Chinese military strategy in a nutshell

An airstrip, structures and buildings on China’s man-made Subi Reef in the Spratly chain of islands in the South China Sea (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)

Active defense.

Those two words are the essence of the Communist Party of China’s military strategic thought, according to the official Chinese defense white paper released publicly three years ago.

The document, which outlined the defense strategy of the Communist Party of China (CPC), was released by the Chinese Ministry of National Defense on May 26, 2015.

It is important to keep this document in mind even as the Duterte administration maintains its policy of downplaying the Chinese government’s continuing encroachment of the Exclusive Economic Zone of the Philippines.

“The strategic concept of active defense is the essence of the CPC’s military strategic thought,” the defense white paper said. “From the long-term practice of revolutionary wars, the people’s armed forces have developed a complete set of strategic concepts of active defense, which boils down to: adherence to the unity of strategic defense and operational and tactical offense; adherence to the principles of defense, self-defense and post-emptive strike; and adherence to the stance that ‘We will not attack unless we are attacked, but we will surely counterattack if attacked.’”


The defense white paper also included China’s maritime disputes with other countries, notably the Philippines and the United States.

“On the issues concerning China’s territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests, some of its offshore neighbors take provocative actions and reinforce their military presence on China’s reefs and islands that they have illegally occupied,” the paper said. “Some external countries are also busy meddling in South China Sea affairs; a tiny few maintain constant close-in air and sea surveillance and reconnaissance against China. It is thus a long-standing task for China to safeguard its maritime rights and interests.”

The paper sees the present situation in the South China Sea as a justification to initiate “active defense” measures, notably the Spratlys and reefs that China has transformed into man-made islands.

The official Chinese defense ministry’s white paper shows that President Rodrigo Duterte’s recent assertion that those Chinese military assets in the occupied reefs pose no threat to the Philippines is misplaced.

Recent revelations confirm that the Chinese defense white paper’s strategy has been implemented to bolster Beijing’s active defense strategy, namely the deployment of military forces to the South China Sea to “foster a strategic posture favorable to China’s peaceful development.”

As the recent photos of the reefs that Beijing converted into island bases showed, the Chinese government does use military force as an integral part of its diplomacy.

The words contained in the Chinese defense ministry’s white paper from three years ago have been turned to fact.

Even as the white paper specifically mentions the deployment of military forces to bring about a situation advantageous to Beijing, the guidelines also state that the Chinese government will maintain a military policy that is “defensive in nature.”

That is good to know, but that must always be tempered by another statement within the white paper: ‘We will not attack unless we are attacked, but we will surely counterattack if attacked.”


The white paper also stated that “integrating military with civilian purposes and combining military efforts with civilian support” was a guiding principle of Chinese national defense policy.

“With stronger policy support, China will work to establish uniform military and civilian standards for infrastructure, key technological areas and major industries, explore the ways and means for training military personnel in civilian educational institutions, developing weaponry and equipment by national defense industries, and outsourcing logistics support to civilian support systems,” the paper said.

The following paragraph in the defense white paper is particularly revealing, especially when seen in the context of the China’s foreign ministry announcements that civilian facilities being built on the reclaimed reefs in the South China Sea but were manned by Chinese military personnel tasked with maintaining a Chinese military zone.

“China encourages joint building and utilization of military and civilian infrastructure, joint exploration of the sea, outer space and air, and shared use of such resources as surveying and mapping, navigation, meteorology and frequency spectra,” the paper said. “Accordingly, military and civilian resources can be more compatible, complementary and mutually accessible.” G



More Stories