NIGHTWATCH: Chinese Dream Centers on Rejuvenation Through Muscular Economic Renewal and Outreach, Disciplined and Powerful Military

02 China

China: During this Watch, Xi Jinping has been elected President of China.

Xinhua reported on 13 March that “The Chinese Dream” is a new hot topic among Chinese and has drawn international attention from scholars and foreign policy experts.

“China’s new Communist Party leader Xi Jinping said during a museum tour last November the Chinese dream meant for him the ‘great renewal of the Chinese nation.’ He has pledged to pursue the shared Chinese dream of national rejuvenation,” Xinhua reported.

Comment: For the benefit and support of the billion plus Chinese, sophisticated national strategies are always reduced to easy-to-remember slogans or motivational statements. This was a trait of Soviet communism. The North Koreans have refined it into something they consider an art form.

“The Chinese dream” is being introduced on the margins of the National People’s Congress (NPC) as the new strategic concept that replaces “China’s peaceful rise.”

Today’s Wall Street Journal contains an insightful and detailed article on the background and some of the implications of the new strategic concept. The publicity it is receiving in Xinhua and on the web site of the NPC indicates “The Chinese Dream” is the concept that will guide Xi Jinping’s tenure as Party General Secretary and President.

Comment: The Journal article establishes that idea of The Chinese Dream is not necessarily new and not only applicable to international affairs. It has many domestic implications as well.

What is new is that Xi appears to be making it the theme of his term of office. It implies that he and the collective leadership judge that the period of China’s rise is over. They perceive a new situation.

This is a strategic inflection point for China. The rise will be replaced by pursuit of “The Chinese Dream” of national renewal or rejuvenation.

Xi made some of those points in a speech to the Politburo Standing Committee last November. He made them clearer on the 11th , when he spoke to the armed forces delegates of the NPC.

Xi Jinping and the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). Chinese media coverage of the National Peoples’ Congress posted a photo spread of Xi delivering “an important speech” on the 11th. A search of multiple data bases found only snippets of his actual text.

Excerpted below is a circular that the PLA sent to the armed forces after the speech, as reported in Chinese media. (Note: NightWatch added the bold text to highlight a few significant statements.)

“The circular points out: On 11 March, Chairman Xi (Xi is Chairman of the Central Military Commission) made an important speech at the plenary meeting of the PLA delegation to the first session of the 12th NPC. Chairman Xi’s important speech pertains to an important theme, expresses the lofty ideal … scientifically answers a series of important questions, that is,

why to strengthen the military under the new situation,

what to be the goal of military strengthening,

how to take the path of military strengthening with Chinese characteristics.”

“The speech is of great long-term political, strategic guiding significance for the handling of specific issues of great importance. It represents a solemn declaration of our party on quickening the process of national defense and military modernization from a new historical starting point. It is a programmatic document for guiding our national defense and armed forces building.”

“Military units at all levels should take the study and implementation of Chairman Xi’s important speech as an important political task at present …. truly strive to deeply study, thoroughly understand, comprehensively digest and grasp, and fully put into practice the spirit of the speech.”

“The circular emphasizes: In studying and implementing the spirit of Chairman Xi’s important speech… it is necessary to deeply understand the important status and role of national defense and armed forces building in the fulfillment of the “China dream”, fully and clearly realize the opportunity and the challenges that our country’s security and development is facing, keep a stronger sense of mission and responsibility for more quickly pushing forward the process of national defense and military modernization, provide strong power guarantee for the fulfillment of the “China dream” by doing down-to-earth work, stepping up efforts, and quickening progress.”

“It is necessary to deeply understand that the party’s goal of military strengthening under the new situation is to build a military force of the people that obeys the party’s orders, is able to win in war, and keeps a good behavioral style; fully and clearly understand that obeying the party’s orders is the soul, being able to win in war is the core, keeping a good style is the guarantee….”

“It is necessary to deeply understand the strategic idea about the integration of enriching the nation and strengthening the military, fully and clearly understand the relationship between economic development and national defense building, clearly understand that effecting civil-military integrated development is an important way of realizing the integration of enriching the nation and strengthening the military … further improve the work of effecting civil-military integrated development, further consolidate and develop military-government and military-civilian relations under the new situation.”

“Through in-depth study and education, truly bring the thinking of the entire military personnel into line with Chairman Xi’s strategic judgment on the international strategic pattern and our country’s security situation … and into line with Chairman Xi’s requirements for various parts of military force building.

Comment: Xi presented the military applications of the strategic concept to the PLA delegation before he presented the entire concept to the NPC.

The circular makes the point that there is a new situation. Xi has scientifically evaluated it as requiring integration of economic and military strength in order to fulfill The Chinese Dream. In The Chinese Dream concept, Xi explicitly connects economic growth with military modernization and links them to Chinese renewal.

His speech is called a programmatic document which means that it is not cheerleading, but guidance. An intense study period for the entire armed forces is prescribed in order to explain the purpose and direction of a more rapid development of national defense and military modernization.

In the 1990s, indoctrination about “fighting wars under modern conditions” disrupted normal armed forces training and reshaped the training that followed the indoctrination period.

The new situation requires military obedience to the Party; the ability to win wars; and good behavior. Obedience to party orders and behaving well are longstanding issues in the PLA. The new requirement is “to win in war,” which replaces, “fighting wars under modern conditions.”

In the circular the PLA was instructed that the PLA is expected to provide the “strong power guarantee” for national rejuvenation.

This appears to portend a more muscular and militarily assertive China during the next five years at least. China remains committed to peace, but not at the expense of its national interests and claims. The pace of military modernization will quicken.