01 August 2014

A “New Situation”: China’s Evolving Assessment of its Security Environment

Excellent analysis by a serious observer of Chinese military, doctrinal, and policy developments. Heres hoping that David Bradley continues to publish his sophisticated analysis for all to read!

Has Washington unwittingly contributed to Beijings assessment of a “new situation in the regional security environment and beyond by: (1) devoting insufficient resources and attention to the Asia-Pacific, (2) not firmly countering by opposing costs (as opposed to just calling out) rhetoric and behavior that threaten to undermine stability, and (3) engaging in well-meaning bilateral diplomacy in a manner that Beijing misinterprets as betraying weakness and lack of resolve?

David Bradley, “A ‘New Situation’: China’s Evolving Assessment of its Security Environment,” Jamestown China Brief 14.15 (31 July 2014).

From early 2013 through the present, high level Chinese officials have consistently used the phrase “under the new situation” (zai xin xingshi xia) when discussing strategic concerns such as military reform, readiness and foreign affairs. The phrase refers to a critical reassessment of the international context of Beijing’s domestic power and development path, and the forces shaping its quest for the “China Dream.” This distinctly new assessment provides impetus to the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) military reform effort, anti-corruption campaign in party and military, foreign policy initiatives and justification for future changes to China’s national military strategy.

What is the ‘New Situation’?

The 2008 financial crisis—which presented “challenges and opportunities never before seen since China’s reform and opening up”—accelerated China’s reassessment of its development prospects and national security environment (Renmin Wang, January 4, 2010). The analysis encompassed complex changes such as multi-polarization, globalization of the world economy, rapid technological advances and increased comprehensive national power competition. An essay published in 2010 by the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations (CICIR) states that the results of this reappraisal were communicated in a series of prominent CCP conferences including the 4th Plenum of the 17th CCP Central Committee in September 2009 (Contemporary International Relations, March/April 2010). The official 4th Plenum decision document coined the “new situation” to summarize China’s national power and prospects for continued growth amid a world that “…is undergoing a period of great development, great change and great adjustment” (Qunzhong Luxian Wang, May 30, 2013). The “new situation” is a formulation that represents the official analysis of these changes, and implies both confidence and wariness about macro-level changes affecting China’s path to attain the “China Dream.”