Since China announced its Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ), there has been an incessant clamor from Japan, America, Canada and other western countries. Japan and America have both criticized the move, and sent warplanes into the area in a gesture of provocation. Meanwhile, their media join in the dispute. China’s ADIZ has been mocked as “an invitation to humiliation”, “nominal”, “a paper tiger”, etc. Such reactions suggest that the defining of the ADIZ has given both Japan and America pause for thought.
The accusations that have been leveled are themselves totally unreasonable. The first of these is that China’s ADIZ , having been “defined unilaterally”, is “illegal”. This begs the question: When did any country seek the approval of other countries or the international community before establishing an ADIZ? As the creator of the concept of the ADIZ, did America ask anyone’s permission before announcing its ADIZ in 1950? After taking over its ADIZ from America in 1969, Japan expanded it twice - in 1972 and 2010. Which countries did Japan consult before doing so? Why should China need the consent of Japan, America or any other country for simply following their examples? This is the logic of hegemony. An old Chinese saying sums up the situation perfectly: “The governor can set a fire, while the civilian is not allowed to strike a light.”
The second accusation is that China’s ADIZ has “intensified existing tension in the region”. The fact is that current tension in the East China Sea was triggered by the illegal purchase of the Diaoyu Islands by the Japanese government. The Japanese government is currently denying the existence of any sovereignty dispute over the Diaoyus Island. This is like a burglar accusing his victim of picking a fight for trying to retrieve his property.
Besides, within 3 days of China’s announcement of the ADIZ, America and Japan had sent a succession of warplanes into the zone, and this is the real cause of the increase in the tension in the area.
The third accusation is that China’s military modernization is “disrupting the regional military balance”, and that America therefore needs to “return to the Asia-Pacific” to restore this “military balance”. It is clear that certain American allies in South-East Asia are looking to America to provide a “balance” against China. The truth is that there has never been any military balance in the Asia-Pacific. Not only does America maintain a permanent presence in the region, it also holds a permanent military hegemony. The air and sea military forces of the US Pacific Command exceed that of the whole of the rest of East Asia and South-East Asia together. America has deployed its most advanced strategic bomber and its fifth generation fighter in Japan, South Korea and Guam. As if this was not enough, on the pretext of “rebalancing”, America now plans to dispatch two thirds of its total naval forces to the West Pacific region.
This is not a “rebalancing”, but an obsession with maintaining absolute American superiority. America lies far away in the western hemisphere, but its warships and warplanes are camped on China’s doorway, scouting China’s coasts by sea and air. China has never sent any warships or warplanes to the seas off Kadena Base or Yokosuka Base, or carried out any similar maneuvers near Guam.
China’s military modernization of recent years has served the purpose of catching-up, as is necessary for the self-defense of any major country. It can also be put into this context: following the Opium War (Britain's invasion of China, 1840-1842), China suffered a hundred years of misery, oppression and invasion; China’s military modernization is a process of restoring the balance in the current military power relationship between China and other countries. And China is not going to suspend its military build-up because of interference from countries like America and Japan.
It should be acknowledged that even in China some people have expressed concerns. “What is the significance of China’s ADIZ?” they wonder. In addition to protecting the sovereignty and core interests of a country, the definition of an ADIZ also has great strategic significance. America has never criticized Japan for defining or extending its ADIZ; instead it has offered its strongest support. The tacit understanding between the two countries is a strategy to use Japan’s ADIZ to blockade China at the first island chain. And China’s task is to break that blockade. America and Japan have showed the way: if American and Japanese warplanes can enter China’s ADIZ without prior notification, then as a matter of logic Chinese aircraft can pass through Japan’s ADIZ without notification.
Western countries exploit China’s reasonable defensive measures in accusing China of a “non-peaceful” rise. But we want to tell America and Japan: There is nothing wrong with China’s rise. We are no longer the “Sick Man of East Asia” - the country that was subjected to decades of humiliation and invasion. But even as we grow strong, we will not seek hegemony or impose our views on other countries. As a confident new China, we ask for mutual respect and equal treatment. We will not be bound by American and Japanese definitions of what constitutes a “peaceful rise”, and we will do whatever is required to protect China’s core interests.
It was an American president, Theodore Roosevelt, who popularized the saying “Speak softly, and carry a big stick.” China will follow the path that is right for China, and leave the clamoring to others.
Edited and Translated by Kong Defang, People's Daily Online