Another suggestion was that China should increase its responsibilities and its power in the world aggressively, instead of taking a conservative and slow approach.
Yan also believes that China should effectively use its power to dominate other countries, since such a move is more important to China than its overseas economic interests.
However, Yan said such a feat could only be achieved through a dramatic increase in the capabilities of the Chinese Armed Forces.
The Government appears to agree with these sentiments. Liang Guanglie, China's Defense Minister has declared in a recent interview: "Looking at the current world situation, a full-scale war is unlikely, but we cannot exclude the possibility that, in some local areas, unexpected events may occur, or military friction may take place due to a misfire."
This innocuous remark demonstrates that China will increasingly project its newly-found power outside its territory.
This new affirmation of power has already taken a concrete shape. Just ahead of the visit of the US defence secretary to Beijing, pictures of a fifth generation fighter plane appeared surfaced on the internet. The pictures showed the J-20 taxiing on an airfield in southwestern China. This prototype, the first known Chinese stealth fighter, surprised US experts and sent shivers down the Pentagon, though the Chinese engineers will take some time to develop a proper engine.
It however clearly demonstrates that the Chinese are on the job and quickly catching up to the Americans in weapons technology.
Around the same time, The PLA Daily published an article suggesting that China should focus on its national security strategic chain - composed of strategic resources, strategic industries, and strategic capabilities. The Daily, a media outlet for the People's Liberation Army, felt it was critical to have a military capability that reflected China's status. A veiled threat was added: "International cooperation is the best way to obtain a supply of stable strategic resources, but we should never give up the option of using abnormal means to safeguard the security of our strategic resources."
Strategists can start scratching their heads over what abnormal means exactly.
Another indication of future Chinese policy can be gleaned from a report created during a discussion at The Institute of Asia-Pacific Studies of the Chinese Academy of Social Science on the future direction of China's Foreign Policy, held by the International Herald Leader.
The report, Evaluation of China's Security Situation felt that in 2010, China faced intensified security pressure from its neighboring countries and deteriorating relationships with its neighbors.
Whether the 'intensified security pressure' is of its own making has obviously not been discussed. But the mere fact that the issue was debated on by several government think tanks proves that there is no unanimity in China over whether the nation should continue with its aggressive foreign policy or return to a more peaceful rise.
Apparently two opposing views emerged during the discussion:
- China should learn how to reduce it neighbours' fears and worries concerning China's rise. In other words, make more friends and create zero or few enemies.
- China should learn from Russia. It initially took a soft foreign policy approach, but the Western world's continued interaction with its neighbors became a threat. After Russia showed its determination to safeguard its interests (by sending troops to Georgia), the situation stabilized.
One can only hope that the first opinion will prevail amongst Chinese decision makers in 2011. If Beijing wants to pretend having a role in world politics, it is certainly in its interest.
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Born in France, Claude Arpi's quest began 36 years ago with a journey to the Himalayas. Since then he has been a student of the history of Tibet, China and the subcontinent. He is the author of numerous English and French books. His book, Tibet: the Lost Frontier (Lancers Publishers) was released recently.
More columns by Claude Arpi