A panoramic view of the present-day world displays the simultaneous existence of both opportunities for and challenges to peace and development, and of positive and negative factors bearing on security and stability. The opportunities cannot be shared and the challenges cannot be overcome unless diverse civilizations, social systems and development models live together harmoniously, trust each other and engage in cooperation. Hence, the pursuit of peace, development and cooperation has become an irresistible trend of history.

The development goal for China to strive for in the first two decades of this century is to build a moderately prosperous society in an all-round way. As a large developing country, China has before it an arduous task for modernization, which calls for prolonged and persistent hard work. China will mainly rely on its own strength for development, and therefore poses no obstacle or threat to any one. China needs a peaceful international environment for its own development, which in turn will enhance peace and development in the world. Holding high the banner of peace, development and cooperation, China adheres to an independent foreign policy of peace and a national defense policy of the defensive nature. China will never go for expansion, nor will it ever seek hegemony.

A major strategic task of the Communist Party of China (CPC) in exercising state power is to secure a coordinated development of national defense and the economy, and to build modernized, regularized and revolutionary armed forces to keep the country safe. The Fourth Plenary Session of the 16th CPC Central Committee and the Enlarged CPC Conference of the Central Military Commission (CMC), held successively in September 2004, paid a high tribute to Jiang Zemin for his outstanding contributions to national defense and military modernization, and appointed Hu Jintao Chairman of the CPC Central Military Commission. Meanwhile, the CMC composition was also readjusted and expanded, and the developmental direction for national defense and military modernization clearly defined. In the new stage of the 21st century, China's national defense and army building shall be guided by Deng Xiaoping Theory and the important thought of the "Three Represents," in an all-round way implement Jiang Zemin's thought on national defense and army building, maintain the fundamental principle and system of absolute Party leadership over the armed forces, and take the military strategy of the new era as an overarching guideline to actively push for the national defense and military modernization.

This White Paper, China's National Defense in 2004, is published to illustrate China's national defense policies and the progress made in the past two years in its defense and army building.