Having a retrospective view of Chinese defense history helps people gain a clear picture about the development and evolution of China's defense strategy over the last 58 years since the People's Republic of China was founded in 1949.
Upon its founding, New China, facing internal problems and possible foreign invasion, adopted a foreign policy of "siding with the Soviet Union" and adopted a defense strategy of consolidating national defense, opposing aggression, and winning peace. In the early 1950s, Chinese troops were committed to the Korean War (1950-53), known in China as the War to Resist US Aggression and Aid Korea.
In 1953, the People's Liberation Army began to embark on the road to modernization. In 1956, the top authorities decided to embrace an active defense strategy that regarded the United States as the potential foe and emphasized defense against possible attacks launched by US troops against China's southeastern coastal areas.
Starting from the mid-1960s, the country's military strategic priority began to shift to "preparing for a precipitated war, for a full-fledged war and for a nuclear war", owing to the deterioration of the security situation at the time.
The country was bracing itself for oncoming assaults launched simultaneously by "the US imperialists, the Soviet revisionists and Indian reactionaries", which meant a two-front or multi-front war.
Upon entering the 1970s, the focus of the nation's military strategy was geared to staving off a massive Soviet invasion and, accordingly, the Northeast, North and Northwest regions of China became strategic focal grounds.
The nationwide efforts to step up combat readiness played a positive role in coping with military threats from outside at the time. But the whole country and the army, in a constant state of combat readiness, put a great strain on the economy and the long-term development of national defense.
Peace and development became the central theme of the times as the world entered the 1970s.
Deng Xiaoping, the chief architect of China's reform and opening up, made an incisive strategic judgment in 1985: it is possible that no full-fledged world war will break out for a fairly long time to come.
Based on this strategic judgment, the country's military strategy was overhauled, switching from "preparing for a precipitated war, a full-fledged war and a nuclear war" to serving the country's goals in peaceful times.
In 1988, the Central Military Commission implemented another active-defense military strategy that involved serving the nation's bid for economic development and coping with local wars or military conflicts.
During this period, the People's Liberation Army shed one million men and women.
In 1993, the Central Military Commission mapped out still another active-defense military strategy, focusing on winning high-tech local wars and shifting the strategic focal grounds from China's Northeast, North and Northwest regions to the Southeast coastal areas. It emphasized the quality of the armed forces, improvement of the capability to cope with emergencies, exercise of flexible and yet correct strategic command and prevent major "Taiwan independence" incidents from happening.
Upon entering the new century, peace, development and cooperation were the trend of the times. In general, the international security situation remained stable, though destabilizing factors were on the rise. China faced a favorable security situation but was also confronted with various new challenges.
In order to cope with the changing situation and meet national security needs, President Hu Jintao proposed that the armed forces help provide security guarantee for the development opportunity the country is now enjoying, and offer firm strategic support for the country's national interests.
The concept of scientific development today runs throughout China's defense policy, which emphasizes safeguarding national security and unification, ensuring smooth economic development, enhancing the quality of the armed forces, implementing an active-defense military strategy, adhering to a defensive nuclear strategy and helping bring about a security climate favorable to the country's peaceful development.
The Chinese armed forces will raise its capabilities of coping with various security threats, remain able to handle crises under complex circumstances, safeguard peace, stave off wars and win wars if necessary. We never conceal our determination and intention to make the Chinese armed forces powerful. But at the same time, we make it clear to the world that China will forever pursue an active-defense strategy; that the Chinese armed forces' modernization is out of the necessity of protecting its national security and economic development and will never pose a threat to any other country.
(China Daily July 31, 2007)