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U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, "Hearing: China's Narratives Regarding National Security Policy," March 10, 2011

This hearing was conducted by the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission on March 10, 2011. The U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission was created by the U.S. Congress in 2000 to monitor, investigate, and submit to Congress an annual report on the national security implications of the economic relationship between the United States and the People’s Republic of China.
March 10, 2011

Thursday, March 10, 2011
106 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Constitution Avenue and First Street, NE
Washington, DC 20002

Hearing Co-Chairs: Commissioners Jeffrey Fiedler and Dennis Shea

Prepared Statement of Commissioner Dennis C. Shea

Good morning, everyone. I would like to thank all of you, both our witnesses and our assembled guests in the public gallery, for joining us for today’s hearing. Today’s topic is one that is of critical importance to future American economic and national security: that of the messages that the Chinese government promotes about its national security goals, and what they may reveal about China’s course as an emerging great power. China’s rise over the past three decades–from an isolated and impoverished nation devastated by the Cultural Revolution, to one of the world’s strongest industrial powers–has truly been an epochal event, and one that will shape U.S. foreign policy for decades to come.

This dramatic story has not yet fully played out, however, and many questions remain surrounding China’s rise to great power status. It is not yet entirely clear how the Chinese state will choose to make use of its dramatically increased economic and diplomatic clout. It is also not clear what role China’s rapidly modernizing and professionalizing armed forces will come to play in Chinese foreign policy. The Chinese government insists that the People’s Liberation Army will only be used for defensive purposes, but year-on-year increases in its military budget, as well as a steady expansion of its capabilities for power projection, have generated cause for concern among many of China’s neighbors in East Asia.

The Chinese government’s response to such concerns has been a campaign of reassuring messages offered through leadership speeches, official documents, government spokespeople, and the state-controlled media. These narratives have tended to stress the same general theme: that China is a peaceful country interested primarily in its own domestic economic development, with no appetite for either foreign military adventures or confrontations with other powers. These messages have also stressed China’s interest in making positive contributions to world security and the world economy, through measures such as overseas investment and greater participation in peacekeeping and counter-terrorism initiatives.

Such reassurances have been called into question, however, by deeds that don’t always appear to match the governing narrative. Th
e Chinese government’s more aggressive efforts to assert sovereignty over disputed territories in the South China Sea and East China Sea – as well as its continued staunch backing of North Korea in the face of unprovoked attacks against South Korea – have seemed to counteract much of its official rhetoric. Furthermore, the emergence of more nationalistic voices within China, many of them linked to the military establishment provide a glimpse into viewpoints that stand starkly at odds with reassuring statements about peaceful and mutually beneficial economic development.

These apparent contradictions leave U.S. policymakers facing a number of questions: What does the future hold for China’s national security policy? What will be the role of the PLA in securing China’s interests abroad? And which of China’s competing narratives will ultimately emerge as the true expression of China’s course and intentions as a great power?

We look forward to the testimony of our distinguished witnesses today, as we seek to gain a greater understanding of these issues that will better enable us to fulfill our responsibilities as an advisory body to the Congress. I once more thank all of you for joining us here this morning – and with that, I’ll turn the floor over to my colleague and co-chair for today’s hearing, Commissioner Jeffrey Fiedler.

Prepared Statement of Commissioner Jeffrey L. Fiedler

Thank you, Commissioner Shea. I would like to second that warm welcome to all of you who have joined us here this morning, and particularly to the witnesses who will be sharing with us their expertise and insights on these issues. Today we will be discussing a topic that has not received attention equal to its importance: understanding the policy implications of the messages that the Chinese government promotes to international audiences regarding its own national security policies.

As has been pointed out by Commissioner Shea the Chinese government has invested great effort in providing reassuring messages to foreign audiences: particularly, that its fundamental concern lies in the peaceful development of its own domestic economy, and that China will never pose a threat to its neighbors. While it is certainly the hope of all sensible people that this will prove to be true, prudence demands a more careful examination of China’s course as an emerging world power. Underlying this is a simple question, but one that has no easy answer: Can China’s reassurances be taken at face value?

This is not to assume that the narratives promoted by China’s informational bureaucracy are necessarily false – in many cases, they may be accurate expressions of policy intent. However, the Chinese government’s manipulation of information does mean that its narratives should not be taken uncritically at face value, and that these narratives must be made subject to a comparison of the Chinese government’s words against its deeds. This is particularly true in the case of China’s narratives regarding its foreign and national security policies – for either successful deception, or simply the spread of mutual misunderstanding, could both have a severely detrimental impact on future U.S. national security.

It is imperative that U.S. policymakers and the U.S. public have an accurate understanding of China’s future intentions. It is our hope that today’s hearing, and the testimony of the distinguished speakers who have joined us here today, will make a modest contribution towards this goal. With that, we will now turn to our first panel.

Hearing Co-Chairs Opening Statements
Commissioner Dennis Shea
Commissioner Jeffrey Fiedler

Panel I: Chinese Narratives and Policy Debates Surrounding Geopolitics in East Asia and China’s Emergence as a Great Power
Dr. David Lampton, Director of China Studies, Johns Hopkins - SAIS
Dr. Gilbert Rozman, Professor of Sociology, Princeton University
Dr. Christopher Ford, Senior Fellow, Hudson Institute
Dr. Alison Kaufman, Research Analyst, CNA

Panel II: The Chinese Government’s Formulation of National Security Narratives in Media and Public Diplomacy
Dr. Ashley Esarey, Professor of Politics, Whitman College
Dr. Jacqueline Newmyer, President and CEO, Long Term Strategy Group
Dr. Gary Rawnsley, Professor of Communications, University of Leeds

Panel III: The Chinese Government’s Narratives Related to Military Modernization and the Role of the PLA in Foreign Policy
Mr. Mark Stokes, Executive Director, Project 2049 Institute
Dr. John Park, Senior Research Associate, U.S. Institute of Peace
Mr. Abraham Denmark, Director of the Asia-Pacific Security Program, Center for a New American Security
Dr. Andrew Scobell, Senior Political Scientist, RAND