Oftentimes, the less we want war, the more prominent the above-mentioned dilemma becomes. Chinese society must therefore have real courage to engage calmly in a war that aims to protect core interests, and be prepared to bear the cost. In that way, China’s comprehensive strength can be effectively transformed into a strategic deterrent against all kinds of provocateurs.
As long as the outside world can feel such true will from China, it might in turn help us avoid a war.
Of course, after all, wars cannot be fought casually, and we must win if we are to fight. Such winning has two meanings: First, it means defeating the opponent on the battlefield; second, it must be morally justified. This is particularly true for China, because China is not the strongest power in the world. The US is suppressing China. If we win on the battlefield at the expense of our international morality, we might mistakenly help the US build an anti-China alliance that challenges our strategic position even more.
We are confident to win on the battlefield if conflicts are fought with neighboring forces that have territorial disputes with China. Similarly, if there is a war with the US near China’s coastal waters, we also have a good chance of victory.
The key is really morality. China is a rising power that has been ideologically rejected by the US and the West. The countries that have territorial disputes with China also sympathize with each other. If China does decide to go to war with a neighboring force, the international community will tend to favor the weaker side. Whether or not our moves are justified, the moral risks are high. Besides, the US will fully turn its public opinion machine against China. Therefore, we should not underestimate the complexity of a war.
Before engaging in war with a neighboring force, China needs to do the following:
First, we must make it clear that the other side, not China, is the one that breaks the status quo.
Second, we also need to make it clear that the other side is the provocateur in a complex situation.
Third, we must make the international community see that China has made hard diplomatic or political efforts to resolve tensions before the war.
Fourth, the first shot is fired by the other side, not China. The international community should be fully aware of this.
Fifth, only in extreme situations, if we need to fire the first shots, we must deliver an ultimatum in advance so that a just war can be started in an upright manner.
If we can satisfy these conditions, I believe China can be free to engage in a war if it has to. This means that even if the US then tries to smear China, the international community will understand: China is not a country that bullies the small, but instead it had no option but to go to war.
China must not fight an impulsive war. We must be fully prepared militarily and morally. Some may find such a war oppressive, but I must say that as the world’s repressed “number two” nation, China is doomed to suffer from certain periods of oppression, as it is the fate of all those in second place. During China’s rise, we need to keep a low profile, be patient, and bear all the complexities. When dealing with small opportunistic forces, we cannot use our power to quickly cut through the mess, but handle tensions with them slowly. We need to be able to stand such tests.
To win the morality of a war, we also need to win the war of opinion in addition to being decent. In terms of external conflict, one of our big problems is that we’re speaking too little and too slowly. The other side has always spoken more and faster on the details of the conflicts. We must make great efforts to solve this problem.
China must be a country that dares to fight. And this should be based on both strength and morality. We have the power in our hands, we are reasonable, and we stand up to guard our bottom line without fear. In this way, whether China is engaged in a war or not, it will accumulate the respect of the world. One day, we will show our natural dignity and power without flexing muscles, and we will win without fighting a war.
The author is Editor-in-chief of the Global Times.