China Talks of "Open Seas Protection"

PLAN plane

Published May 26, 2015 8:08 PM by Wendy Laursen

China outlined a defense strategy on Tuesday that aims to boost naval capability farther from its shores, saying it faced a grave and complex array of security threats including in the disputed South China Sea.

In a policy document issued by the State Council, the Communist-ruled country’s cabinet, it vowed to continue growing its “open seas protection” and criticized neighbors who take “provocative actions” on its reefs and islands.

“In line with the strategic requirement of offshore waters defense and open seas protection, the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) will gradually shift its focus from “offshore waters defense” to the combination of “offshore waters defense” with “open seas protection,” and build a combined, multi-functional and efficient marine combat force structure. The PLAN will enhance its capabilities for strategic deterrence and counterattack, maritime maneuvers, joint operations at sea, comprehensive defense and comprehensive support.”

Seas and oceans bear on the enduring peace, lasting stability and sustainable development of China, so the traditional mentality that land outweighs sea must be abandoned, says the paper. Great importance has to be attached to managing the seas and oceans and protecting maritime rights and interests.

Attack and Counterattack

In upholding the continued strategic concept of active defense, the document states: “We will not attack unless we are attacked, but we will surely counterattack if attacked.”

It continues: “A holistic approach will be taken to balance war preparation and war prevention, rights protection and stability maintenance, deterrence and warfighting, and operations in wartime and employment of military forces in peacetime.”

Integrated combat forces will be employed to prevail in system-vs-system operations featuring information dominance, precision strikes and joint operations.

The document says China’s air force would shift its focus from territorial air defense to both offence and defense, and will build airspace defenses with stronger military capabilities.

The People’s Liberation Army’s nuclear force, known as the Second Artillery Corps, will also strengthen its capabilities for deterrence and nuclear counterattack as well as medium- and long-range precision strikes, the paper said.

A Message of Peace

The document also states China’s commitment to peace: “The Chinese people aspire to join hands with the rest of the world to maintain peace, pursue development and share prosperity.

“China’s destiny is vitally interrelated with that of the world as a whole. A prosperous and stable world would provide China with opportunities, while China’s peaceful development also offers an opportunity for the whole world. China will unswervingly follow the path of peaceful development, pursue an independent foreign policy of peace and a national defense policy that is defensive in nature, oppose hegemonism and power politics in all forms, and will never seek hegemony or expansion. China’s armed forces will remain a staunch force in maintaining world peace.”

Russia and the U.S.

China’s armed forces will further their exchanges and cooperation with the Russian military within the framework of the comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination between China and Russia, and foster a comprehensive, diverse and sustainable framework to promote military relations in more fields and at more levels. 

Additionally, China’s armed forces will continue to foster a new model of military relationship with the U.S. armed forces that conforms to the new model of major-country relations between the two countries. They will strengthen defense dialogues, exchanges and cooperation, and improve confidence-building measures through the notification of major military activities as well as the rules of behavior for safety of air and maritime encounters, so as to strengthen mutual trust, prevent risks and manage crises. 

A Continued Focus on the South China Sea

The document comes as tensions rise over China’s increasingly assertive posture in the disputed waters of the South China Sea, where Beijing has engaged in land reclamation in the Spratly archipelago.

China, which claims most of the South China Sea, criticized Washington after a U.S. spy plane flew over areas near the reefs last week, with both sides accusing each other of stoking instability in the region.

Yang Yujun, a spokesman for the Ministry of Defense, said in a briefing on Tuesday China’s reclamation activities in the Spratly archipelago were comparable with construction of homes and roads on its mainland.

“From the perspective of sovereignty, there is absolutely no difference,” he said.

He said some countries with “ulterior motives” had unfairly characterized China's military presence and sensationalized the issue. Surveillance activities in the region were increasingly common, and China would continue to take “necessary measures” to respond, Yang said.

“Some external countries are also busy meddling in South China Sea affairs; a tiny few maintain constant close-in air and sea surveillance and reconnaissance against China,” the strategy paper said in a thinly veiled reference to the United States.

The paper indicates that the PLAN will continue to organize and perform regular combat readiness patrols and maintain a military presence in relevant sea areas.

The report can be found here.