems and cultures and customs. It makes the Indian Ocean a region where various non-traditional security events frequently occur. Since the western part of China is located near the heart of Eurasia, its geo-security, particularly the stability and development of China's western border area, is directly influenced by the stability in the northern rim of the Indian Ocean.

The fourth interest is the safety of people. The rim of the Indian Ocean has become one of an important destination for Chinese people with more than 1 million Chinese there. Due to the turbulent security situation in the region, Chinese people there are kidnapped, robbed or killed from time to time.

Peace and cooperation in the Indian Ocean is not only China's concern, but also the concern of other powers. The strategic interests of other powers can be found in the following areas:

First, to ensure the security of the Indian Ocean as an important international passage for trade. Since India is the regional power in South Asia, its booming economy relies heavily on the sea line of communication in the Indian Ocean. Japan, the Republic of Korea, Thailand, the Philippines and Singapore, too, rely heavily on the routes in the Indian Ocean with a great amount of raw materials imported and a great amount of products exported through the Indian Ocean.

Second, to ensure the security of oil supply from the Middle East. India imports more than 70 percent of its total oil needs. With its demand for energy increasing in recent years, India has made the Middle East its main energy source. Crude oil from the Middle East is still indispensable for the US economy. Nearly all the crude oil needed by Japan is imported, and 70 percent of that comes through the Indian Ocean.

Third, to respond to non-traditional security threats. The Indian Ocean is a region where various non-traditional security events, as well as international terrorism and extremism incidents frequently occur. Many countries suffer the consequences of terrorism. In addition, natural disasters are often reported in the countries around the Indian Ocean where 70 percent of the natural disasters in the world occur.

As analyzed above, a peaceful, stable and prosperous Indian Ocean is not only in the interest of the people in this region, but also in the interest of the big powers. Therefore, cooperation in the Indian Ocean is the only choice for great powers.

To promote peace and security and ensure freedom of navigation in the Indian Ocean, the big powers can cooperate to provide public goods for countering piracy and terrorism at sea, fighting drug trafficking, and for joint search and rescue operations, humanitarian assistance, and international peace-keeping. Their militaries can increase cooperation and enhance mutual trust through joint efforts in training and exercises.

The author is a senior colonel from Xiangshan Forum Secretariat.

India-China relation: prospects for cooperation and competition

Zhou Bo

The Sino-Indian relationship has good historic and realistic basis. Historically speaking, the meeting of and interaction between the Chinese and Indian civilizations through the ancient Silk Road is one of the most beautiful chapters of human history.

China and India are the largest developing countries. The China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative goes west while India's "Act East" extends to the east. They are bound to meet midway.

The ambition of the Chinese people to realize the "two centenary goals" (building a moderately prosperous society by 2020 and a great, modern socialist country by 2050) and the Chinese Dream of national rejuvenation are quite similar to concept of "India by 2022" (home for all Indians) "New India" (centenary of India's independence in 2047). Both the "Chinese Dream" and "New India" constitute the national rejuvenation of two countries which were once the most developed countries in the world. Both aim to serve the fundamental interests of the people and help them live a safer and better-off life.

In recent years, bilateral military relations have advanced in tandem with the advance of state-to-state relations. And high-level visits, defense and security consultations, border cooperation, joint drills and personnel training have taken place. Ever since 2007, the two ministries of defense of the two countries have held eight rounds of defense and security talks. The two countries' militaries have conducted six joint drills on counter-terrorism named "Hand-in-Hand".

What I would like to highlight in particular is that during the National Day and military festivals, the border troops invite each other for joint celebrations.

The greatest challenge to China and India is the border issue. The issue seems particularly challenging since China has resolved border disputes with 12 of its 14 neighboring countries through peaceful negotiations. It is gratifying that China and India have established a principle of resolving the border issue through three steps. Both believe that the border dispute has to be managed properly, and peace and stability maintained before a fair and reasonable resolution acceptable to both sides can be found. Efforts must be made to prevent small incidents from becoming large to affect the overall bilateral relationship.

As a result of joint efforts, the Sino-Indian border has by and large maintained long-term stability. Not a single bullet has been fired across the border for more than three decades. This is rarely seen in the whole world. It demonstrates that the confidence-building measures adopted over the years have been effective. The peaceful settlement of the standoff in Donglang has once again proven the political wisdom of both sides at test.

Since 1993, quite a few agreements and protocols on maintaining peace and stability in the border areas have been signed by the two governments and the two militaries. And coordination mechanisms on the border issue have been established at different levels.

The confidence-building measures in the military field along the Line of Actual Control in the border areas are concrete and pragmatic. For example, both sides agreed that in the areas where there is disagreement of understanding, the patrol troops of one side will not follow the other side in patrolling. The two countries have set up meeting points where the border troop officers can meet regularly and talk over the phone to maintain contact on border control. Delegations of border troops, neighboring regional commands and younger officers have exchange of visits to deepen mutual understanding and enhance mutual trust.

Now I also wish to talk a bit about the "competition" between China and India. Militarily, there is no such thing as competition, be it in the Pacific Ocean or in the Indian Ocean. China appreciates that 55 percent of India's international trade goes through the South China Sea, but India's trade, like any other maritime trade that goes through the South China Sea, doesn't have any obstacles.

Likewise, China has its own legitimate interests in the Indian Ocean which include primarily the safety and security of the strategic sea lanes, and the safety and security of Chinese property, Chinese investment and the Chinese nationals. The "Maritime Silk Road" proposed by China also goes through the Indian Ocean. In fact, China and India have joined other countries in fighting against piracy in the Indian Ocean since the end of 2008. In 2011, the Indian Navy helped in relieving the Chinese ship, Full City, which was attacked by pirates. And the Chinese Navy has escorted Indian ships.

If the Pacific Ocean can accommodate China and the United States, so can the Indian Ocean accommodate China and India.

The author is a senior colonel and director of the Center for Security Studies, the Ministry of National Defense.