ANBOUND’s Observation: Soviet’s History Serves as Lesson for Beijing

The latest issue of Peking University’s bimonthly Journal of International Security Studies features an article by Jia Qingguo, an influential figure in Chinese diplomacy, noting that the country’s authorities should not blindly pursue “absolute national security” and the collapse of the Soviet Union can serve as lesson for Beijing.

The unfettered pursuit of security “will see the costs go up drastically and the benefits go drastically down, until the costs outweigh the benefits”, according to Jia Qingguo, a former dean of Peking University’s international relations school and a member of the Standing Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference.

“To ignore the comparative nature of security, and blindly pursue it absolutely will result in making the country less secure, as it inflicts unbearable costs and fails to achieve absolute security,” Jia stated.

Too much emphasis on defense spending could trigger an arms race making all countries involved less secure, writes Jia, a specialist on U.S. affairs himself. He then cites the Soviet Union’s decades of massive defense spending as a typical example of the drawbacks of ignoring long-term security, which led to the federation’s ultimate disintegration in 1991. “The result was the Soviet Union lagged behind in economic development and was not able to support its massive defense spending. People’s lives did not improve for a long time and this caused loss of political support,” he notes. “Acts like this sacrifice long-term interests for short-term gains, and to a great extent sped up the [Soviet] turmoil and collapse”.

In his article, Jia also cautions against overemphasis on absolute security regarding supply chains. “Only by completely cutting off foreign trade and achieving economic independence can you truly make it impossible for other countries to exert pressure,” Jia writes. “But this would only lower efficiency and make the country lag further behind, making the nation less secure,” he warns.

The sole aim of maintaining security would also discourage companies from innovating and opening up to foreign entities, which would hurt the overall efficiency of the economy, Jia says.

He also compares overemphasis on national security to how a person might react to an illness. “A panicking person might overreact and exaggerate the danger,” he writes. “Treating an illness without reason and even over-treatment could turn small illnesses into big ones, while incurable illnesses would worsen”.

Jia reminded Chinese authorities that to ensure national security, they need to make more friends and fewer enemies, especially when it comes to managing ties with major powers.

Chan Kung

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ANBOUND

ANBOUND

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ANBOUND is a multinational independent think tank, specializing in public policy research, incl. economy, urban and industry, geopolitical issues. Est. 1993.