A white paper titled 'China's National Defence in the New Era', released by the country’s defence ministry in Beijing on Wednesday detailed various aspects of its military development comparing it with India, the US, Russia, and other countries.
The white paper, a first since 2015, emphasises the enhanced role of military in safeguarding a country’s overseas interests and international peace and slammed the US for “undermining the global strategic stability." It also sends out a strong warning of retaliation against attempts to break up China through an independent Taiwan.
Commenting on situation at the China-India border, the white paper said the Chinese military strives "to promote stability and security along the border with India, and taken effective measures to create favourable conditions for the peaceful resolution of the Donglang (Doklam) standoff".
The Doklam standoff began when Indian troops objected to the People's Liberation Army (PLA) building a road close to a narrow corridor connecting India’s mainland with its northeastern states in an area also claimed by Bhutan. It led to a severe strain in relations between the two countries that was finally resolved after the PLA stopped the road construction, following which India withdrew its troops.
Following the face off, New Delhi and Beijing had their first ever informal summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping in Wuhan in 2018 which paved the way for normalisation of the ties.
India and China have been engaged in talks to resolve their border dispute, with 21 rounds held since 2002 when they appointed special representatives to sort out the issue. There were many rounds held prior to 2002 without concrete results though Indian government officials say the border has been largely quiet with both sides not firing a single shot in decades.
The white paper also highlighted elements of competition between the two-million strong Chinese military with that of its counterparts in India, US, Russia and other countries.
"Global military competition is intensifying. Major countries around the world are readjusting their security and military strategies and military organisational structures. They are developing new types of combat forces to seize the strategic commanding heights in military competition," it said.
The US, the white paper noted, was engaging in technological and institutional innovation in pursuit of absolute military superiority.
Russia is advancing its 'New Look' military reform, while the UK, France, Germany, Japan and India are re-balancing and optimising the structure of their military forces.
"Driven by the new round of technological and industrial revolution, the application of cutting-edge technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), quantum information, big data, cloud computing and the Internet of Things are gathering pace in the military field," the paper said.
The white paper noted that international military competition was undergoing paradigm changes with new and high-tech military technologies based on IT developing rapidly. There is a prevailing trend to develop long-range precision, intelligent, stealthy or unmanned weaponry and equipment, it said.
"War is evolving in form towards informationised warfare, and intelligent warfare is on the horizon," it said.
Without naming the ‘Quad’--an informal grouping comprising the US, Japan, India and Australia--the paper said Washington was strengthening its Asia-Pacific military alliances and reinforcing military deployment and intervention, adding complexity to regional security. Noteworthy is the fact that China continues to use the phrase Asia-Pacific, while the US has now started using the term Indo-Pacific to refer to a large swathe of ocean and landmass between the west coast of the US and the east coast of Africa.
The defence white paper also sought to play down heavy military expenditure on Beijing’s part saying China was spending less on defence budgets in terms of GDP in comparison to India, US and other countries.
According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), the leading international defence think tank, China, the second-largest spender of defence in the world, increased its military expenditure by 5% to $250 billion in 2018 against India's $66.5 billion. The US, which is the largest spender of defence, spent $ 649 billion in 2018.
Arguing that China's defence expenditure was reasonable and appropriate, the white paper said the country attends to both development and security.