Languages of Security in the Asia-Pacific

College of Asia and the Pacific, Australian National University

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Chinese – Wēishè

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

威懾 (威慑)

Wēishè

Relates to deterrence

The term is composed of two characters.

威 (威) – wēi – a power which makes people fearful and obedient; the force; to threaten[1]

懾 (慑) – shè – fear; to yield because of fear[2]

威懾 (威慑) – wēishè – using force or power to make opponents fear and yield; to deter[3]

When ‘deterrence’ is discussed with reference to China’s strategic thinking and security issues, the term utilized is frequently ‘wēishè’. The broadest definition of wēishè is ‘to make an opponent believe that the cost or risk of his attempted action against a target might outweigh the gains, and therefore discourage him from taking the action contemplated’.

Wēishè (deterrence) in Chinese means literally to terrorise with military force, in contrast to Western conceptions of this term. For some strategic thinkers, this does not draw a significant enough distinction against the conceptualisation of deterrence as the threat, rather than use, of harm. The lack of ambiguity in this concept in Chinese means that it comes across as intimidation, ‘wēi ’ (威吓), which is a specifically active rather than passive response.

It is generally believed in China that successful deterrence is composed of the following prerequisites: real military strength, the determination to use that strength, and the signalling of that determination to the opponent. China recognises and emphasises the psychological impact of wēishè, to make the opponent ‘fearful’. For example, it is said that ‘strategic deterrence [aims to] influence the mentality of a specific target and force the target to surrender under certain conditions.’[4] Wēishè is also explained as the ‘art of creating the momentum … to shock enemies psychologically.[5]

Starting in 2004, China mentioned wēishè as part of China’s defence policy in its biennial defence white papers. In the 2004 Defence White Paper, China stated that the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) will ‘strengthen its comprehensive wēishè (deterrence) and warfighting capabilities.’[6]

Although wēishè is addressed in China’s defence white papers as a strategy that is implemented by all the military services, it is officially stated in the 2008 Defence White Paper that the Second Artillery Force is ‘the core force of China for strategic deterrence.’[7] The Second Artillery Force is the Chinese military service that controls China’s nuclear and conventional ballistic missiles. Much of the discussion in academic circles and the media surrounding China’s thinking on wēishè is related to China’s nuclear strategy. China’s strategy of nuclear wēishè is based on four principles: no first use of nuclear weapons; the possession of a counterattack capabilities; the insistence that nuclear missiles are not aimed at any country in peacetime; and the determination that China will never enter into a nuclear arms race with any other country. China defines its nuclear wēishè strategy as a ‘self-defensive’ one.[8]

The Taiwan issue, which China claims to be a ‘domestic issue’, is another example of China’s implementation of the wēishè strategy. China refuses to renounce the use of force to resolve the Taiwan issue.[9] China’s continuous building up of its military strength, and especially the deployment of increasing numbers of missiles targeting Taiwan constitutes psychological pressure on Taiwan.

Another example of China’s show of wēishè is the military parade held on 1 October 2009 marking the sixtieth anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China. A Hong Kong newspaper, Wenweipo, described China’s military parade as ‘producing an effective wēishè with respect to the issues of ‘Taiwan independence,’ ‘Tibetan independence,’ and ‘Xinjiang independence’ as well as against whoever contests our territorial land and sea such as the East China Sea, South China Sea, and Southern Tibet.[10]

 

 

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[1] Xiandai Hanyu Cidian (Modern Chinese Dictionary, the 5th Edition), Beijing: Commercial Press, 2006, p. 1412. Hanyu Da Cidian (Comprehensive Dictionary of Chinese Words), Shanghai: Hanyu Da Cidian Press, 1994, p. 218.

[2] Xiandai Hanyu Cidian (Modern Chinese Dictionary, the 5th Edition), Beijing: Commercial Press, 2006, p. 1206. Hanyu Da Cidian (Comprehensive Dictionary of Chinese Words), Shanghai: Hanyu Da Cidian Press, 1996, Vol 7, p. 797.

[3] Xiandai Hanyu Cidian (Modern Chinese Dictionary, the 5th Edition), Beijing: Commercial Press, 2006, p. 1413. Hanyu Da Cidian (Comprehensive Dictionary of Chinese Words), Shanghai: Hanyu Da Cidian Press, 1994, p. 218.

[4] Xu Zhouwen, “An Introduction to the Strategic Deterrence in the Information Age,” the PLA Daily, May 7, 2009, http://news.mod.gov.cn/edu/2009-05/07/content_4081820.htm [accessed November 27, 2009]

[5] Ma Junjie, “An Introduction to Ma Zedong’s Thinking in Military Deterrence,” the website of the People’s Liberation Army’s Daily, http://www.chinamil.com.cn/item/mzd/jn/50.htm [accessed November 26, 2009]

[6] “China’s National Defense in 2004,” Information Office of China’s State Council, December 2004, http://english.people.com.cn/whitepaper/defense2004/defense2004.html

[7] “China’s National Defense in 2008,” Information Office of China’s State Council, January 2009, http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2009-01/20/content_10688124_7.htm

[8] Ibid.

[9] “The One-China Principle and the Taiwan Issue,” Information Office of China’s State Council, February 2000, http://www.china.com.cn/ch-book/taiwan/taiwan2.htm

[10] “Hong Kong Media: the Military Parade on the National Day Effectively Deterred the Force of ‘Taiwan, Tibetan and Xinjiang Independence,” an October 2 article on Hong Kong’s Wenweipo and  copied and reported on China’s Huanqiu.com on October 4, 2009, http://mil.huanqiu.com/Observation/2009-10/595153_2.html [accessed December 1, 2009]

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