Chinese President Xi Jinping recently signed an order establishing a set of trial guidelines for “military operations other than war,” sparking widespread concern among rivals and adversaries about Beijing’s intentions.
According to Chinese experts, the outline will standardize and provide a legal basis for Chinese forces to carry out operations such as disaster relief, humanitarian assistance, escort and peacekeeping, as well as to protect sovereignty China’s national, security and development interests.
However, the order has raised concerns among China’s rivals, with analysts saying Chinese President Xi Jinping laid the legal groundwork to expand Chinese military involvement in other countries just weeks after the announcement. security agreement signed with Solomon Islands, ABC News reported.
While the order’s language is benign, with few details about actions that would prompt China to act to protect “sovereignty” or “development interests”, Canberra experts are wary.
China’s growing footprint in the Pacific and a series of development agreements signed with Pacific Island Countries (PICs) have angered Canberra and its Western allies over fears that Beijing could gain a permanent foothold in the region by granting massive lending under the Belt and Road Initiative.
Chinese news agency Xinhua said the plan aims to prevent and neutralize risks and difficulties, manage emergencies, protect people and property, and ensure national sovereignty, security and the interests of development, as well as global peace and regional stability.
He further clarified that the outlines have important implications for the ability of China’s armed forces to carry out their tasks and missions in the new era, as they innovate the way military forces are employed and standardize the organization. and the performance of military activities other than war. .
Most of the keywords used in state media parlance to describe the scheme are open and ambiguous, leaving room for mistrust by opponents. President Xi has signed 59 articles, but they have not been published. However, they come into effect on June 15.
“Chinese troops can prevent the spillover effects of regional instabilities from affecting China, secure vital transportation routes for strategic materials like oil, or protect Chinese investments, projects and personnel overseas,” says the Global Times report.
An ambiguous Chinese order
According to a Chinese military expert who requested anonymity to the Global Times, military operations other than war refer to procedures such as disaster relief and humanitarian aid, as well as operations that limit the extent of the use of force, such as maritime escorts and peacekeeping. .
The expert further hinted that the Chinese armed forces are also tasked with counter-terrorism, anti-piracy and peacekeeping missions, including regular escort missions in the Gulf of Aden. and the waters off Somalia. UN peacekeeping missions provide public security assets to the international community.
Meanwhile, the Australian media have been candid with their skepticism. Xi’s intention to encourage and legalize non-war “military operations” has raised concerns, especially as it comes just months after Russian President Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine under the guise of a “special military operation”. said the ABC report.
Despite the brutal invasion, Russian President Putin has yet to formally declare war on Ukraine, and the timing of Xi’s declaration caught the attention of observers in Taiwan, China’s self-governing island. China maintains that Taiwan is a rogue province with sovereignty over the island and will eventually be reunited with the mainland.
Destined for Taiwan?
Chinese experts’ emphasis on national sovereignty could be seen in Taipei as an indirect reference to its invasion. Beijing recently conducted several military drills simulating attacks on Taiwan, signaling that an invasion is only a matter of time.
Chinese military general Wei Fenghe told a defense forum in Singapore over the weekend that China “fight to the end” regain control of Taiwan. He reportedly warned Australia to stay away from the Taiwan issue during a meeting with new defense minister Richard Marles. The meeting had apparently marked the end of a diplomatic freeze between the two parties.
“I think it’s a copy of Putin’s ‘special operation’ language,” said Professor Eugene Kuo Yujen, an analyst at Taiwan’s National Policy Research Institute. “And after what happened in Ukraine, this sends a very threatening signal to Taiwan, Japan and neighboring countries in the South China Sea,” he said.
It is also relevant to note that President Putin meet Chinese President Xi Jinping about 20 days before launching the invasion of Ukraine. Both leaders declared their opposition to NATO expansion and claimed that the island of Taiwan was part of China.
Xi, according to Yujen, announced the signing of the order in part to defuse political infighting within the military ahead of a significant change in the leadership of the ruling Communist Party later this year.
Threatening the Pacific?
Yujen also believes that this is due to the recent security agreement reached with the Solomon Islands and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s failed attempt to persuade other South Pacific countries to sign a similar agreement.
China has dismissed criticism of its deal with the Solomon Islands, saying it poses no military danger and stronger ties benefit everyone. It is pursuing a plan for a regional treaty involving police, security and data communications cooperation with nearly a dozen Pacific nations.
However, since four members of the forum – Palau, the Marshall Islands, Nauru and Tuvalu – recognize Taiwan rather than Beijing, unanimity on the issue of signing a security pact with China will be difficult.
Despite the collapse of its regional thrust for a pact, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi made statements last week indicating that China intends to pursue stronger ties with South Pacific countries. Furthermore, the signed order seeks to legitimize the use of Chinese armed forces to intervene if Beijing’s growing foreign interests are threatened.
The Chinese Foreign Minister leaves the Grand Pacific Hotel in Suva for his first meeting of the day, with the President of Fiji. The big day is approaching: Wang Yi will also meet Fijian Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama before holding a virtual meeting with Pacific foreign ministers around 2 p.m. pic.twitter.com/13bDdmyERU
– Stephen Dziedzic (@stephendziedzic) May 29, 2022
Xi’s Belt and Road program has seen Beijing lend tens of billions of dollars to other countries to help them build infrastructure, which has sometimes returned to Chinese hands after default.
China’s critics have called it a “debt trap” diplomacy where it offers interest-free or low-interest loans and later banks in case of default by occupying assets, the port of Hambantota in Sri Lanka being an example.
In the very vital South Pacific nation of Kiribati, a Chinese state-owned company is trying to renovate an airfield. In Australia, the private Chinese company Landbridge obtained a 99-year lease on the strategic port of Darwin. It is not clear whether the new legal framework covers the risks associated with China’s involvement in such projects, according to the ABC report.
The concern felt in Canberra echoes China’s growing influence in the South Pacific which threatens the status quo whereby Australia is the region’s big brother. Mutual suspicion will grow as the order takes effect with ambiguous language and growing “wolf warrior” diplomacy from China.
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