Editorial: Defense report highlights concern over Chinese military's growing influence
The fiscal 2012 white paper on defense has highlighted grave concern on changes in the relationship between Chinese forces and the Communist Party and the military's growing influence on Beijing's diplomatic policy. It then underscores the need to pay close attention to Chinese forces' future movement as a challenge to Japan's crisis management.
The Defense Ministry says in the report that China's increasing defense spending, modernization of its military and its increasing military activity in the South and East China Sea, as well as the lack of transparency regarding its forces and national security situation, "are a matter of concern to the region including Japan as well as the international community." The defense white paper for fiscal 2010 and 2011 also expressed similar concerns.
Attention should be focused particularly on its reference to the transparency of China's military. In addition to Beijing's failure to clarify details about the weapons its military possess and its defense spending, the report states, "There are views that the relationship between the Communist Party leadership and the People's Liberation Army has become complex and that the military's influence on decision-making on foreign policy is changing." In other words, it points to the possibility that the Communist Party of China's control over the military has weakened.
Similarly, the U.S. government has voiced growing concern over Chinese forces' recent activities. In January last year, then U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said during a visit to Japan that there is evidence of little communication between Chinese military leaders and civilian leaders over recent years.
He made the remark while keeping in mind that Chinese President Hu Jintao had not been informed of the Chinese military's test-flights of its next-generation stealth fighters, which were conducted shortly before Gates visited China prior to his trip to Japan.
Regarding Chinese military leaders' behavior, the white paper says, "It has been pointed out by some that the number of occasions when the People's Liberation Army expresses its position on security challenges has been increasing in recent years." It is an apparent reference to some hard-line officers' calls in the media for the "use of non-peaceful means" and the construction of military facilities on the Senkaku Islands in Okinawa Prefecture in a bid to inflame nationalism.
President Hu is set to hand over his post of general secretary of the Communist Party of China to Xi Jinping, vice president of China and a high-ranking member of the party's Politburo Standing Committee. With the transfer of power, most of the party's Central Military Commission will also be replaced by those in younger generations. A power struggle has been intensifying for seats in the Politburo Standing Committee and the Central Military Commission. The downfall of Bo Xilai as secretary of the party's Chongqing chapter is widely viewed as part of this power struggle.
The prospects of the power struggle are expected to remain in a quagmire until autumn. The next Xi administration's military strategy remains uncertain. If such a situation allows the military to increase its influence on political decision-making, particularly on diplomatic policy, it will pose a serious threat to the stability of the Asia-Pacific region. Close attention needs to be paid to the Chinese military's movements in order to ascertain China's future diplomatic strategy.
To that end, it is important to promote dialogue and exchanges between Japanese and Chinese defense authorities. Such exchanges, which had been stalled since a boat collision off the Senkaku Islands in 2010, have returned to pre-incident level. Tokyo and Beijing should quickly create an agreed-upon seaborne communication mechanism between Chinese forces and the Maritime Self-Defense Force in preparation for any possible incident at sea and step up efforts to promote mutual understanding.
August 01, 2012(Mainichi Japan)