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Strategic Forum №269

Strategic Forum №269

Chinese Military Transparency: Evaluating the 2010 Defense White Paper by Phillip C. Saunders and Ross Rustici

The People’s Republic of China (PRC) State Council Information Office released the seventh edition of its biennial defense white paper, “China’s National Defense in 2010,” on March 31, 2011. This document aims to communicate the latest information on China’s military development, strategy, capabilities, and intentions. China began publishing defense white papers in 1998, partly as a means of increasing transparency in response to regional concerns about the growing capabilities and actions of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). Despite the systematic release of these documents, many of China’s neighbors and other regional powers continue to express concerns about China’s lack of military transparency. The Chinese maintain that they are becoming more open over time and highlight the importance of transparency about strategic intentions rather than capabilities.

According to Senior Colonel Chen Zhou, the principal coordinator of China’s defense white papers, the document is “a government statement that provides a public explanation on the state’s national defense policy and national defense conduct.” In his opinion, the 2010 iteration has three new main points: “First, the white paper further expounds on and openly declares the basis for and the determination in China’s pursuit of a national defense policy that is defensive in nature; second, it systematically introduces new developments in the building and deployment of the armed forces; and third, it fully presents the important roles played by the armed forces in such aspects as confidencebuilding and protecting peace.” He concludes that the issuance of China’s defense white paper serves three distinct functions: externally, it builds confidence and clears doubts; internally, it raises national defense awareness; and it deters and warns adversaries.

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