How Beijing defines expansionism, or lack thereof, differs markedly from the norm. We ignore that difference at our own peril
Addressing the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore on Sunday, Chinese Minister of National Defense General Liang Guanglie (梁光烈, pictured above) struck all the right notes when he said that China would not become a military threat and would never seek hegemony or military expansion.
While undoubtedly reassuring, that “solemn pledge” by Beijing to the international community was, as is often the case with such proclamations by Chinese officials, more revealing for what it didn’t say.
It is true that China does not have expansionist or imperial designs on its neighbors in the Western understanding of the term. It does not seek to occupy other countries or overthrow governments whose policies it finds disagreeable, nor does it want to impose its own political system on others. In that regard, Beijing has been consistent in its adherence to the principle of non-interference in the domestic affairs of other countries and Liang’s comments were a reflection of that policy from the military.
What he did not say, however, is that Beijing’s concept of expansionism differs from the way it is normally understood, and therein lie the seeds of potential future conflict.
My unsigned editorial, published today in the Taipei Times, continues here.