Languages of Security in the Asia-Pacific

College of Asia and the Pacific, Australian National University

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Chinese – Guófáng | Fángyù

May 27th, 2011 · No Comments · Chinese, Defence

國防(国防)

Guófáng

防禦 (防御)

Fángyù

 

Relates to defence

Defence means either guófáng’ (national defence) or ‘fángyù’ (defence). Each of the two terms is composed of two characters.

國 (国) – guó – a nation, country, or state[1]

防 (防) – fáng – to guard against, to defend, to prevent[2]

國防 (国防) – guófáng – national defence; measures, manpower, materials, and refers to anything related to a nation-state’s use of their military in order to protect its territorial sovereignty and defend against foreign invasion.[3]

防 (防) – fáng – to guard against, to defend, to prevent[4]

禦 (御) – – to defend against[5]

防禦 (防御) – fángyù – to defend against attack of enemies, to guard[6]

Guófáng literally translates as ‘national defence’. China’s Ministry of National Defence (MND) is called guófáng bù (國防部) ( means ‘ministry’). China’s national defence white papers are called guófáng báipíshū (國防白皮書)(báipíshū translates as ‘white paper’). When defence is referred to as ‘national defence’ (guófáng) in the aforementioned context, Chinese dictionaries give a specific sense of the Chinese understanding of the term that falls within the confines of traditional security thinking. That is, ‘national defence is defined as ‘the use of anything related to military affairs to protect the country’s territorial integrity and sovereignty as well as defend against foreign offence or invasion’. In 2010 Zhao Qizheng, the spokesman of Chinese People Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), when answering questions concerning China’s military budget raised by the media at a press briefing, stated, ‘China’s military power is to protect the national sovereignty and territorial integrity.’[7] Beginning in 1995, China stipulates in its Defence White Papers that the first priorities of China’s defence policy are ‘defending against foreign invasion,’ as well as ‘protecting the national territory, sovereignty, security and unity.’[8]

There is an acknowledgement and awareness that the concept of guófáng has a potentially wider scope than just the deployment of forces in response to fundamental threats to Chinese territorial integrity. As evidenced by the official website of the Chinese MND – which was only formally launched in 2009 but contains up-to-date information in both Chinese and English – guófáng can be seen to cover a wide-range issues, including defence policy, defence building, armed forces’ building, defence education, military exchanges, military exercises, weaponry, defence laws, peacekeeping, disarmament, defence technology, the military history, etc.[9]

The international community has been closely watching the direction of China’s defence development. However, China’s consistent response to international concerns is that China’s guófáng zhèngcè國防政策 (zhèngcè translates as ‘policy’)” is characteristic with that of fángyù (defence), meaning that China’s national defence policy is defensive. The priorities of China’s national defence policy, ‘defending against foreign invasion and protecting the national territory, sovereignty, security and unity’, gives a general picture of what China means by ‘a defensive (fángyù) national defence policy.’ It implies that China is not on the initiative to take offensive military actions against other countries. However, it also does not mean that China will never take the initiative in military campaigns against other countries. A strategy of ‘jījí fángyù (积极防御) (literally translated as ‘active defence’) was formally adopted by the Central Military Commission of the Communist Party of China in 1956.[10]

Jījí fángyù upholds the principle of ‘self-defence’. However, it does not imply that China also has a passive attitude regarding its national defence policy. Although the PLA claims it will not conduct pre-emptive strikes against other countries, China is not afraid of fighting wars; China intends to strike back and win predominance after other countries attack it. There is a Chinese saying, ‘other people do not attack me and I will not attack them; if other people attack me, I will definitely attack them’ (rén bùfàn wǒ, wǒ bù fànrén; rén ruò fàn wǒ, wǒ bì fànrén人不犯我,我不犯人;人若犯我,我必犯人). This contributes to the understanding of Chinese thinking behind jījí fángyù. Under the guidelines of jījí fángyù, China touts that it is cautious regarding the use of force; uses forces with legitimacy; and never provokes wars with other countries or invades other countries. Beijing’s long-standing insistence that China is opposed to hegemonism and that China will never seek hegemony is characterised by the usage of fángyù in China’s national defence policy. Overall, China claims that jījí fángyù (active defence) is a strategy mixing defence with offence – however in essence, the former is more than the latter. China’s applications of the jījí fángyù strategy in its national defence policy is directed towards China’s supreme and sublime national goals, that is, the assurance of self-defence and the protection of sovereignty as well as territorial integrity. China reserves the right to decide whether its national goals are compromised. As the US Department of Defence highlights,

‘China does not initiate wars or fight wars of aggression, but engages in war only to defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity. Beijing’s definition of an attack against its sovereignty or territory is vague, however.’[11]

For example, China refers to the war it fought against India in 1962 over a border issue as the ‘Sino-India Border Self-Defence Counterattack’.[12] The Sino-Vietnamese War in 1979 is also referred by China as ‘counterattacks’ against Vietnam for ‘self-defence’, because Vietnam constantly harassed Chinese citizens living in the bordering regions.[13] It would be a serious concern if China takes offensive action and uses military force to attack Taiwan in the name of protecting its territorial integrity if China believes that Taiwan is pursuing de jure independence. On the other hand, it would not be surprising if China explains to the world that its continuous and speedy military build-up is mainly in response to any possible foreign invasion, to protect its sovereignty and territorial integrity. These claims by China all follow its long-standing strategy of jījí fángyù.

 


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[1] Xiandai Hanyu Cidian (Modern Chinese Dictionary, the 5th Edition), Beijing: Commercial Press, 2006, p. 519. Hanyu Da Cidian (Comprehensive Dictionary of Chinese Words), Shanghai: Hanyu Da Cidian Press, 1995, Vol 3, p. 630

[2] Xiandai Hanyu Cidian (Modern Chinese Dictionary, the 5th Edition), Beijing: Commercial Press, 2006, p. 385. Hanyu Da Cidian (Comprehensive Dictionary of Chinese Words), Shanghai: Hanyu Da Cidian Press, 1994, Vol 11, p.916

[3] [3] Xiandai Hanyu Cidian (Modern Chinese Dictionary, the 5th Edition), Beijing: Commercial Press, 2006, p. 519. Hanyu Da Cidian (Comprehensive Dictionary of Chinese Words), Shanghai: Hanyu Da Cidian Press, 1995, Vol 3, p. 634

[4] Xiandai Hanyu Cidian (Modern Chinese Dictionary, the 5th Edition), Beijing: Commercial Press, 2006, p. 385. Hanyu Da Cidian (Comprehensive Dictionary of Chinese Words), Shanghai: Hanyu Da Cidian Press, 1994, Vol 11, p.916

[5] Xiandai Hanyu Cidian (Modern Chinese Dictionary, the 5th Edition), Beijing: Commercial Press, 2006, p. 1670. Hanyu Da Cidian (Comprehensive Dictionary of Chinese Words), Shanghai: Hanyu Da Cidian Press, 1996, Vol 7, p.951

[6] Xiandai Hanyu Cidian (Modern Chinese Dictionary, the 5th Edition), Beijing: Commercial Press, 2006, p. 386. Hanyu Da Cidian (Comprehensive Dictionary of Chinese Words), Shanghai: Hanyu Da Cidian Press, 1994, Vol 11, p.922

[7] “Zhao Qizheng: China’s Military Power Is to Protect the National Sovereignty and Territorial Integrity,” the website of NPC and CPPCC Session 2010, March 2, 2010, http://2010lianghui.people.com.cn/BIG5/181624/11058003.html

[8] China’ National Defence White Papers in 1995, 1998, 2000, 2002, 2004, 2006, 2008

[9] The website of the Chinese Ministry of National Defence, http://www.mod.gov.cn/ and http://eng.mod.gov.cn/

[10] “The Central Military Commission Holds an Enlarged Session on March 6, 1956,” www.people.com.cn, http://cpc.people.com.cn/GB/64162/64165/77585/77591/5429064.html

[11] “The Annual Report to Congress: Military Power of the People’s Republic of China 2007,” the U.S. Department of Defense, p. 12, http://www.defense.gov/pubs/pdfs/070523-China-Military-Power-final.pdf

[12] “The Military History of the Sino-India Border Self-Defence Counterattack,” http:military.china.com, http://military.china.com/zh_cn/dljl/zhongyin/

[13] “Vietnam Invades Our Territory and Driving Out our Chinese People, China Fights the Self-Defence Counterattacks,” August 28, 2009, www.china.com.cn, http://big5.china.com.cn/news/60years/2009-08/28/content_18421597.htm

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