Category Archives: Asia-Pacific

Analysis relating to USPACOM.

A Balancing Act: U.S. and the Cross-Strait Relation


By Jenny Chau Vuong

A growing China is shifting the balance of power in East Asia. The question remains: Should the U.S. engage or contain China’s rise? Containing a country of 1.3 billion people will be a costly option, economically and militarily. Joseph Nye at Harvard University warns that if the U.S. continues to treat China as the enemy, then they are certain to have an enemy.1 Thus, it is in the United States’ best interest to pursue positive relation with China.

One of the most pressing issues that stands between the U.S.-China relation is Taiwan. Reunification with Taiwan is deeply rooted within Chinese nationalism, and many see the island as stolen land that needs to be returned to China. On the other hand, with a growing national identity and political differences, Taiwan aims for independence. There are three most likely outcomes in this conflict: Taiwan declaring independence, maintaining the status quo, or reuniting with China. In order to maintain positive relation with China, the U.S. should not bolster Taiwan’s confidence to declare independence.

Cross-Strait Relation: War as a Last Resort

China is bent on reunification because it is essentially their unfinished civil war. Zhu Bang Zao, the spokesperson for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, made their stance very clear: “Taiwanese independence is equal to war.”2 Zhu reaffirms that China wants a peaceful solution to reunify with Taiwan. For that reason, they are patiently relying on the forces of economic integration.

At the same time, the survey conducted by National Chengchi University in Taiwan reports that 80 percent of the respondents prefer the “status quo”3 in relation with China; however, Taiwanese are not willing to pursue independence at all cost. When asked to choose either establishing formal independence or maintaining economic ties with China, 83 percent chose the latter. It is clear that although both parties articulated different futures for Taiwan, neither want an armed conflict. The commitment to a nonviolent solution forces both Taiwan and China to operate within a gray area of quasi-independence. It is not the U.S.’ job nor is it in the U.S.’ interests to define that gray area. U.S. military intervention could ignite a global conflict and push China to be more aggressive than it actually is.

The U.S. Role in the Cross-Strait Relation

Until now, the U.S.’ stance towards Taiwan is best described as a balance of optimism and realism. The United States accepted the One China policy but signed a treaty to defend against Chinese military aggression. Deputy Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken stated that Taiwan “showed the world what a mature, Chinese-speaking democracy looks likes.”4 The U.S. hopes that this beacon of democracy can influence China’s transformation. That is also the exact reason why China is fixed on reclaiming Taiwan – Taiwanese independence threatens the current regime. Despite the admiration, the U.S. is not committed to going to war with China over Taiwan, and for good reasons. Thus, the U.S. should not bolster Taiwan’s confidence by overpromising and underdelivering in the future.

In the foreseeable future, it will be difficult for Taiwan to obtain full independence based on recent trends. Taiwan’s economy has become deeply intertwined with China in the past 15 years. The British Office reported that in 2015, China absorbed around 30 percent of exports, making it the largest trading partner for Taiwan.5

Additionally, China is said to be capable of launching a military invasion by 20206, but that does not mean that they will. Furthermore, China’s actions are consistent with its commitment to a nonviolent solution in Taiwan by adopting the Nuclear No-First-Use policy and relying on the slow but steady economic integration. As Erik Eckholm, Beijing bureau chief for the New York Times states, “the number one principle – if you are a Chinese leader – is not that you have to regain Taiwan in the next five years. It’s that you can’t lose Taiwan.”

Currently, Taiwan spends less than 2 percent of their GDP on military spending.7 Thus, the small island will be relying on foreign powers to come to its defense. If Taiwan, convinced of U.S. support, declares independence, this will lead to war with China. There are two paths with one likely outcome. One, the U.S. fails to come to Taiwan’s defense, and China invades Taiwan, forcing reunification under Chinese terms. In this outcome, the U.S. will lose credibility among allies in the region, and it can cause China to become more belligerent. Two, the U.S. enters the fight to protect Taiwan, draws in the rest of the world, and starts another global conflict. No matter the victor of the war, Taiwan’s economy and infrastructure will be destroyed. It will break the U.S.-China relation, causing an economic slowdown in the global economy. Considering the consequences, the two countries are dedicated to peaceful solution, and the U.S. should follow suit.

In the meantime, the U.S. should avoid instigating aggression from the Chinese towards Taiwan. The U.S. should honor the Taiwan Relation Act in 1979 and promote diplomatic, cultural, and economic exchange; however, the U.S. must not directly engage in armed conflict with China. The U.S. can continue helping Taiwan maintain the status quo by selling weapons and expanding trade treaties. Taiwan has some time to build up their defense and economy to stand on equal footing with China, giving Taiwan more power when negotiating with China about how to define the gray area.

This strategy allows the U.S. to maintain a salvageable relationship with China without completely abandoning Taiwan. The U.S. can rely on regional allies to develop a check against Chinese power by strengthening defense treaties and diplomatic ties. If China throws their weight around, it will naturally encourage check and balance behavior from their neighbors. But without U.S. presence in the region, they are likely to jump on the Chinese bandwagon.


As China grows stronger, it will be more difficult for Taiwan to gain independence. The cost of defending Taiwan will also increase for the United States. The best scenario for Taiwan would be to accept the one country, two systems policy, while negotiating for better terms. The United States’ presence plays a large role in helping Taiwan maintain the status quo. But recognizing that the island’s de facto rule will not last forever, the United States needs to be prepared to lose Taiwan or fight China. Both economies will suffer greatly in an armed conflict. Thus, maintaining good relations with China is a better outcome for everyone. However, losing Taiwan doesn’t mean the U.S. will lose their foo hold in East Asia. As long the U.S. focuses on strengthening ties with regional countries, the U.S. can still plant its feet firmly in East Asia.

Born to Chinese parents in Vietnam, Jenny Vuong naturally developed an interest for international affairs. At the University of California Irvine, Jenny is the student ambassador in the Dean’s Council for the School of Social Sciences. She is also the Resident Advisor to the freshmen Global Perspectives hall. During her second year, Jenny studied abroad in South Korea for a year, where she interned for People for Successful Corean Reunification Organization (PSCORE). In Fall 2017, Jenny will study abroad again in Yokohama, Japan. She is looking to pursue a Ph.D. in international relations with a focus in East Asia. In her free time, Jenny enjoys cooking, learning new languages, and playing tennis.


114th Congress, 2d sess. “Reaffirming the Taiwan Relations Act and the Six Assurances as Cornerstones of United States-Taiwan relations.” Congress. 17 May, 2016. Web. 28 Mar. 2017.

Bang-Zao, Zhu. ” Why the Taiwan Issue is so Dangerous.” Interview. PBS. September 2001.

Keck, Zachary. “China Can Attack Taiwan by 2020, Taipei Says.” The Diplomat. 9 Oct. 2013. Web. 29 Mar. 2017.

Lin, Adela, and Ting Shi. “Taiwan Plans Military Spending Surge to Counter Rising China.” Bloomberg. 16 Mar. 2017. Web. 29 Mar. 2017.

Nye, Joseph. “Only China Can Contain China.” Huffington Post, 2014.

Taiwan Economy: 2016 Q1. Report. British Office. May 24, 2016. Web. 28 Mar. 2017.

Wang, Austin Horng-en, Brian Hioe, Fang-Yu Chen, and Wei-ting Yen. “The Taiwanese see themselves as Taiwanese, not as Chinese.” The Washington Post. January 02, 2017. Web. 29 Mar. 2017.

1. Nye, Joseph. “Only China Can Contain China.” Huffington Post, 2014.

2. Bang-Zao, Zhu. ” Why the Taiwan Issue is so Dangerous.” Interview. PBS. September 2001.

3. Wang, Austin Horng-en, Brian Hioe, Fang-Yu Chen, and Wei-ting Yen. “The Taiwanese see themselves as Taiwanese, not as Chinese.” The Washington Post. January 02, 2017. Web. 29 Mar. 2017.

4. 114th Congress, 2d sess. “Reaffirming the Taiwan Relations Act and the Six Assurances as Cornerstones of United States-Taiwan relations.” Congress. 17 May, 2016. Web. 28 Mar. 2017.

5. Taiwan Economy: 2016 Q1. Report. British Office. May 24, 2016. Web. 28 Mar. 2017.

6. Keck, Zachary. “China Can Attack Taiwan by 2020, Taipei Says.” The Diplomat. 9 Oct. 2013. Web. 29 Mar. 2017.

7. Lin, Adela, and Ting Shi. “Taiwan Plans Military Spending Surge to Counter Rising China.” Bloomberg. 16 Mar. 2017. Web. 29 Mar. 2017.

Featured Image: Supporters of Taipei’s mayoral candidate from Taiwan’s ruling party, the KMT, wave flags during a campaign stop on Oct. 26, 2014. (SAM YEH/AFP/GETTY IMAGES)

India’s Bid for Global Power in a Multipolar System During Development

Note: Original title of essay: “Rising in the Storm: India’s Bid for Global Power in a Multi-Polar System During Development.”


By Corey Bolyard

India is the most populous democracy in the world with 1.2 billion people and potential for intense economic growth.1 India seeks to protect its regional interests and become more involved in global power politics while balancing the needs of its economy and people. India must engage in economic reform to stimulate development and support an increasingly assertive foreign policy. By engaging in economic reform, India will have the opportunity to develop and exploit its large population and economic opportunity to become a global power in an increasingly multi-polar system, thereby allowing for an ambitious foreign policy permitting India to protect its interests in South Asia and act as the preeminent power in the region.

Economic development is key to India’s global status. Without a strong economy, India cannot provide for its citizens, much less engage in global affairs and find its place in a multi-polar system. India has a GDP of 2.2 trillion USD, but 30 percent of the population lives in poverty, hindering India’s continued growth.2 India’s Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, promised substantial economic reform and introduced the “Make in India,” program in 2014, but the democratic process is slow. “Make in India,” is a nationalistic program that would boost India’s growth from within and improve the manufacturing sector.3 Manufacturing would provide a low-education alternative to India’s waning agricultural industry, but current labor laws stunt this sector, leaving few options for this segment of the population.4 Internal manufacturing would advance domestic development, but requires foreign investment to propel economic growth to a competitive global rate. Part of Modi’s proposed reforms would allow increased foreign investment in sectors such as coal, construction, railways, and multi- and single-brand retail, which would allow India to boost development.5 Many promised reforms are either in progress or incomplete. A demonetization reform took high currency bills out of circulation in late 2016 to curb the black market economy.6 India is in the process of digitization, moving toward a cashless economy, which would help reform tax administration and enhance government revenue.7 Modi’s government has showed a willingness to engage in economic reform despite the difficult process, and must continue to push for economic development driven by external aid and internal growth to elevate India to global leadership in an increasingly competitive global political stage.

India’s vivid democracy plays a key role in its economic advance. India’s citizens are engaged in democracy, with a voter turnout of 66.4 percent in the 2014 parliamentary elections.Freedom House, a prominent NGO, denotes India as “Free,” with press and net freedoms as “partially free.”9 Transparency International ranked India 79 in the world in its 2016 Corruption Perceptions Index, with a final score of 40 that tied India with Brazil, Belarus, and China.10 However, there are some concerns for democracy in India. The Human Rights Watch World Report 2017 identifies a lack of accountability for police violence, treatment of religious and ethnic minorities, and the government’s use of sedition and defamation laws to persecute citizens.11 There is growing economic disparity in the country and a history of corruption, perceived and real. India is experiencing major demographic change, and the government’s ability to exploit this positively will determine future capabilities. India is ending a demographic transition and is almost at replacement-level fertility, which can become a great opportunity for India’s pursuit of global status. India’s working class will continue to grow over the next half-century, as the adult population will comprise 68 percent of India’s population in 2035.12 The demographic dividend is an opportunity for India, but does not guarantee growth, as economic opportunities must be available for this large population.13 Several factors India’s government must resolve include educational deficits, high unemployment, and a policy environment conducive to promoting competitive economic development globally.14 Due to India’s complex democracy at the state and federal level, reform and change is slow to proceed. India’s leadership must find a sustainable way to manage its population and economic goals regardless of their form. Through careful management, India’s democracy can succeed in implementing its domestic and economic policies, which will make it possible for India to focus on its foreign policy concerns.

India sees itself as the preeminent power in South Asia, but is dependent on economic growth for global success. India’s foreign policy focuses on improving relationships among South Asian countries with a “neighborhood first” policy through increased trade and aid.15 Economic integration in the neighborhood is low, as interregional trade makes up only five percent of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation’s (SAARC) economic activity.16 With higher integration there is less tension and increased trade, giving India more opportunities to enhance its global position. India and China both see South Asia as a sphere of influence, and India is investing in its neighbors as part of a counterbalancing strategy to China, increasing the Ministry of External Affairs 2017 budget by 200 million USD.17 India sees China’s ‘One Belt, One Road,’ initiative as a threat to its economic and political dominance in the region, particularly the creation of a Chinese-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).18 Tension between Pakistan and India has great potential for conflict. India is the status quo power of the two nations, since it controls most of the disputed territories, has a stronger military, and has greater diplomatic standing, but both nations possess nuclear weapons and high tensions lead to an elevated risk of conflict.19 India is expanding its military capabilities and is the largest defense importer in the world, buying 15 percent of total world exports of weapons in the past five years.20 India has always followed a strategy of non-alignment and openly eschews cooperative alliances, preferring cooperative or bilateral relations for security. India must balance China and Pakistan, as open conflict would be disastrous and Chinese investment can help the Indian economy grow. In the interest of protecting interests and finding a place in a multi-polar system, India must decide if non-alignment is a viable path going forward or if closer relations with nations such as the United States, Japan, and Australia are worth the risk. Reviving quadrilateral dialogue among these four nations may be the logical next step for India’s foreign policy. A “democratic quad” increases India’s soft and hard power capabilities, but could alienate other countries in the region.21 

India’s decisions on economic reform and foreign policy will determine if it remains a developing country or rises to a key place in global politics. The government must find a way to implement economic reform to benefit its demographic dividend. Attracting foreign investment, implementing economic reform, and providing opportunities for its growing population will give India the economic strength to engage in an assertive foreign policy that will help define India’s role as a global leader among competitive powers. India must engage in economic development to support an assertive foreign policy as India navigates changing global power balances to give its people a path forward.

Corey Bolyard attends University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, VA where she is majoring in Political Science with a focus in Asian Policy and Regional Security. She is currently working on a thesis concerning China’s “One Belt, One Road” initiative.  Upon graduation, she hopes to work in national security analysis. Her round table paper “Rising in the Storm: India’s Bid for Global Power in a Multi-Polar System During Development argues that by engaging in economic reform, India will be able to emerge as a global power, thereby allowing for an ambitious foreign policy to defend and develop its interests in the South Asia Region.


1. “South Asia: India,” Central Intelligence Agency: The World Factbook, Dec. 12, 2016,

2. “South Asia: India,” Central Intelligence Agency: The World Factbook.

3. About Us,” Make In India, accessed March 27, 2017,

4. “The Difficulties of Retooling the Indian Economy,” Stratfor, 2016, accessed March 28, 2017,

5. “The Modi Government’s Reform Program: A Scorecard,” Center for Strategic & International Studies, accessed March 28, 2017,

6. Mukesh Butani, “State election results: Strong mandate for bold economic reforms,” Forbes India, March 18, 2017, accessed March 28, 2017,

7. Wade Shepard, “A Cashless Future Is The Real Goal Of India’s Demonetization Move,” Forbes, December 14, 2016, accessed March 30, 2017,

8. “India Voter Turnout,” International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance, accessed March 27, 2017,

9. “India,” Freedom House, accessed March 27, 2017,

10. “Corruption Perceptions Index 2016,” Transparency International, January 25, 2017, accessed March 27, 2017, all the countries listed in TI’s Corruption Perception’s Index, India is listed in the upper half by rank. With a perfect score of 100, India’s score of 40 is lower than its rank.    

11. “Human Rights Watch World Report 2016: India,” Human Rights Watch, January 12, 2017, accessed March 27, 2017,

12. KS James, “India’s Demographic Change: Opportunities and Challenges,” Science 333, no. 6042 (July 29, 2011):578, accessed March 29, 2017, doi:10.1126/science.1207969.

13. KS James, “India’s Demographic Change: Opportunities and Challenges,” Science, 578.

14. Ibid., 578-579.

15. “A Defining Rivalry in South Asia,” Stratfor, February 24, 2017, accessed March 28, 2017,

16. “A Defining Rivalry in South Asia,” Stratfor.

17. Monish Gulati, “What India’s Finance Budget Means For Its Foreign Policy – Analysis,” Eurasia Review, March 03, 2017, accessed March 28, 2017,

18. Ananth Krishnan, “India cannot stop Silk Road plan, warns Chinese media,” India Today, March 20, 2017, accessed March 28, 2017,

19. “In India, a Military Strategy Guided by Precision,” Stratfor, October 6, 2016, accessed March 28, 2017,

20. “How Losing India’s Business Could Ruin Russia’s Defense Industry,” Stratfor, January 27, 2017, accessed March 28, 2017,

21. Rohan Mukherjee, “A democratic quadrilateral in Asia?,” Gateway House: Indian Council on Global Relations, March 27, 2017, accessed March 28, 2017,“Democratic Quad” is a colloquial term for quadrilateral dialogue between the United States, Australia, Japan, and India, since all four nations are democracies and share similar security interests in Asia. 


“About Us.” Make In India. Accessed March 27, 2017.

“A Defining Rivalry in South Asia.” Stratfor. February 24, 2017. Accessed March 28, 2017.

Butani, Mukesh. “State election results: Strong mandate for bold economic reforms.” Forbes IndiaMarch 18, 2017. Accessed March 28, 2017.

“Corruption Perceptions Index 2016.” Transparency International. January 25, 2017. Accessed March 27,

“Ease of Doing Business in India.” Doing Business in India – World Bank Group. Accessed March 28,

Gulati, Monish. “What India’s Finance Budget Means For Its Foreign Policy – Analysis.” Eurasia Review. March 03, 2017. Accessed March 28, 2017.

“How Losing India’s Business Could Ruin Russia’s Defense Industry.” Stratfor. January 27, 2017. Accessed March 28, 2017.

“Human Rights Watch World Report 2016: India.” Human Rights Watch. January 12, 2017. Accessed March 27, 2017.

“India.” Freedom House. Accessed March 27, 2017.

“India Voter Turnout.” International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance. Accessed March 27, 2017.

“In India, a Military Strategy Guided by Precision.” Stratfor. October 6, 2016. Accessed March 28, 2017.

James, KS. “India’s Demographic Change: Opportunities and Challenges.” Science 333, no. 6042 (July 29, 2011): 576-80. Accessed March 29, 2017. doi:10.1126/science.1207969.

Krishnan, Ananth. “India cannot stop Silk Road plan, warns Chinese media.” India Today. March 20, 2017. Accessed March 28, 2017.

Mukherjee, Rohan. “A democratic quadrilateral in Asia?” Gateway House: Indian Council on Global Relations. March 27, 2017. Accessed March 28, 2017.

Shepard, Wade. “A Cashless Future Is The Real Goal Of India’s Demonetization Move.” Forbes. December 14, 2016. Accessed March 30, 2017.

“South Asia: India.” Central Intelligence Agency: The World Factbook, Dec. 12, 2016.

“The Difficulties of Retooling the Indian Economy.” Stratfor. 2016. Accessed March 28, 2017.

“The Modi Government’s Reform Program: A Scorecard.” Center for Strategic & International Studies. Accessed March 28, 2017.

Featured Image: School children arrive to watch the proceedings of Indian parliament in New Delhi December 7, 2012. (Reuters/Stringer)

Hainan’s Maritime Militia: Development Challenges and Opportunities, Pt. 2

By Conor M. Kennedy and Andrew S. Erickson

As it works to improve its maritime militia, Hainan Province is engaged in multiple lines of effort. It confronts many of the same multifarious challenges that other provinces face in constructing their own maritime militia forces. These include strengthening legal frameworks, bolstering incentive structures, constructing infrastructure, and the perennial task of organizing and improving militia training. Hainan thus offers a leading-edge microcosm of the trials and triumphs of Chinese Maritime Militia development, and a bellwether of progress in managing the sprawling effort. Part 1 of this three-part coverage of maritime militia building in Hainan Province surveyed the role of provincial officials and programs, especially at the Provincial Military District (MD) level, as well as their achievements to date; Part 2 now examines in depth the remaining hurdles and bottlenecks that they are grappling with in the process. It will explain specific measures that the Hainan MD is taking to address the abovementioned issues. These include newly promulgated regulations, specific construction projects, breakthroughs in training, increased funding, and examples of the range of direct and indirect benefits maritime militia enjoy through their service.

Challenges in Policy Execution

As explained in Part 1, the Central Military Commission National Defense Mobilization Department (CMC-NDMD) promulgates guidance for nationwide maritime militia work. Provinces, for their part, must flesh out the details in law, plans, and implementation. Numerous reports on the maritime militia by various levels of PLA commands exhort provincial governments to enact more robust laws to help govern the maritime militia. While it is difficult for outsiders to access local laws on the maritime militia, PRC news reports reveal the progress provinces are making in bolstering legal mechanisms for maritime militia mobilization. They often lament the lack of legal basis for fully implementing mobilization work, specifically the lack of legal authority in enforcing and supporting the missions of the maritime militia. One recent report from Zhejiang Province’s Wenzhou City Military Subdistrict (MSD) illuminates these efforts, representing an East China Sea-based case of this broader trend permeating China’s coastal provinces. The Wenzhou MSD struggled to levy fines on maritime militia units that refused to fulfill their duty in training exercises. The abdication of duties by some maritime militiamen triggered an effort by this MSD to evaluate the Wenzhou Court system and the Fisheries Law Enforcement Department, both of which had no legal authority to enact the punishments sought by the Wenzhou MSD.

The MSD therefore established a Maritime Mobilization Office of Legislative Affairs (海上动员法治办公室) to head efforts at drafting local rules and regulations in coordination with the city government. Ensuing maritime militia regulations drawn and passed included “Measures on Maritime Militia Intelligence and Information Incentives” (海上民兵情报信息奖励办法), “Specifications for Maritime Militia Party Organization Construction” (海上民兵党组织建设规范), “Regulations on the Education and Management of Fishing Vessels and Crews on Missions” (任务渔船船员教育管理规定), and other regulations pertaining to the mobilization of reserve forces and requisition of vessels. Troops were reportedly “stunned” when one ship repair yard that refused to cooperate in registering for national defense mobilization was fined and compelled to fulfill its duties. Whereas previous attempts by local military organs to enforce penalties against militiamen abandoning their duties were often described as “loud thunder but little rain,” Wenzhou’s courts now have the teeth to enforce national defense mobilization requisition rules. Additionally, this ordeal shows that military organs have limited legal authority over the militia; and according to Militia Work Regulations (Chapter 8), must rely on local governments or the affiliated enterprise or institution of the perpetrating militia for enforcement. Improved legal measures such as Wenzhou’s allows government and military organs to impose costs for discipline violations in the maritime militia, which directly enhances the maritime militia’s responsiveness and assures their participation in training and missions. The Hainan MD’s leadership has also expressed urgency in strengthening institutional and legal support for its maritime militia development. Specific legal measures appear to be drafted by governments below the provincial level. Like Wenzhou, Sansha City promulgated similar regulations, such as “Measures for the Regular Management of Maritime Militia” and “Rules on the Use of Militia Participating in Maritime Rights Protection and Law Enforcement Actions.”

Significant variation among the economies of each province requires their respective military and civilian authorities to calibrate the incentive structure to motivate their maritime militia units effectively. No single rubric applies, as the Wenzhou MSD discovered when it realized the national standard of fines contained in “Regulations on National Defense Mobilization of Civil Transport Resources” (民用运力国防动员条例) was insufficient to prevent abdication of mobilization duty in economically vibrant Wenzhou. The head of Wenzhou MSD’s Maritime Mobilization Office of Legislative Affairs told reporters in April that compensation for fishing vessel requisition was an example of one area that “requires a great deal of research.” The current standard stipulates that authorities should normally compensate each vessel 10,000 RMB a day, rising to 20,000 RMB a day during the busy fishing season. In Wenzhou’s thriving marine economy, this standard has proven insufficient. The same problem plagued the People’s Armed Forces Department (PAFD) of Yazhou, one of Sanya City’s districts that now host the newly constructed Yazhou Central Fishing Port known to harbor Hainan’s maritime militia forces, as described in the articles on Sanya and Sansha in this series. In addition to hosting Hainan’s maritime militia forces, the Yazhou PAFD has also established its own unit, but experienced difficulties in motivating its unit during the peak period of the fishing season. As Hainan continues to modernize its fishing fleet through vessel upgrades and the replacement of old smaller vessels with larger tonnage fishing vessels, fishing enterprises will attain greater economies of scale. Mitigating lost income due to involvement in maritime militia activities will require increasing compensation.

Parallel efforts to incentivize service help motivate militiamen with financial incentives, including compensation for lost wages, injury, and equipment damage; as well as even reduced insurance costs. A survey conducted by the director of the Sansha Garrison Political Department in 2015 found that 42 percent of Sansha’s maritime militia attached greater importance to “material benefits” than “glory” in their service.

Chinese legislation for the compensation of the military, called the Regulations on Pensions and Preferential Treatments for Servicemen, also applies to the PAP and militia. To further encourage China’s militia to execute their missions, the Ministry of Civil Affairs’ codified the treatment of militia injured, missing, or killed in action in its Measures on the Support and Preferential Treatment of Militia Reserve Personnel Carrying out Diversified Military Missions, effective on 26 September 2014. These measures categorically list the various types of missions and conditions by which the member’s regimental-grade or above PLA commanding unit (county-level PAFDs are regimental-grade units) and the county-level government would determine the status of that member. Missions include supporting the PLA in combat and “participating in maritime rights protection missions.” Militia personnel can be granted the status of “martyr” (烈士), thereby entitling their families to receive money from local governments according to the militia member’s status. For example, survivors of a martyred militia member receive what are known as “Martyr Praise Funds” (褒扬金), equivalent to “30 times the national per capita disposable income.” In addition to “Martyr Praise Funds,” survivors also receive a one-time payment for the member’s “sacrifice in public service” (因公牺牲), equal to 40 months of pay. Under certain circumstances families can also receive annual payments for the militia member’s “sacrifice in public service,” which amounts to a maximum of 21,030 RMB (approximately U.S. $3,235) per the most recent adjustments by the Ministry of Civil Affairs. The military is also allowed to offer other “special payments.”     

Militia members are also taken care of and provided for if injured and disabled in the course of their duties. Depending on militia members’ status and the classification of disability they fall under, they (or their families) are granted amounts in accordance with PLA disability compensation under the “Disabled Veterans Special Care Regulations” (伤残军人优抚条例). The standards of compensation are adjusted each year as the national average income changes. According to the most recent national adjustments to the standards of compensation, disabled militia members injured in combat can receive a maximum annual payout of 66,230 RMB (approximately U.S. $10,189) — an extremely generous sum in a fishing village. Major General Wang Wenqing wrote in July 2016 that “we must provide suitable treatment and pensions according to the law for those maritime militia that are injured or sacrificed in the course of their service.” In sum, while a number of regulations already exist to assure militia members their families are taken care of no matter what might happen, authorities continue to optimize incentives for their relatively riskier missions.

Sometimes indirect benefits of service are equally valuable. In a dramatic example, executives of the Sanya Fugang Fisheries Company, home to the maritime militia that harassed USNS Impeccable in 2009, were indicted for numerous crimes of bribery in 2015. Yet Haikou Intermediate People’s Court granted them leniency, citing the extensive service by its maritime militia detachment in protecting China’s maritime rights and interests. Numerous articles written by PLA commanders and officers of local commands call for bolstering the incentive structure for the maritime militia. They suggest various means, including rewarding high-performing units and personnel regarding education, civil service examinations, employment, and promotions. In fact, this is already included in some of China’s regulations, such as in the Martyr Praise Regulations, which explains in detail the preferential treatment of martyrs’ families. Children’s education is supported through reductions in tuition and grade requirements. Regarding survivors’ employment, it states that “local government human resources and social security departments will provide preferential employment services for martyr survivors suitable for employment.” These are just a few examples of the many benefits available to address a variety of negative outcomes for maritime militiamen harmed or killed in the course of their service. Nonetheless, the PLA must rely on local governments to deliver such benefits, some of which—in a problem endemic to the lower levels of Chinese bureaucracy—may not always readily provide such support in the way that the regulations’ drafters envision.      

Since the militia are included in China’s national budget, provincial governments have to factor militia expenditures into their budgets. Maintaining a “financial reporting relationship,” the MD logistics departments report militia operating expenses and budget requests to the provincial finance departments for approval. Responding to national militia construction guidance and national maritime strategy, Hainan’s government is devoting increased resources to the maritime militia. In 2013, the Hainan Provincial Government allocated 28 million RMB (approx. U.S. $4,069,767) in special funding for province-wide maritime militia construction. This amount was, in principal, to be matched by county governments, suggesting a much greater total allocation. Correspondingly, reports show that Hainan Government’s defense expenditures have grown significantly, from 65 million RMB (approx. U.S. $9,447,674) in 2015 to over 121 million RMB (approx. U.S. $17,587,209) in 2016, an 88.7 percent boost. While specific allocation of this increased spending remains unclear, a portion of it likely went to further supporting maritime militia construction. Maritime militia bring heightened complexity in terms of financial support largely because of the cost burden of their vessels and professions. Operating costs and risk of injury or loss during normal operations is much greater for maritime militia than for land-based militia.

Multiple sources indicate that plans are underway to construct maritime militia bases, yet remain early in their implementation. MD Political Commissar Liu Xin indicated in late 2015 that sites for developing such bases were being selected and under review. MD Commander Zhang Jian suggests resolving the problem of insufficient support for the maritime militia by “integrating comprehensive supply and support bases with the construction of airports, piers, and the expansion of key islands and reefs in remote waters [in the outer reaches of the Near Seas].” The Hainan Government has approved plans granting a portion of land in Wenchang County for a rear logistics area for Sansha City, including port facilities for its newly built maritime militia fleet. The first phase of the Wenchang County project is a pier-side facility, slated to begin construction in 2017. Those same plans name the Yazhou Central Fishing Port as another harbor for the fleet, which was confirmed in photographs of Sansha City’s new maritime militia fleet mooring there. Public housing is also available for fishermen and workers on-site at Sanya’s new fishing port, conceivably a boon to maritime militia force readiness. Other proposals sent up to the provincial government call for government financial support to construct fisheries logistics bases on China’s newly built artificial islands in the Spratlys, citing the achievements of a key maritime militia unit in Sanya City

Any infrastructure that is built will certainly be dual-use, and there is great demand for improving facilities to support fisheries development in the Spratlys. Public goods and infrastructure to support Hainan’s marine fishing industry, such as port development projects, benefit its maritime militia forces directly. During meetings of the Hainan Provincial Standing Committee in December 2013 and the 10th Plenary Session of Hainan Provincial Defense Mobilization Committee in October 2014, Party Secretary Luo revealed plans to research and prepare dual-use infrastructure for the maritime militia. Hainan Governor Liu Cigui wrote in August 2016 that Sansha City will expand its grassroots governance organizations from the Paracels to the Spratlys, an initiative also confirmed by Sansha City’s leadership. This effort has also resulted in the construction of a PAFD on Fiery Cross Reef; the lack of any permanent civilian population there suggests that the PAFD exists solely to manage maritime militia. Chinese news reports also confirm a maritime militia presence on Mischief Reef.

Implementing joint military-law enforcement-civilian defense in border and coastal areas likewise requires manned militia outposts to boost security in remote areas. The new construction and reactivation of numerous militia outposts to monitor Hainan’s coast and Chinese-occupied features in the South China Sea was proposed by the director of the Hainan MD’s Training Office Jiang Yongjun. Jiang observes that “maritime defense” (海防) today encompasses a much broader scope and is more demanding than in the past in terms of functions, domains (sea, air, cyber, etc.), and content. This requires outposts at sea and on islands and reefs to serve as additional layers of surveillance and intelligence networks to increase strategic and operational depth. One identified outpost is operated by the Lingshui Autonomous County Coastal Defense Militia, located on Hainan’s Southeast coast on Niuling Mountain. The Lingshui outpost is stated to have developed beyond just a passive watch post into one that provides “active early warning,” thanks to its radar station manned by trained PLA veterans. Recording and identifying vessels transiting an area of 6,600 square nautical miles, they regularly update the Lingshui County PAFD concerning this marine traffic. Substantial reclamation and construction on Tree Island and Drummond Island in the Paracels has yielded two new “informatized militia outposts.” Other reports indicate three more outposts under construction: on Antelope Reef, Observation Bank, and Yagong Island.


Training of the militia is conducted according to outlines drafted by the PLA General Staff Department, now a responsibility of the CMC-NDMD. The latest is the Outline for Militia Military Training and Evaluation implemented on 22 May 2007. This was the first militia training outline to stipulate specific training requirements for militia units that specialized in supporting non-army PLA services, such as militia units that train with and support specific PLAN units. Militia training focuses primarily on preparing militia cadres, emergency response militia, and specialized technical militia. Militia cadres, the leaders of militia units and full-time civilians engaged in militia work at the grassroots PAFDs, must not only be knowledgeable about their own training, but also possess the skills to train the personnel in their respective units. Additionally, China’s Militia Work Regulations states that the PLA services and academies should assist the MDs in militia training.

June 2013: Military and civilian officials from neighboring Ding’an County visit maritime militia cadres during their training session in Jiuzhou Township of Qiongshan District.

Training is conducted at militia training bases established by county and city PAFDs, or in capable enterprises if the county lacks a militia training base. One of Major General Wang Wenqing’s solutions for resolving training issues was to increase maritime militia use of training bases. Efforts were already underway in Hainan to provide maritime militia with facilities and bases for training. Discussions were held during a military affairs meeting held in September 2012 by Party Secretary Luo Baoming on the topic of “maritime militia building and construction of a provincial comprehensive militia training base.” While the location of the base remains unclear, it may have been established in 2013 in Qiongshan District, Haikou Municipality. Operated by the Hainan MD Training Battalion, this training base held its first week-long training session for 172 maritime militia cadres in June that year. These cadres will return to their units across Hainan to conduct the grassroots training of the bulk of maritime militia personnel. Additionally, news reports indicate that elements of the Sansha Maritime Militia were sent to a militia training base in “northern Hainan,” suggesting that they too received training from this location.  

More stringent training standards are also being applied, alongside increased recruiting of technical and professional personnel and veterans into the maritime militia force. One report concerning a unit from a district of Hainan’s capital, Haikou City, explained that some specialized maritime militia personnel became seasick in rough weather due to their lack of experience operating at sea, reflecting greater involvement of professionals from technical institutes and academies in maritime militia operations. To break in the more white-collar maritime militia personnel, this district’s PAFD held most of its training activities at sea. In another instance, members of the Lingshui County Maritime Militia complained about their evaluation scores after their PAFD increased standards and difficulty during training exercises in 2016. To rectify previous discipline violations, the Lingshui PAFD Political Commissar has reportedly dismissed under-performing cadres and personnel and has increased training standards to reflect real combat requirements. He even personally led at-sea training of the Lingshui Maritime Militia in the Paracels and Spratlys for months on end. Diligent PAFD leaders and cadres are critical to ensuring higher quality training standards more aligned with mission operational requirements, thereby increasing maritime militia capabilities and discipline.

The February 2017 news clip below shows Lingshui County Maritime Militia training, led by Political Commissar Xing Jincheng (who holds the rank of Colonel), including at-sea training and the inside of their outpost on Niuling Mountain.

February, 2017: This screen capture of news coverage on Lingshui County Maritime Militia depicts a recent exercise featuring this unit conducting at-sea weapons training. The caption in this image reads “Maritime Militia Emergency Response Detachment Platoon Leader Lin Zhongjian.”

PAFDs strive to hold maritime militia meetings and training sessions during the offseason to avoid imposing economic losses on maritime militia members, as holding up a vessel at pier-side can cost its owner tens of thousands of RMB in forgone fishing income. They must also account for the training schedules of active duty units in order to coordinate militia training with the PLA. The Hainan MD leadership describes maritime militia training with the following formulation: “fishing and training while at sea, concentrated training in rotations while in harbor, selected opportunities for joint training, regular three-lines joint training, and intensified assault training when on the brink of war” (出海边鱼边训、在港集中轮训、择机拉动合训、定期三线联训、临战突击强训). Commander Zhang specifies that the MD system leads basic training on land, while special training at sea is facilitated by the PLAN and China Coast Guard (CCG). Limitations in available data make it difficult to ascertain the true extent to which the PLAN or CCG trains the maritime militia. For example, an older report from the 2007 Sanya City Yearbook states the Yulin Naval Base worked with the PLA Garrison in Sanya City to train over 1,178 militia members in two years, yet lacks details regarding the content of the training.

Militia units or personnel with more specialized training requirements may be sent to receive further training from the MSD, MD, or active duty troops stationed in the province. Units with a greater demand for technical specialization or coordination with PLA services can obtain assistance from the MD to make arrangements for such training. As reported by the South Sea Fleet Headquarters Military Affairs Department, PLAN active duty units coordinate with MSDs and PAFDs to train maritime militia “specialized naval militia detachments” (海军民兵专业分队). While militia training requirements are outlined at the national level, the specific arrangements at the local levels are suitably tailored to ensure militia units receive the training they need and the PLA has an operationally effective militia force at its disposal.

Training in Joint Military-Law Enforcement-Civilian (Jun-jing-min) Defense

Efforts to incorporate maritime militia forces from the Hainan MD into large scale joint military-law enforcement-civilian defense exercises are reflected in the following recent exercises:

  • August 2014: A water garrison district (水警区) of the PLAN South Sea Fleet (SSF) organized a military-law enforcement-militia joint exercise in the Gulf of Tonkin involving various naval ships and aircraft, PLA Air Force (PLAAF) elements, law enforcement cutters, and maritime militia. The live-fire exercise simulated joint escort for a convoy of transport ships as well as the defense of a security zone set up around a drilling platform. The numerous threats presented included enemy ship ambushes and approaching fishing vessels and frogmen.
  • November 2014: The Hainan MD organized a military-law enforcement-militia joint exercise at an undisclosed location in Hainan involving “tens of thousands” of personnel across multiple bureaucracies. The theme of this exercise was to prevent the landing of enemy agents by using People’s Armed Police forces at their landing site and CCG ships and maritime militia fishing vessels to repel the enemy landing force. This exercise was designed primarily to practice coordinating various forces under a joint command system and involving local military and civilian leaders directly in the command of local forces, rather than passing them off to the military.
  • July 2016: A PLAN SSF Base organized an exercise for defense of “an important location” (要地防御实兵对抗演习). This included anti-air defense forces, shore-based missiles, fighter aircraft, submarines, mine warfare, special forces, local security forces, and both land-based militia as well as maritime militia. Some of the maritime militia involved are identified as belonging to a unit in Sanya City’s Tianya District, suggesting that the exercise was organized by the Yulin Navy Base in Sanya City.
  • August 2016: A naval district of the PLAN SSF organized another iteration of the same type of joint exercise held in August 2014, again focused on escort and defense of an oil rig in the Gulf of Tonkin. Asserting that joint defense command and coordination methods are improving, this exercise displayed greater intensity than the 2014 exercise. Intensified contested conditions, mine warfare, and submarine warfare were introduced, attempting to improve and expand joint operations in the South China Sea. All services were involved, including even PLAAF H-6 Bombers, which flew overhead.

Two of these joint training events were organized by the PLAN South Sea Fleet and appear modeled on the May 2014 HYSY-981 oil rig incident. Active involvement of maritime militia alongside some of China’s most advanced platforms—in exercises that simulate recent events that brought the PRC and Vietnam to the brink of conflict—reflects serious approaches to integrating the maritime militia into the nation’s joint maritime forces.

Conclusion: Making Patriotism Pay

Part 1 illustrated how developments in national militia construction guidelines were adopted by China’s key maritime frontier province and how Hainan’s leadership envisions the operational use of its maritime militia. This article, Part 2 in a three-article series evaluating Hainan Province’s overall development of its maritime militia, has introduced some of the major impediments that could hinder the successful construction and use of maritime militia forces in China.The Hainan MD is actively addressing these challenges to ensure its maritime militia is effectively incentivized even in the event of individual members’ injury or death in the line of duty, receives sufficient training both independently and with active duty forces, and has access to civil-military dual-use infrastructure that will give these forces a solid foundation from which to launch required missions. The economic benefits from port infrastructure developments in Hainan will directly improve the commercial underpinnings of its maritime militia. A growing network of militia outposts is improving the militia’s abilities to monitor nearby waters. PAFDs are moving in-step with Sansha City’s effort to expand grassroots governance structures throughout Chinese-occupied features in the Paracels and Spratlys, thereby providing a PLA presence for on-the-ground militia management. Advanced training practices at bases and with active duty forces are incorporating Hainan’s maritime militia into its joint military-law enforcement-civilian defense planning. Challenges may become increasingly acute as its maritime militia forces grow in technical sophistication and require more intense or tailored training, likely placing a heavier burden on the Hainan MD. Any ambitious use of the maritime militia must be supported with the right mix of incentives, a continual focal point in the militia work of local civilian and military authorities that is slowly becoming more regulated. With the overall national guidelines for militia work and specific measures to see its implementation having been examined, the next and final installment in this series will present some of the results of these efforts as well as discuss other potential factors driving maritime militia building. It will also raise additional considerations for assessing China’s Maritime Militia more broadly.

Conor Kennedy is a research associate in the China Maritime Studies Institute at the U.S. Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island. He received his MA at the Johns Hopkins University – Nanjing University Center for Chinese and American Studies.

Dr. Andrew S. Erickson is a Professor of Strategy in, and a core founding member of, the U.S. Naval War College’s China Maritime Studies Institute. He serves on the Naval War College Review’s Editorial Board. He is an Associate in Research at Harvard University’s John King Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies and an expert contributor to the Wall Street Journal’s China Real Time Report. In 2013, while deployed in the Pacific as a Regional Security Education Program scholar aboard USS Nimitz, he delivered twenty-five hours of presentations. Erickson is the author of Chinese Anti-Ship Ballistic Missile Development (Jamestown Foundation, 2013). He received his Ph.D. from Princeton University. Erickson blogs at and The views expressed here are Erickson’s alone and do not represent the policies or estimates of the U.S. Navy or any other organization of the U.S. government.

Featured Image: Image of the Tanmen Maritime Militia Company in the July 2016 edition of China’s Militia.

China: Connected Strategic Themes Across Contested Global Commons Pt. 1

Are there connected Chinese strategic themes that cut across the contested and interlinked global commons (domains) of maritime, space, and cyberspace? If so, what are they and what could the United States do about them?

By Tuan N. Pham

Last November, I wrote an article titled “China’s Maritime Strategy on the Horizon” highlighting a fleeting strategic opportunity for Washington to shape and influence Beijing’s looming and evolving maritime strategy. I posited that Chinese maritime strategists have long called for a maritime strategy; China’s maritime activities are driven by its strategic vision of the ocean as “blue economic space and blue territory” crucial for its national development, security, and status; and Beijing may be trying to fill domestic legal gaps that it sees as hindering its ability to defend territorial claims in the South China Sea (SCS) and East China Sea (ECS), and justify its growing activities in international waters. The latter point is underscored by recent media reports from Beijing considering the revision of its 1984 Maritime Traffic Safety Law, which would allow Chinese authorities to bar some foreign ships from passing through Chinese territorial waters. If passed, this will be another instance of China shaping domestic maritime laws to support its developing and evolving maritime strategy, and part of a larger continuing effort to set its own terms for international legal disputes that Beijing expects will grow as its maritime reach expands.

I then further suggested that Beijing’s forthcoming maritime strategy will shape its comportment and actions in the maritime domain in the near- and far-term, and perhaps extend into the other contested global commons of space and cyberspace as well. In Part 1 of this two-part series, I explore this potential cross-domain nexus by examining the latest Chinese space white paper and cyberspace strategies. In Part 2, I will derive possibly connected strategic themes that cut across the interlinked global commons and discuss how the United States could best respond.   

China’s Space Activities in 2016 White Paper (December 2016)

“To explore the vast cosmos, develop the space industry, and build China into a space power is a dream we pursue unremittingly.”

On December 27, 2016, China’s Information Office of the State Council published its fourth white paper on space titled “China’s Space Activities in 2016.” The paper and the preceding 2011, 2006, and 2000 papers largely follow a pattern of release, sequenced and synchronized with the governmental cycle of Five-Year Plans that are fundamental to Chinese centralized planning. Last year’s paper provides the customary summary of China’s space accomplishments over the past five years and a roadmap of key activities and milestones for the next five years.

Since the white paper was the first one issued under President Xi Jinping, it is not surprising that the purpose, vision, and principles therein are expressed in terms of his world view and aspiration to realize the Chinese Dream of national rejuvenation. Therefore, one should read beyond the altruistic language and examine the paper through the realpolitik lens of the purpose and role of space to the Chinese Dream; the vision of space power as it relates to the Chinese Dream; and principles through which space will play a part in fulfilling the Chinese Dream. Notable areas to consider include Beijing’s intent to provide basic global positioning services to countries along the Silk Road Economic Belt and 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road in 2018; construction of the Belt and Road Initiative Space Information Corridor; strengthening bilateral and multilateral cooperation that serves the Belt and Road Initiative; and attaching the importance of space cooperation under the Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa (BRICS) cooperation mechanism and within the framework of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO).

Although the white paper is largely framed in terms of China’s civilian space program, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is subtly present throughout the paper in the euphemism of “national security.” The three references in the purpose, vision, and major tasks deliberately understate (or obfuscate) Beijing’s strategic intent to use its rapidly growing space program (largely military space) to transform itself into a military, economic, and technological power. In short, China’s space program does not have structures in place that make meaningful separation between military and civil programs, and those technologies and systems developed for supposedly civil purposes can also be applied–and often are–for military purposes.

The white paper highlights concerted efforts to examine extant international laws and develop accompanying national laws to better govern its expanding space program and better regulate its increasing space-related activities. Beijing intends to review, and where necessary, update treaties and reframe international legal principles to accommodate the ever-changing strategic, operational, and tactical landscapes. All in all, China wants to leverage the international legal framework and accepted norms of behavior to advance its national interests in space without constraining or hindering its own freedom of action in the future where the balance of space power may prove more favorable.

China’s National Cyberspace Security Strategy (December 2016)

“China will devote itself to safeguarding the nation’s interests in sovereignty, security, and development in cyberspace.”

On the same day as the issuance of the “China’s Space Activities in 2016” white paper, the Cyberspace Administration of China also released Beijing’s first cyberspace strategy titled “National Cyberspace Security Strategy” to endorse China’s positions and proposals on cyberspace development and security and serve as a roadmap for future cyberspace security activity. The strategy aims to build China into a cyberspace power while promoting an orderly, secure, and open cyberspace, and more importantly, defending its national sovereignty in cyberspace.

The strategy interestingly characterizes cybersecurity as “the nation’s new territory for sovereignty;” highlights as one of its key principles “no infringement of sovereignty in cyberspace will be tolerated;” and states intent to “resolutely defend sovereignty in cyberspace” as a strategic task. All of which reaffirm Xi’s previous statement on the importance of cyberspace sovereignty. At last year’s World Internet Conference in Wuzhen, Xi boldly exclaimed, “We should respect the right of individual countries to independently choose their own path of cyberspace development, model of cyberspace regulation and Internet public policies, and participate in international cyberspace governance on an equal footing.”

Attendees listen to a speech by China’s President Xi Jinping shown on a screen during the opening ceremony of the third annual World Internet Conference in Wuzhen town of Jiaxing, Zhejiang province, China November 16, 2016. (Reuters/Aly Song)

Both the space white paper and cyberspace security strategy reflect Xi’s world view and aspiration to realize the Chinese Dream. The latter’s preamble calls out the strategy as an “important guarantee to realize the Two Centenaries struggle objective and realize the Chinese Dream of the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.” Therefore, like the white paper, one should also read beyond the noble sentiments of global interests, global peace and development, and global security, and examine the strategy through the underlying context of the Chinese Dream. What is the purpose and role of cyberspace to national rejuvenation; the vision of cyberspace power as it relates to national rejuvenation; and through which principles will cyberspace play a role in fulfilling national rejuvenation? Promoting the construction of the Belt and Road Initiative, raising the international telecommunications interconnection and interaction levels, paving a smooth Information Silk Road, and strengthening the construction of the Chinese online culture are some notable areas to consider.  

The role of the PLA is likewise carefully understated (or obfuscated) throughout the strategy in the euphemism of “national security.” The 13 references in the introduction, objectives, principles, and strategic tasks quietly underscore the PLA’s imperatives to protect itself (and the nation) against harmful cyberspace attacks and intrusions from state and non-state actors and to extend the law of armed conflict into cyberspace to manage increasing international competition – both of which acknowledge cyberspace as a battlespace that must be contested and defended.   

The strategy also puts high importance on international and domestic legal structures, standards, and norms. Beijing wants to leverage the existing international legal framework and accepted norms of behavior to develop accompanying national laws to advance its national interests in cyberspace without constraining or hindering its own freedom of action in the future where the balance of cyberspace power may become more favorable.

China’s International Strategy for Cyberspace Cooperation (March 2017)

“Cyberspace is the common space of activities for mankind. The future of cyberspace should be in the hands of all countries. Countries should step up communications, broaden consensus and deepen cooperation to jointly build a community of shared future in cyberspace.”

On March 1, 2017, the Foreign Ministry and State Internet Information Office issued Beijing’s second cyberspace strategy titled “International Strategy for Cyberspace Cooperation.” The aim of the strategy is to build a community of shared future in cyberspace, notably one that is based on peace, sovereignty, shared governance, and shared benefits. The strategic goals of China’s participation in international cyberspace cooperation include safeguarding China’s national sovereignty, security, and interests in cyberspace; securing the orderly flow of information on the Internet; improving global connectivity; maintaining peace, security, and stability in cyberspace; enhancing international rule of law in cyberspace; promoting the global development of the digital economy; and deepening cultural exchange and mutual learning.

The strategy builds on the previously released cyberspace security strategy and trumpets the familiar refrains of national rejuvenation (Chinese Dream); global interests, peace and development, and security; and development of national laws to advance China’s national interests in cyberspace. Special attention was again given to the contentious concept of cyberspace sovereignty in support of national security and social stability – “No country should pursue cyberspace hegemony, interfere in other countries’ internal affairs, or engage in, condone or support cyberspace activities that undermine other countries’ national security.” The strategy also interestingly calls for the demilitarization of cyberspace just like the white paper does for space despite China’s growing offensive cyberspace and counterspace capabilities and capacities – “The tendency of militarization and deterrence buildup in cyberspace is not conducive to international security and strategic mutual trust – China always adheres to the principle of the use of outer space for peaceful purposes, and opposes the weaponization of or an arms race in outer space.” Incongruously, a paragraph after discouraging cyberspace militarization, the strategy states that China will “expedite the development of a cyber force and enhance capabilities in terms of situational awareness, cyber defense, supporting state activities, and participating in international cooperation, to prevent major cyber crises, safeguard cyberspace security, and maintain national security and social stability.”


This concludes the short discourse on the latest Chinese space white paper and cyberspace strategies and sets the conditions for further discussion. Part 2 examines possibly connected strategic themes that cut across the contested and interlinked global commons of maritime, space, and cyberspace, and strategic opportunities for the United States. 

Tuan Pham has extensive experience in the Indo-Asia-Pacific, and is published in national security affairs. The views expressed therein are his own and do not reflect the official policy or position of the U.S. Government.

Featured Image: June 3, 2013. Assembly of the Shenzhou-10 spacecraft and the Long March-2F carrier rocket at Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in Jiuquan, northwest China’s Gansu Province. (Xinhua/Liang Jie)