PLA Lieutenant-General Ren Haiquin Speech at Aussie Army Conference

James Brown on the Lowy Institute’s blog posted visiting PLA Lieutenant-General Ren Haiquin’s speech to the Australian Chief of Army’s annual conference at Melbourne’s Crown Casino. Lieutenant General Ren warned against Cold War notions of Containment having this to say:

Due to historical as well as realistic reasons, current security situation in Asia is not very satisfying and there are still factors destabilizing and uncertain…Asia is now in a transition towards a new type of security order, and external countries involvement complicate the process. Some countries pursue strategies such as “rebalance the Asia-Pacific” and “Looking East” and are increasing their strategic investment.

After pointing out the chief competitors, Ren went on to talk about stability before his closing comments (as highlighted by James Brown):

China suffered a lot from foreign aggressions and suppression in the last century and for a long time to time I was so weak that it could not even protect its most basic sovereign rights and interests. Such experiences leave in Chinese people’s hearts a long lasting and painful memory. To prevent repetition of this historical tragedy, China has no other choice but to develop proper military strength. …Nowadays, some people refuse to accept the result of World War II, intend to deny the victory of international anti-fascism war and challenge post war international  order. One should never forget history and should learn from history. Claims of the war ignited by fascist countries engulfed the whole region and many places including Darwin in Australia were bombed… “Pull of one hair may lead to the move of whole body”. If such thing happens, it may lead to war, history may repeat itself and ordinary people would suffer once more.

Despite the admonition, by the end of his speech, the Lieutenant General asks us to avoid the zero-sum game and the security dilemma altogether. He points to the economic crisis and the focus of [economic] development as perhaps a way to mitigate destabilizing factors in the region. In doing so he reiterates a prior section of the speech which reads in an almost quasi-Monnet fashion:

An ancient expression in China says “that the sea can hold waters from hundreds of rivers is because of its tolerance to diversities.” Only by recognizing differences and mutually tolerating could cooperation not be hindered by the existing diversities and differences. While conducting regional economic cooperation, related countries have learned that one should recognize differences, take advantage of the variety, explore diversified modes of development, and establish multi-level combined cooperation framework. Such experience is of important reference value for regional security cooperation in Asia.

While we can certainly read what we want to from the speech, at the end of the day, China is a country that will help shape and define events in the current century. If the West isn’t careful considering China’s regional security concerns, we could have another upsetting event resetting globalization as it did with the first world war.

To read the rest of the speech click here.


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