The latest Chinese defense white paper shows the new posture of PLA
Updated 22:24, 25-Jul-2019
Li Zheng

Editor's note: Li Zheng is associate research fellow at the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations, Institute of American Studies and director of the American Security Center, Institute of American Studies. The article reflects the author's opinion, and not necessarily the views of CGTN.

On July 24, the Chinese government issued a white paper titled "China's National Defense in the New Era." This is the 10th national defense white paper published since 1998 and the first comprehensive defense paper published since the 18th National Party Congress. The white paper reflects the achievements of China's military reform in recent years and the mission of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) in the new era.

The PLA has taken the unprecedented move of publishing a large amount of details about its command system and management system, as well as the objectives of the its combat drills. This white paper is the most detailed official document about the Chinese military to date.

The white paper features the PLA's strategic will, determination and intention in the new era, and shows that the PLA has become more confident and more professional, adding that it has taken on four strategic tasks in the new era, including protecting China's overseas interests and promoting world peace. In order to improve its ability to respond to security threats, the PLA has significantly improved its combat readiness and maintained its status at any time.

Chinese soldiers practicing their skills in Beijing, July 22, 2014. /VCG Photo

Chinese soldiers practicing their skills in Beijing, July 22, 2014. /VCG Photo

The PLA's military exercises have been focusing on actual combat and enhancing the its operational expertise. This not only strengthens its ability to defeat the provocative behavior of the other party in potential conflicts, but also enables itself to effectively avoid accidents caused by strategic misjudgments.

Besides, the strategic intentions of the Chinese military have remained unchanged. The white paper points out that China will never seek hegemony, never expand its territory, and never seek sphere of influence. No matter how advanced China and the Chinese military become, they will not pursue regional or global hegemony. For the first time, the white paper has made building a community with shared future for mankind a strategic task for the Chinese military.

The white paper shows that PLA will more actively participate in international military cooperation, provide public safety to regions and the world, and promote the establishment of a regional security cooperation framework. The Chinese military sincerely hopes for world peace and universal security and to resolve international disputes through peaceful means. The PLA opposes the arms race and any actions that undermine global strategic stability.

China and the U.S. hold a joint military exercise for "Disaster Management Exchange" near Nanjing, Jiangsu Province, China, November 17, 2018. /VCG Photo

China and the U.S. hold a joint military exercise for "Disaster Management Exchange" near Nanjing, Jiangsu Province, China, November 17, 2018. /VCG Photo

Some Western observers believe that it is a contradiction for the PLA to become more confident and self-restraint at the same time. They always believe that strong military power will lead to more ambitious behavior by the Chinese military. Based on this assumption, the Western media is likely to interpret this white paper as a declaration of China as a major military power. This misinterpretation is mainly due to a lack of understanding of China's strategic tradition.

Looking back to history, China has never considered war to be a reasonable solution to international disputes. The socialist road it has taken puts the interests of the people in the first place. And it will not involve the country in a war under the influence of interest groups. These strategic principles make it impossible for China to seek aggressive military expansion or disrupt the peace.

The Chinese government has sought a new solution to resolve the contradiction between military strength and strategic intention. That is to use PLA's power to strengthen the current international security system. This constitutes a new military posture of maintaining a readiness for dealing with the threat of homeland security and holding a more positive attitude towards participating in global security cooperation.

(If you want to contribute and have specific expertise, please contact us at