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unbowed, vigilant and still
rising By Michael S Chase and
Benjamin S Purser III
according to the editorial, China should not allow
US preferences to determine its approach to Iran.
In addition, it recommended strengthening China's
ability to deter the United States by further
developing the Chinese military's long-range
recommended a moderate, long-term policy that
neither undermines the prospects for cooperation
nor ignores the potential implications of a US
strategic shift toward the region - in short, a
hedging strategy. Major-General Luo Yuan suggested
remaining "simultaneously vigilant and calm"
(yi yao jingti, er yao danding) and
indicated China should focus on developing its
economic strength, enhancing its military power
and maintaining a favorable external environment.
In addition, Luo suggested China should
employ skillful diplomacy
to outmaneuver the United
States in the region. Peking University's Zhu Feng
built on this concept of a balanced response,
encouraging Chinese leaders to respond with a
light touch, "by coupling strength and gentleness,
and using softness to conquer strength"
(gangrou bing ji, yi rou ke gang).
Official announcements clarified China's
commitment to maintain a steady course in terms of
its foreign policy. Officials reiterated the
centrality of the US-China relationship and
suggested that China would work to maintain
stability in the face of recent challenges.
Vice-Foreign Minister Cui Tiankai, for example,
emphasized the importance of maintaining the
stable development of US-China ties.
speech last December, Assistant Foreign Minister
Le Yucheng had underscored similar themes, urging
confidence in response to China's diplomatic
Recently, the United States has
adjusted its policies toward the Asia-Pacific
and increased its input in this region. Some
people are thus worried and doubt if China and
the US can co-exist peacefully in the
Asia-Pacific. Some even believe that China's
surrounding environment has deteriorated.
In my view, the United States has never
left the Asia-Pacific, so there is no "return"
to speak of. China does not want to and cannot
push the United States out of the Asia-Pacific.
We hope the United States can play a
constructive role in this region, and that
includes respecting China's major concerns and
The Pacific Ocean is
vast enough to accommodate the co-existence and
cooperation between these two big countries ...
In the face of the changing situation, we should
seek cooperation, not confrontation, to solve
issues. We must be confident that as long as
China is committed to peaceful development,
openness and cooperation and can attend our own
affairs well, nobody can encircle us or keep us
These official comments
suggest that while there may be uncertainty about
the scope and significance of America's so-called
pivot, Beijing will continue to chart a course
that emphasizes continuing to develop its economic
and military strength while at the same time
attempting to assuage concerns about its growing
power, to maintain an external environment
conducive to its goals for domestic social
stability and economic development.
Conclusion The initial Chinese
responses to the new US defense guidance reflected
a range of concerns. Prickly responses to comments
about transparency suggest continuing
unwillingness to reveal information that is
released fairly routinely by many countries.
Beijing has repeatedly underscored that it is
committed to developing a military capable of
preventing Taiwan from moving toward independence
and deterring US involvement in a cross-strait
conflict, controlling or denying others' access to
its near-seas if required, and protecting China's
emerging interests globally.
Yet, in many
areas, it still does not provide the kind of
clarity that major powers normally do. For
example, Chinese defense white papers have
improved gradually over the years in terms of
transparency, but they still lack the quality of
information that many outside observers expect -
including data that is often included in similar
documents released by several other countries. 
By responding to the US strategy with a simple
restatement that Chinese intentions are clear,
Beijing glosses over the need for the kind of
transparency that could help reassure its
neighbors and reduce the risks of miscalculation,
which seemingly does not bode well for the sort of
transparency or confidence-building measures that
The initial responses to
America's new defense strategy illustrate that the
current environment in China tolerates debate over
Beijing's foreign-policy challenges. The nuanced
nature of some of the comments appears to reflect
an evolving understanding of the regional security
environment. Although US statements and actions
may have exacerbated Chinese concerns about
"containment", they also appear to have motivated
Beijing to moderate its approach to dealing with
its neighbors. Furthermore, Beijing clearly
recognizes the importance of a constructive
US-China relationship, particularly given its
desire to ensure a stable environment for the
upcoming leadership transition that will have
unprecedented turnover in the senior-most ranks.
Despite criticizing US motivations for the
"pivot" and questioning Washington's ability to
execute a shift to Asia and the Pacific, Chinese
analysts generally recommended that Beijing
observe US actions and stay its existing course by
continuing to focus on economic growth and
enhancing its diplomacy and soft power while
simultaneously improving its military capabilities
- an approach they appear to believe will leave
China well positioned to cope with America's new
defense strategy and its "return" to Asia more
Along these lines, Peng Guangqian
recommended that Beijing neither regard changes in
US strategy with "indifference" nor "panic"
unnecessarily about the likely consequences of the
new defense guidance. According to Peng, as long
as China continues building its economic strength
and increasing its military power, "the sky will
The same themes were evident in
a Study Times article in which military analyst
Huang Yingxu cautioned that China should not
entertain any illusions about the United States,
but should nonetheless respond to the new defense
strategy "calmly" and stick to its current path.
Huang's reasoning is that because "time is on
China's side", Beijing should remain patient and
its position will continue to improve as US power
This confidence in China's
long-term prospects suggests that debates about
the new US defense strategy and its strategic
"pivot" are unlikely to result in major changes to
the overall direction of Beijing's foreign and
security policies. Nonetheless, observers should
expect to see tactical adjustments in Beijing's
approach as it grapples with the multifaceted
challenges it sees as inherent in the US "pivot"
to the Asia-Pacific region.