2020: PRC Scholar Yin Jiwu: Comparing US and PRC Concepts of National Security

The PRC’s holistic national security concept encompassing the foreign and the domestic as well as ideological challenges whether they come from within China or from ‘outside the borders of Mainland China (jingwai)’ a term of art that encompasses both foreign countries as well as Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan.

The PRC considers Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan the which the PRC considers parts of its national territory although under a different internal political regime either becuause of the one country – two systems policy or as a practical matter because of the frozen conflict between the Republic of China on Taiwan and the one-time rebels of the Chinese Communist Party who now rule Mainland China and currently do business as the People’s Republic of China. The question of whether “the rebels” are on Taiwan or on the China Mainland is intriguing.

The holistic nature of China’s national security means that is works a bit differently than U.S. national security concepts as generally understood. Since 9/11, the U.S. has paid more attention to the domestic dimension of national security and in particular improving coordination between domestic and foreign intelligence agencies which now operate under the Director of National Intelligence (DNI). Even after 9/11 domestic national security threats were often assumed to be foreign terrorists who had infiltrated the U.S. White supremacist groups in the U.S. have only recently gotten more attention as a source of domestic terrorism. They tend to be seen as local rather than national threats. In China however national security within China often involves home-grown actors. Domestic seperatists in Xinjiang and Tibet are often labelled terrorists and considered to be a first-order national security threat.

Ideological challenges are threats to the existence of the state to the extent that some prefer to call the PRC a party-state rather than a state. Ideological threat can reach China as sort of ideological virus caught from abroad and so ideological work overseas is dong by the United Front Work Department of the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party as well as by other PRC agencies. PRC financial and other pressures aimed at controlling Chinese-language media outside the borders of Mainland China include pressure on Taiwan’s domestic media and in Chinese communities in many foreign countries as He Qinglian detailed in her recent Chinese-language book Red Infiltration that was published in Taiwan. I understand that an English translation will be published in the UK. See also the recent translated excerpts at Red Infiltration: The Reality of China’s Global Media Expansion (Part 1) and Part Two.

Chinese religious organizations both inside and outside China can be a security threat. Chinese Catholics and Protestants, Muslims and Buddhists are expected to operate within Party-obedient and faith-sinicizing religious umbrella organizations or else face closure or even jail. Unregistered religions are a subject of special concern. For example, recently the PRC government-controlled NGO the China Anti-Cult Association sounded the alarm about a space alien contactee new religion preached by a Chinese-Australian that was winning adherents inside the PRC.

PRC criticism of U.S. political arrangements can be mildly interesting but never a security threat. U.S. criticism of China including on such issues as human rights is considered a national security threat in China however. In the late 1990s when I worked in Beijing whenever there was an unpleasant period in US – China relations, internet discussion fora would erupt with all sorts of comment many quickly delted by China’s vast legions of Internet censors. One comment I saw several times was “Always keep in mind that the United States is not the enemy of the Chinese people; it is the enemy of the Chinese Communist Party.” The PRC as a party-state, does not admit to such distinctions. The interests of the Party come first.

Other PRC domestic threats include political dissidents since as Article One of the PRC Constitution states:

Article 1. Socialist state

The People’s Republic of China is a socialist state under the people’s democratic dictatorship led by the working class and based on the alliance of workers and peasants.

The socialist system is the basic system of the People’s Republic of China. Disruption of the socialist system by any organization or individual is prohibited.

Constitution of the People’s Republic of China

Professor Yin Jiwu’s discussion helps bettter understand how national security is understood in the PRC. The Chinese original text follows this translation.

Comparative Analysis of Chinese and American National Security Concepts

Posted July 6, 2020 Source: “Contemporary World and Socialism,” 3/2020

  Summary: The security concept is a systematic presentation of national security concepts. Analyzing the differences in the national security concepts of China and the United States helps link to promote mutual understanding between them and increases the effectiveness of strategic communication. Judging each other’s strategic intentions and actions has become the key element in the national security views of both China and the United States’ national security views. The national security views of China and the United States are based on how the state of their relationship and their judgments of how that relationship might develop. For the United States, national security is based on a “security threat” paradigm while for China it is based on the “national security state” paradigm. In terms of security dimension, security differentiation thinking, security measures, security value there are systematic differences between the national security views of China and the United States. Behind this are other differences: aspects of cultural background, political basis, and implementation mechanisms that create difficult obstacles. Understanding these differences between the Chinese and American countries’ views on security and their causes can help avoid mistakes in strategic communication between China and the United States and enhance security cooperation between the two sides.

Keywords: national security concept, strategic communication, security status, security threat

About the author: Yin Jiwu is Professor in the School of International Relations, Renmin University of China

  The concept of security is a systematic presentation of national security thinking, and security strategy is a systematic strategy and method that needs to be adopted to maintain and achieve a secure state. There are many factors that affect Sino-US strategic communication and its effectiveness. The difference in security concept or thinking is the reason for the difference between China and the United States in terms of security status and threat judgment, definition of security interests, and choice of security maintenance methods. The mainstream power transfer theory It does not focus on the impact of safety concepts and thinking. This article focuses on the comparative analysis of the national security concept, with China and the United States as the object, and systematically analyzes the differences between the two countries in the national security concept and their causes. The United States is the most important external actor that affects China’s national security. Therefore, systematically understanding and comparatively analyzing the differences in security views between China and the United States is an essential link to deal with Sino-US relations and shape a good Chinese national security environment.

   China’s judgment on the strategic intentions and actions of the United States has become the main content constructed by others in China’s national security concept. After the end of the Cold War, the United States’ strategic positioning of China is one of the main threat judgments in the United States’ national security strategy. Therefore, the correct understanding of each other’s security thinking between China and the United States is the basic work of the two countries to promote cooperation and avoid conflicts. The security relationship between China and the United States is a core element that determines the direction of the future world political power structure.

   Differences in PRC and U.S. Concepts of Security

   The security concept of China and the United States belongs to two different security paradigms. The United States is the “security threat” paradigm, and China is the “security state” paradigm. The United States attaches great importance to the formulation and publication of the “National Security Strategy”. Since 1987, each administration has made the formulation of a national security strategy an important strategic task, but the reports do systematically describe U.S. national security concept. China has systematically described its own security concept, for example, in the new security concept of 1996 to the overall national security concept of 2014, but China has never issued a national security strategy report. China has described to the international community its own concept of security in a series of national defense white papers, white papers on security issues.

The basic paradigm of the US national security concept is the “threat paradigm”, while the basic paradigm of the Chinese national security concept is the “status paradigm”. The primary task of the “threat paradigm” is to define the source of national security threats. Since World War II, the definition and countermeasures to national security threats have been at the core of US national security strategy. During the Cold War, the United States defined the Soviet Union as a strategic threat and the target of a security response; with the end of the Cold War, the United States lost its core threat; after the “9.11” terrorist attacks, the United States made terrorism as the core national security threats; once the threat of from terrorism gradually eased, the Trump administration listed China and Russia as the main security threats to the United States in its National Security Strategy Report. From this perspective, the core priority of the US national security concept just what are the threats to US national security and where do they come from. Whether or not these presumed threats are actually threats or not, the threat report focuses on specific state or non-state actors.

   In its threat assessments, the United States judges the primary source of threats to national security based on the capabilities and intentions of the other party. On the one hand, from the perspective of strength assessment, the determination of the possible threats to U.S. national security by relevant state or non-state actors is based on the assessment of the target’s national capabilities, especially military capabilities and strategic behavior and on the assessment of intentions. Thus the definition of security threats in the United States depends on many factors and among these the ideology and political system of the assessment play an important role. An important assumption of security and conflict in the United States is based on the “democratic peace theory”, that is, democratic countries will not become security threats to each other. After the Cold War, the primary threat to US national security hesitated between the strategic competition with major powers and non-traditional security threats.

   China’s national security concept is a “security status” paradigm. China’s focus is on the real threats and challenges to the security of the state. This kind of challenge can come from a specific behavior or challenge. For example, in the reports of the National Congress of the Communist Party of China and the series of white papers on China’s national defense, hegemonism, power politics, and separatist forces are all seen as both threats to world peace and to the national security of China. Based on this, China’s discussion of its national security situation generally begins with a description of the current international and domestic security situation, and then sorts out the important factors that affect China’s national security status, including basic assessments of on the international security situation and the international situation in China’s immediate neighborhood. For example, in the white paper “China’s National Defense in the New Era” released in 2019, the risks and challenges facing China’s national security are summarized as “with the profound evolution of the international strategic landscape, the overall stability of the Asia-Pacific security situation, and the risks and challenges facing national security cannot be ignored”. At various levels, particular attention is paid to the strategic actions of US unilateralism and the threats to China’s own domestic security, while highlighting the challenges of non-traditional security in the new period. Unlike the specific definition of US security threats, China’s elaboration of security threats and challenges may be a specific country or regional security situation, or specific actions of specific countries, such as US arms sales to Taiwan and militarism in Japan. China’s definition of national security challenges focuses on identifying the various factors that affect and challenge the status quo of China’s overall national security stance, while systematically elaborating upon the security principles advocated by China, what China views as an ideal security order and its vision for security.

   Specific Differences in PRC and U.S. Security Concepts

   The national security views of China and the United States are based on two different views on what national security means. The United States emphasizes security threats and their responses, while China is concerned about security threats and challenges. These two different security paradigms are embodied in the systematic differences in the scope, distinctions between variety of security thought, security measures and values embedded in security thinking.

   (1) Differences in the scope of security thinking

   The US national security concept is largely one-dimensional, focusing on the dimension of military security. This threat is generally associated with strong external challengers and competitors. For example, during the Cold War, the United States and the Soviet Union were strategic competitors in the areas of military force and technology, in building global spheres of influence, and in other fields. Since then, the scope of US national security has gradually expanded, extending from traditional military security to embrace non-traditional terrorist security threats. This is most clearly seen in the adjustment of US national security concepts and strategies caused by the September 11 terrorist attacks. With non-traditional security threats such as terrorism becoming the main source of security threats to the United States, the United States has shifted from focusing on international or foreign security to focusing on the national security of the United States and on external traditional and non-traditional security threats. As globalization accelerates, the various non-traditional security issues arising from U.S. and global contacts increase the challenges to the U.S. own security and identity, the United States has also come to pay more attention to non-traditional security issues such as immigration, technology diffusion, and energy. This has gradually increased as Trump’s emphasis on homeland security and US in distinction to foreign interests has won domestic support, reflecting the heritage of the diplomatic traditions of Jackson and Hamilton in the United States. The national security concept of the United States highlights military means of maintaining traditional and non-traditional security while also incorporating its own self-proclaimed values and development model into the national security goals.

Compared with the United States’ emphasis on military security, China emphasizes a comprehensive and overall national security concept embodied in the overall national security concept proposed by the Chinese leader in 2014. This concept builds China’s national security system from eleven component elements. In the national security system of China, the most fundamental element is political security, especially the security of the regime and the security of the political system, while the security of the people is the most important objective of national security. From this perspective, China’s national security completely integrates international and domestic security. Assessment of security threat origins and challenges are not considered simply from the perspective of military security threats. Greater emphasis is place on terrorism, both foreign and domestic, as well as on domestic separatism as threats to national sovereignty and the territorial integrity of the state. In the national security system, China’s national security is a systematic project that combines traditional and non-traditional security, domestic security and international security, political security, economic security, military security, social security and cultural security.

   (2) Distinctions Made Between Different Types of Security

   American security thinking is based on a binary opposing enemy vs. self thinking. In different periods, the United States has had different “enemies”. From the Soviet Union during the Cold War, to terrorism, and now to China and Russia as competitors, we can see how the United States necessarily focuses on shaping conceptions of its core security threats. The basic principle of the binary distinction between enemy and enemy in the American security culture is also more prominent in the political and diplomatic fields. For example, in the political and ideological fields, “democracy” and “non-democracy” are used as the basic criteria for distinguishing the polities of other countries and has been a guiding principle of U.S. foreign relations. Of course, based on double standards, the United States often follows the principles the realist perspective rather than ideological affiliation. In the field of foreign relations, based on the basic concept of the spread of democratic ideas, U.S. idealism is more apparent, with Wilsonianism as the most typical model.

   The security thinking of the United States is reflected in the strength and intentions of the target country as a criterion for judging whether it is hostile or threatening to the United States. Furthermore, when determining security measures, the elimination of the enemy is as the basic method of obtaining security. This is dualism and an way of thinking that is very different comprehensive security concepts such as coexistence, tolerance and mutual influence. American hegemony has domestic religious, ideological and political roots.

   China’s national security concept is a systematic security concept. Since the 1980s, China has established a policy of non-alignment in its foreign relations. It does not make ideological distinctions. It decides its position and basic principles of policy based solely on the merits of the matter itself. China’s national security is not imbued with the idea of defining and then eliminating an enemy. From the new security concept of establishing mutual trust, mutual benefit, equality and cooperation proposed in 1996 to the overall national security concept proposed in 2014, combined with the concept of a harmonious world in China’s diplomacy and a community of human destiny, China’s national security concept is based on cooperative security The principle of “emphasis” is on seeking common ground while reserving differences, rather than eliminating those with different view. The maintenance of China’s national security is not based on clearly defining the “enemy” of China’s national security, but on resolving differences and contradictions through the spirit of “rational negotiation” such as cooperation, common consultation, mutual understanding and concessions on a basis of equality. This involves finding where interests coincide, achieving mutual goals through cooperation, and placing off to one side disputes and contradictions as necessary. Therefore, the relationship between China’s national security and the national security of other related countries is not a zero-sum game, but can promote the interests and well-being of other states as well.

(3) Differences in Security Measures

   The US national security concept emphasizes the elimination of security threats from abroad through military means and war.

First, this involves strategic military competition. The United States needs to maintain its absolute military superiority and security, so it is always seeking innovations in the field of military technology in order to maintain its military superiority, thereby maintaining its strategic deterrent force and coercive force. During the Cold War, the United States and the Soviet Union launched an arms race in the fields of conventional and nuclear weapons, which exacerbated tensions in international security.

Second, the use of force and other strategic strikes to eliminate security threats. The competition between the United States and the Soviet Union is a state of cold war, and low-intensity wars such as proxy wars are carried out in relevant areas. After the end of the Cold War, the United States tried to eliminate the threat of terrorism through unilateral military actions, cooperate with the plans of countries making “democratic transitions”, and shape regional powers friendly to the United States.

Third, strengthen the US security maintenance network through alliances. The alliance has become the basic pillar of the US foreign strategy. By establishing a worldwide military network, the United States has achieved the goal of maintaining strategic interests and responding to security threats globally. The construction of alliances and military bases has laid a strong strategic ally support for the United States to maintain military security globally.

  China has made its own characteristic choice of measures to maintain its own national security.

First, China emphasizes the importance of political and peaceful dialogue and pursues a defensive national defense policy. On issues such as territorial border disputes, the development of relations between major powers, and the maintenance of the security situation in the surrounding areas, China has always advocated non-military solutions, and has always adhered to the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence and the international norms for the peaceful settlement of international disputes.

Second, China emphasizes partnering instead of alliance, and does not seek to maintain its national security through military alliances. In the early days of New China, China adopted a “taking one side” foreign policy for some time, but with the adjustment of China’s foreign policy and the recognition of the negative effects of policy based on alliances, China has since the 1980s adopted a non-aligned policy. Today, China pursues a policy of “partnership without alliance”, upholds the basic attitude of non-confrontation, peaceful consultation and settlement of international disputes, and seeks political cooperation and safeguards national security by building various types of partnerships.

Third, cooperate to resolve differences and achieve common security. From the new security concept to the overall national security concept, China attempts to model for the international community a harmonious security concept that is different from the security concept of Western hegemony and conflict, that is, based on common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable security concept, with peace and cooperation as the common goal. China emphasizes and respects the differences between countries, takes non-interference in internal affairs as its basic principle, and seeks to find common interests with foreign states.

(4) Differences in Values Embedded in Security Concepts

   The values embedded in American security concepts are as follows.

First, the value of binary opposition. Based on American cultural traditions and security value standards, the United States’ judgment on national security threats highlights the duality of opposition, that is, the capabilities and intentions of relevant actors to threaten American security. The pursuit of national security in the United States is mainly based on political ideological standards, that is, that democratic countries do not have threatening intentions while non-democratic countries have threatening intentions. Here also is embedded a dualistic security philosophy.

Second, the rationales behind national security. The United States regards the alliance as the basis of global strategic support system for US national security. This security support is based on the individual rationale for US national security, that is, US security and the core the values of so-called “democracy” and “freedom” in the United States are threatened, the response to which involves related tactics, strategies and double standards.

Third, the pursuit of absolute security. Based on its status as a global superpower, the United States has a correspondingly aggressive approach in the way it pursues its own security. It uses its own absolute superiority as the foundation for its own security. Therefore, it must establish its superiority in both quality and quantity.

   China’s choice of security values reflects a certain diversity, collective orientation and relativity.

First, China’s security value are inclusivity and coexistence. The philosophy of China’s foreign relations is coexistence and not binary thinking and ideas of incompatibility. China applies dialectical thinking to a certain extent in its assessment of security threats and challenges. That is, there is a certain mutability in the favorable factors and unfavorable factors of security.

Second, the systematic and collective nature of security. Security maintenance is a systems project, and China’s national security also requires a systematic approach among the eleven closely related elements of national security. From the perspective of the relationship between China’s national security and the security of other countries and the international community, China emphasizes interdependence and their systematic dialectical relationship, that is, in order to solve mutual security issues in a mutually trustful, mutually beneficial, equal, and collaborative way to achieve cooperation, national security and collective security.

Third, the relativity of security. China’s overall security strategy is actively defensive, that is, it achieves a balance between China’s domestic security and international security through defensive security maintenance measures, and “is determined to never seek hegemony, never to seek expansion or to seek to expand its sphere of influence.” In terms of military security measures, China emphasizes technological progress and ending its history of being a victim, rather than pursuing an absolute security state and corresponding means of support. In general, China’s security philosophy is a defensive security culture that focuses on maintaining multiple balances and maintaining system status.

   The politicization process of security thinking: the reasons behind the difference in security concept between China and the United States

   The national security concept of China and the United States are two different concepts. This difference and its impact are more worthy of attention during a period of translation when the differences in power between China and the United States during a period in which the relative powers of China and the United States are becomes more equal and then shifts. The security concept is a systematic presentation of national security thinking, which is based on the country’s material foundations and cultural environment, and formed through the practice of domestic political practice. Differences in the security concepts between China and the United States include differences on these three levels: cultural background, political foundation and implementation mechanism.

   (1) Cultural background

  As a systematic refinement of national security thinking, the national security concept is influenced by the different cultural backgrounds of various countries. Cultural background factors, including cultural traditions and security culture, determine the security concept formed by different countries. For example, whether it emphasizes binary opposition or tolerance of differences, whether it focuses on cooperation or conflict resolution, and whether it emphasizes overall interests or individual rational interests.

   First, cultural traditions. American culture emphasizes individuals shaping their own values, as does the country. Although American society pays attention to personal boundaries and privacy between individuals, the United States also feels that it has a universal culture and is committed to promoting its own democratic values to the world. This is also driven by American religious culture. Americans pay attention to the definition of interests and personal boundaries in their interactions. Therefore, the determination of security interests and threats has become the core of the US national security concept and security strategy. Dualistic thinking constitutes the basis for the determination of security interests. The clear dual definition of security interests and their maintenance is also influenced by the US “low context culture”, that is, the security interests and threats to the United States can be clearly defined, and are not affected by relationships, culture and situation as contextual factors. .

   China’s cultural traditions, however, are collectivism and relationship-oriented, so China’s national security concept also has more collective and ideological orientation. China’s own security is inseparable from the security situation of other countries and the international community. At the same time, China’s security goals include not only its own security, but also the promotion of international security and global peace and stability. China has specifically divided its national security concept into eleven areas of security, and believes that these eleven security areas are interconnected and inseparable. In addition, Chinese cultural tradition emphasizes peace and harmony, and pays attention to the resolution of with each other’s security dilemmas and competitions in an inclusive and mutually acceptable manner, rather than obtaining their own absolute security by eliminating their opponents.

   Second, security culture. The American security culture is a concept of absolute security based on its own typical individualist culture. Under the influence of individualistic rational interest thinking, security is relatively zero sum game, especially for actors who are confronting or competing with one another. The US national security culture values the clear definition of security and security threats. That culture holds that only by eliminating insecurity or security threats can it be secure. And alliances and building military strength building have become the basic means and strategies for eliminating security threats. Moreover, security threats come to be seen from the perspective of values to make them consistent with the US pursuit of homogenization-oriented security, that is, as long as I turn you into the same type of person as I am, security threats will disappear and security relations will be reshaped. The security culture of the United States focuses on shaping the decisive elements of its own national security. Therefore, the United States has been in a state of security anxiety to a certain extent, constantly searching for enemies, eliminating them, enhancing its strength, and seeking absolute security.

   China’s security culture emphasizes interdependence, collectivism and possibilities for cooperation. Security is a status achieved through relationships. The status of security is achieved by through an mutual adjustments that optimize relationship and not unilaterally by military means. The achievement and optimization of the security state depends on the adjustment of the interrelationship rather than the solution of simple military means. There is no zero-sum game relationship between security and national interests. This relationship between the two can be optimized to form a security status of cooperation and collective security. Founded as it is on the principles of dialogue and consultation, China’s national security culture emphasizes the transformation and resolution of possible external threats through dialogue, as well as the desire for peaceful and harmonious coexistence and needs of building a community of shared human destiny. The relationship of the various aspects of domestic security and its maintenance to international security is seen holistically in China’s interconnected national security culture. A distinctive feature of China’s national security is that it is understood from the perspective of overall national security and systemic connections among all its elements both foreign and domestic.

   (2) Political Foundations

   The political basis of security concepts means that a country’s security concept must go through the socialization mechanism of national politics in order to define national security goals, interests and strategies that are aligned with the cultural background of the country. On the one hand, the concept of security is influenced by national power, which is the material basis of the concept of security; on the other hand, the concept of security is built within the a particular country’s political ideology and political system and so reflects the country’s specific political values and tendencies.

   First, national strength. The different national security views of China and the United States are determined by their respective strengths and positions in the international arena. The national strength, international status, ideology, geographical environment, and historical culture of China and the United States are the foundations of the differences in the security concepts of the two countries.

   Due to its unique geographic location and the important role it played during the two world wars, the national strength gradually surpassed that of traditional hegemons and became the world’s unique superpower. Driven by this, the national security concept of the United States has changed from isolationism to globalism. The United States’ own values and ways of thinking methods are also reflected in its security concept. Offshore checks and balances have become the main strategy of the United States. During the years immediately following the founding of the United States, the United States has been threatened by factors such as European countries and immigration, and has always implemented defensive security strategies in response to these challenges. After it strength had gradually grown into global dominance, the United States incorporated global interests into its own security interests, and gradually adopted liberal internationalism as the basis for a promoting global order. Since the Trump administration came to power, the United States has begun to backtrack on its support for liberal internationalism, and go back to the U.S. first concept of maintaining US national security, retreating from the international stage to just relying upon itself. This process is also a reflection in the national security concept of the United States of the relative decline of U.S. national strength.

   China has always adhered to the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence and advocated the principles of international security relations based on the basic values of equality, fairness and justice. This has also been affected to some extent by China’s own strength. China’s own security values arise because of China’s own relative decline in power and the colonial aggression its suffered from in modern times. Thus China, which is in a relatively weak position in international competition, its own security values tends to reflect more the demands of the weak, emphasizing the basic principles of equality, fairness and justice. As China has become stronger, the global vision of the equality of states based upon the central position in the world order which China previous occupied in history has become the foundation of China’s foreign security concept. Therefore, pursuing a new global security concept that furthers the goal of building of a community of shared future for mankind has become an important goal of China’s foreign security strategy in the new era.

   Second, ideology. The United States boasts that it represents the tide favoring the Western democratic political countries in today’s world. In the process of foreign policy and maintaining security, the American democratic values and the deep philosophical foundation behind it are exposed. Based on its so-called democratic values, the United States regards whether a country is democratic or not as an important basis for determining whether or not it is a security threat. Therefore, ideology not only determines U.S. assessments of external threats, but also reflects the dualistic thinking of U.S. security assessments. That is that threat of non-democratic countries must be eliminated by means of there transformation to democracy or by military means. The United States’ external security thinking embodies its long-standing ideological roots. However during the Trump era, the United States has returned to using realism and pragmatism as the ideological bases for assessing its national security.

   From an ideological point of view, China is not among the Western-style democratic systems recognized by the United States. The nature of China’s socialist system determine that China’s security concept advocates the principles of equality, justice, tolerance and pluralism, and does not view the security competition between countries as a zero-sum game. On this basis, China’s national security takes the people’s security as its purpose and political security as its foundation, is determined by its socialist ideology.

   (3) Implementation Mechanism

  In the light of historical developments, the national security views of both both China and the United States will also undergo corresponding changes, The forces driving these changes are the inherent tension and balance between their national strategic culture and the security concepts of their national leaders. Strategic cultures are relatively static. National views in those areas accumulate over time in the course of the implementation of strategy and its goals. The security views of leader are affected by many factors including leadership turnovers and changes in power. These changes also affect national security concepts.

   First, strategic culture. Strategic culture or thinking is one of the more fundamental internal elements that determines a country’s security and strategic choices. The strategic thinking of the United States is influenced by its own history, the growth of its national strength, and the specific environment of international strategic competition. Generally speaking, US foreign strategic thinking is more militant, embodying its idealistic color, emphasizing that the interests of the United States are global, and not just limited to the United States. The characteristics of American strategic thinking are logical thinking, thinking in categories, mechanical thinking, and externalized thinking. All along, the maintenance of US external security has kept the battlefield and locales of competition outside the homeland. Only terrorism, an unconventional force, has changed the traditional strategic thinking of the United States. In addition, realism is also the foundation of American strategic thinking in its emphasis on the importance of power and strength. Therefore, building world-class absolute military strength and realizing the projection of US power and strategic layout globally are the basic considerations of US foreign strategy and security.

   There is much debate about whether China’s strategic thinking is offensive or defensive. Western scholars have always used foreign actions and power development as the basis for analyzing China’s strategic thinking, and concluded that China is offensive strategic thinking. This conclusion is inconsistent with China’s own characteristics. China’s security maintenance is defensive and passively reactive. Only when its own security interests are harmed, China uses force and other means to maintain its own interests. Both political and strategic communication in diplomacy are security maintenance methods that adhere to the principles of consultation and dialogue. China’s security maintenance motives include national interests, threats, and challenges. Non-material elements such as honor, self-esteem, and national sentiment are among its deeper motivations. Therefore, China’s security strategic thinking is not based on pure realist philosophy.

   Second, security beliefs. Before and just after World War I, the idealistic foreign policy tradition represented by President Wilson of the United States based on the concept of free and democratic values, made a run at dominating foreign security policy of the United States. Different security philosophies in the United States are promoted by different leaders, reflecting the changes in the United States’ own strength and the role of different strategic traditions. In in addition to Wilson’s idealistic diplomatic tradition, there is also the Hamiltonian tradition that privileges business interests and Jacksonianism that stresses military strength. The Trump period opened a new stage of reconsidering US national security, that is, a reflection on the previous security concept based on the liberal international order, and has been a new shrinking of US security interests from the international level to the national level. This change was influenced by the leader’s own personality and policy ideas, but the foundation of current mainstream position in US national security thinking is the change in the strength of the United States.

   China’s own national security concepts reflect changes in the security beliefs of different collective leaderships. The specific leaders’ own experiences and values influence their choice of how to define security threats and challenges and how to respond. For example, leaders since reform and opening up have attached importance to development and the need for an international peaceful environment, which has also determined China’s pursuit of a new security concept. Now that China’s own power has grown faster and the power balance between China and the United States has become more even, China’s security concept embraces more specific global concerns and less simply the maintenance of China’s own security interests.


   In the era of Sino-US strategic competition, differences in security thinking and concepts significantly constrain the effectiveness of strategic communication between the two sides. A comparative analysis of the security concepts of China and the United States can help avoid strategic communication errors and enhance the strategic understanding of both sides.

   First of all, we must be alert to strategic miscalculations in a situation in which power is asymmetric. The relative strengths of and changes in those relative strengths between China and the United States are fundamental elements in the different national security concepts of the two countries. As a hegemonic country in relative decline, the United States has become more sensitive to the growth of China’s strength growth and the its related defensive foreign strategies and behaviors, and it has become easier for the United States to regard China as the most dangerous and “malicious” competitor.

  Second, we need to avoid the adverse effects of cultural differences on communications between the two countries on security issues. The difference between Chinese and American security thinking is highly consistent with the difference between Chinese and American cultural cognition. For example, the unitary and pluralistic view on differences in values, the difference between hostile thinking and inclusive thinking, and the difference between taking actions to try to make systems alike and the idea of seeking common ground while reserving differences. With this understood, the security concept also embodies awareness of how culture and cognitive styles affect security concepts. In the process of strategic communication between China and the United States, the respective security culture characteristics of both sides will determine the nature, strategic choices, reasons and attribution of responsibility for problems and the ways in which problems are resolved.

   Third, stress the importance of establishing confidence in the reliability of intentions to cooperate. The core issue of Sino-U.S. strategic communication is the effective and credible expression and understanding of each other’s intentions to cooperate. If this problem cannot be overcome, China and the United States will have difficulties resolving uncertainties in each other’s strategic intent. The path from there leads to security difficulties and conflicts like the “Thucydides trap”. In the concept of security goals and ways to achieve them, China and the United States have different understandings of how to assess the credibility of cooperation intentions. The Chinese way is for both sides working together to shape the status of the situation and their relationships so that both sides can confirm the will to cooperate and the non-malicious intentions of the other side. The American security concept, embodies realist thinking, focusing on strength and assessments of intention colored by ideology and has the tendency to resolve issues through strategic conflict and other methods. Both sides relying on their respective strategic cultural habits has given rise to many problems in the credible understanding of intentions in the China – United States strategic communication process.

  Traditional research on the Sino-US strategic relationship research focuses on the formation of strategic consensus, coordination of strategic interests, and management of differences. The direction of the China-US relationship of strategic competition depends on the development of the relative strengths of both sides and the effective use of strength. Correctly understanding the specific characteristics of each other’s security concepts and how they affect strategic communication will certainly be one of the micro-strategic building blocks that will affect the direction of this relationship. (Notes omitted)

About the Author

Name: Yin Jiwu

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来源:《当代世界与社会主义》2020年第3期 作者:尹继武字号打印推荐


    关键词:国家安全观 战略沟通 安全状态 安全威胁











  (一) 安全维度的差异



  (二) 安全区分思维的差异




  (三) 安全措施的差异



  (四) 安全价值的差异



  安全思维的政治化过程: 中美国家安全观差异的原因


  (一) 文化背景






  (二) 政治基础







  (三) 实践机制

  从历史动态来看,中美的国家安全观也会发生相应的变化,其变化的动力来源于国家战略文化和领导人的安全信念之间的内在张力及平衡。战略文化相对而言是静态的,是国家长期沉淀积累的关于战略及其目标实现的信条,而领导人的安全信念会受到领导人更替、实力变迁等诸多因素的影响,这种变化会 对国家安全观产生影响。












About 高大伟 David Cowhig

After retirement translated,with wife Jessie, Liao Yiwu's 2019 "Bullets and Opium", and have been studying things 格物致知. Worked 25 years as a US State Department Foreign Service Officer including ten years at US Embassy Beijing and US Consulate General Chengdu and four years as a China Analyst in the Bureau of Intelligence and Research. Before State I translated Japanese and Chinese scientific and technical books and articles into English freelance for six years. Before that I taught English at Tunghai University in Taiwan for three years. And before that I worked two summers on Norwegian farms, milking cows and feeding chickens.
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