“The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.” – Sun Tzu, The Art of War
China, East Asia’s predominant military and economic power, has just celebrated its 70th anniversary of victory in World War II – formally titled, the “Commemoration of the 70th Anniversary of the Victory of the Chinese People’s War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggressions and the World Anti-Fascist War.” This celebration in Tiananmen Square boasted a somewhat intimidating display of Chinese military might and capabilities, Vice News reports, including a parade of 12,000 armed and decorated troops and 500 assault vehicles (fully equipped with the nation’s “most advanced intercontinental ballistic missiles”), all whilst fifth generation Chinese J-15 Joint Strike Fighter aircraft and “sophisticated” Z-19 attack helicopters flew overhead. Furthermore, in attendance were numerous high-profile representatives, such as Russia’s very own Vladimir Putin, South Korean President Park Geun-hye, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, as well as foreign dignitaries of 49 countries, including the Central Asian Republics. Surely, one would perceive such a superfluous exhibition of regional power and influence as an act passive aggression, suggesting that China’s neighbors “should bandwagon with Beijing rather than seek to preserve full sovereignty through modernization, intra-Asian security cooperation, and alignment with the only real counterweight, the United States.”
These developments have come amidst a rather politically, economically, and militarily-sensitive climate, as China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is set to reduce its manpower by an approximate 300,000 personnel as part of an extensive military modernization program designed to increase the nation’s power projection beyond its current land and sea peripheries. This represents a cause for concern, according to the Pentagon, “as China’s global footprint and international interests grow” so too does the potential for confrontation, whether it be naval standoffs in the Pacific or territorial annexation of Japan’s Senkaku Islands (Diaoyu Islands) in the East China Sea. The various issues and conflicts involving China of late have certainly left the international community, particularly the United States, with a feeling of apprehension – might a shift towards a model of power projection inevitably lead to armed hostilities amongst the global powers?
Nevertheless, heightened concerns are understandable, especially when considering China’s intentions in the midst of a massive military mobilization effort (despite “over-the-top declarations of peace” from Beijing). Perhaps, China does, in fact, want “everyone to watch while it flexes its big peace muscle”, taking into account that the PLA is also fiercely committed to multilateral cooperation and development efforts, such as “emergency rescue and disaster relief, [as well as] international peacekeeping and international rescue [operations].” However, China has been steadfast in defense of its Cold War Era-style festivities, ubiquitously remarking, “If someone says this is flexing anything… it is a flexing of the spirit of peace by the Chinese people” (Zhang Ming, Vice Minister of China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs). Whatever China’s true intentions may be, its current “coercive” activities are representative of the theoretical Security Dilemma wherein its power projection platform has only served to elevate the level of insecurity in the region (as well as globally) and is therefore not in the strategic interest of the nation.