China has singled out Japan for its shifting security policies and lambasted the United States for undermining global stability, noting rising strategic competition among major powers, in its first defense white paper in seven years.
The white paper, released Wednesday and titled “China’s National Defense in the New Era,” comes amid Beijing and Washington’s souring relations over military and trade issues, and as Tokyo casts a cautious eye on improving Sino-Japanese ties.
“The U.S. has adjusted its national security and defense strategies, and adopted unilateral policies,” the paper said. “It has provoked and intensified competition among major countries, significantly increased its defense expenditure, pushed for additional capacity in nuclear, outer space, cyber and missile defense, and undermined global strategic stability.”
As for Tokyo, which has seen its relations with Beijing thaw after a long period of chilly ties, the white paper focused on Japan’s unshackling of the Self-Defense Forces and evolution of a more independent and muscular security policy.
“In an attempt to circumvent the postwar mechanism, Japan has adjusted its military and security policies and increased input accordingly, thus becoming more outward-looking in its military endeavors,” the paper said.
It also used the paper to address the elephant in the room amid the two countries improving relations: the Japanese-administered Senkaku Islands, which are also claimed by China, where they are known as the Diaoyu.
The paper called the tiny islets in the East China Sea “inalienable parts of the Chinese territory,” and vowed that Beijing would protect its “national sovereignty and territorial integrity” via “patrols in the waters” near the Senkakus.
While the words on the Senkakus were fairly boilerplate, they were markedly toned down from the last defense white paper issued in 2012, when Beijing blasted Japan for “making trouble over the issue.”
Rather, this white paper saved the vitriol for self-ruled Taiwan, which Beijing views as a renegade province that must be brought back into the fold — by force if necessary.
China said it will not renounce the use of force in efforts to reunify Taiwan with the mainland, noting that its armed forces are bolstering their military preparedness for such a contingency.
“The PLA will resolutely defeat anyone attempting to separate Taiwan from China and safeguard national unity at all costs,” the paper said.
Speaking at a news conference on the paper’s release, Defense Ministry spokesman Wu Qian said the threat of Taiwan separatism is growing and warned that those who are seeking independence will meet a dead end.
“If anyone dares to separate Taiwan from China, the Chinese military will certainly fight, resolutely defending the country’s sovereign unity and territorial integrity,” Wu said.
Taiwan, a democratically-governed island, split from the Communist Party-ruled mainland China after the civil war ended in 1949. China maintains that Taiwan is part of its territory and seeks “complete reunification.”
Earlier this month, the U.S. State Department OK’d the possible $2.2 billion arms package requested by Taiwan that includes 108 General Dynamics Corp. M1A2T Abrams tanks and 250 Stinger missiles, among other weapons.
The move stoked China’s ire and prompted it to threaten sanctions against the U.S.
“China resolutely opposes the wrong practices and provocative activities of the U.S. side regarding arms sales to Taiwan,” the paper said.
The U.S. has no formal ties with Taipei but is bound by its Taiwan Relations Act to help it defend itself, and Washington is the island’s main source of arms. The Pentagon said Washington has sold Taipei more than $15 billion in weaponry since 2010.
Taiwan’s Defense Ministry said it made the request in light of an increasing military threat from China.
Beijing has called Taiwan “the most important and sensitive issue in China-U.S. relations” and has bolstered its military presence near the island, sailing its sole operating aircraft carrier through the Taiwan Strait in January and March of last year and holding large-scale “encirclement” exercises and bomber training throughout last year and into this year.
The U.S. has also ramped up the frequency of its transits of the Taiwan Strait, sending navy warships and coast guard vessels through the strategic waterway several times this year.
Elsa Kania, adjunct senior fellow for the Center for a New American Security, said the strong language was intended as a “signaling of red lines” by Beijing.
“These are some of the most explicit threats that I’ve seen on Taiwan, and the message is intended to be very clear,” she wrote on Twitter.
China’s defense spending, known for being opaque, would maintain moderate and steady growth, which the paper claimed was relatively low compared to other major countries.
“There is still a wide gap between China’s defense expenditure and the requirements for safeguarding national sovereignty, security, and development interests,” it said.
The white paper, normally published every few years, is an outline of China’s national defense policy. Wednesday’s report highlighted China’s “defensive” approach, but also pledged to “surely counterattack if attacked.”
The paper added that China would aim to complete the modernization of its military by 2035, “fully transforming the people’s armed forces into world-class forces by the mid-21st century.”
“A strong military of China is a staunch force for world peace, stability and the building of a community with a shared future for mankind,” it added.