Photo/IllutrationAlthough Liu Mingfu, a professor at China's National Defense University, has never visited Japan, he says he would like observe the current situation in order to write a book titled "Asia's Dream." (Kenji Minemura)

The title of a 2010 best-seller in China has been adopted by Chinese President Xi Jinping as a major political slogan for his administration.

"The China Dream" was written by Liu Mingfu, a professor at China's National Defense University and a retired colonel in the People's Liberation Army.

Liu, who has long been known as a hawkish proponent of Chinese military power, was recently interviewed by The Asahi Shimbun in Beijing. He was asked about his views of the threat of a major military conflict between China and the United States, and the future of Taiwan and Chinese policy toward Japan.

Excerpts of the interview follow:

Question: Your best-seller "The China Dream," which was published in 2010, is said to have served as the foundation for a major political slogan of the Xi Jinping administration. What are the specific parts of that strategy?

Liu: The strategy I have in mind is made up of three aspects.

The first aspect of the dream is to create a prosperous nation. That means completing the great reconstruction of the Chinese people by 2049, which will mark the centennial of the founding of the People's Republic of China. The goal is to surpass the United States in overall national power in terms of the economy as well as science and technology.

The second aspect is to create a strong military that would give China a first-class one that exceeds even that of the United States, which is now the strongest in the world.

The final part of the dream is for unification.

Q: Are you saying China will strive to unify with Taiwan within the next 30 years?

A: I believe resolving the Taiwan issue is an important strategic objective in achieving 'The China Dream.' China cannot become a first-class nation in the world while it remains a divided state. I am confident that President Xi will work actively on the Taiwan issue and achieve ultimate unification of the nation while he is in office.

While first seeking out peaceful unification, I also believe he will not refrain from also preparing for military action.

Q: But if China used military force, wouldn't that lead the U.S. military to intervene?

A: It is inconceivable that China would abandon its goal of unification because it feared possible intervention by the United States. For the United States, Taiwan is nothing more than one card to use to contain China so I believe there is a low possibility of any military intervention by the United States that might lead to all-out war.

Moreover, when China does make the move for military unification, it will be at a time when it possesses the military capability to defeat any intervention by the United States.

Q: When you speak of state unification, what geographic range are you talking about? Will that include all the regions over which China had influence when it was an imperial power? If the territory of the Ryukyu kingdom is also included, that would not be kindly looked upon by Japan.

A: No, that would not mean bringing back all the geographic maps of past Chinese empires. There have been major territorial changes over the 2,000 or so years from the Qin Dynasty to the Qing Dynasty. It is not clear what period would serve as the standard. The map used by the current Chinese government is the clear standard for national sovereignty and territory.

Q: But the rapid advances being made recently by China has triggered friction with neighboring nations over the Senkaku Islands and in the South China Sea, hasn't it?

A: Not only does China have a border dispute with India, but also many difficult territorial issues with neighboring nations in the South China Sea and the East China Sea. There would be no end in sight if military force was used to resolve all those territorial issues. China's consistent direction has been to resolve such issues in a peaceful manner through negotiations with the relevant nations.

Q: Hasn't the aggressive policies typified by 'The China Dream' stimulated the United States to an unnecessary degree? There are growing calls in Washington, D.C., for a hard-line stance toward China and use of such terms as a 'new Cold War' is becoming increasingly common.

A: Over the next 30 years, the strategic competition between China and the United States will be at a major scale that we have never experienced before.

In fact, I feel a 'new Cold War' between China and the United States started a number of years ago.

The rebalancing strategy used by the Barack Obama administration placing emphasis on the Asia-Pacific region was the first move toward a new Cold War with China.

The Trump administration's vision for a 'free and open Indo-Pacific' can be considered the second such move.

It has now started a 'trade war' and a 'science and technology war.' Applying pressure on Huawei, which is only a single Chinese corporation, is going way out of line.

The new Cold War is becoming even more serious because not only has a trade war been added, but pressure is also being applied over a wider range, including on the Taiwan issue.

Q: How do you view the hard-line argument being made in the United States that China should be contained before its national power exceeds that of the United States?

A: A further worsening of China-U.S. relations will be unavoidable. The most dangerous period will be the next 10 years. As more time passes, the gap in national power with China will become smaller for the United States, and it will find itself in a more disadvantageous position. I feel that the United States will deploy aircraft carrier groups to waters near China and also use allies, such as Japan, to apply further pressure on China.

That will be a period when China will need strategic defenses so it will have to prepare and accumulate the capability to respond to the United States.

Over the second decade when there is a smaller difference in national power, the two nations will continue eyeing each other in a serious manner.

The United States will be in decline in the last decade and that will be a time when China can finally gain the initiative.

Q: Are you saying that the ultimate objective of the Chinese Communist Party is to take over the hegemony now possessed by the United States?

A: It is not a crime to overtake the United States. In track and field, the athlete who puts in a better result as a result of competition with rivals is declared the winner.

But China is not seeking to seize the U.S. position as global hegemon. It is seeking to create a new world where no hegemon exists.

The new world order that China is now calling for will be more civilized and will bring greater happiness to people.

Q: What would be the main elements of the new world order envisioned by the Xi leadership?

A: The world is now in a time of drastic change that only comes about once in a century, but that means there is also the opportunity to make major changes.

The state objective of China is nothing but the realization of 'the China dream' that is the great reconstruction of the Chinese people. The core strategy will be the Belt and Road Initiative that will connect the world and bring happiness through cooperation. The ultimate objective will be to create a joint community of mankind.

Q: There are some who feel China has a grand strategy, but I do not feel that way. That is because it is difficult to distinguish what the strategy is when it feels like all China is doing is reacting passively with the United States in mind.

A: No, the Chinese Communist Party does have a grand strategy.

In the last years under Mao Zedong, even though China was still poor and backward, it was able to work together with the United States to create a relationship meant to keep the Soviet Union in place. Through the reform and open-door policy started under Deng Xiaoping, China became the world's second largest economy.

Such miraculous development would not have been possible without a grand strategy.

Q: Regarding the Belt and Road Initiative, there are some in Japan and the United States raising concerns that it is a Chinese version of the Marshall Plan. There is also criticism that the plan is predatory because debtor nations find themselves engulfed in loans. What is your response?

A: The objective of the postwar Marshall Plan was to spread liberalism in Western Europe by the United States in order to counter moves being made by the Soviet Union and to protect the U.S. hegemony. Through its assistance, the United States was considered to be a 'god' so the relationship with Western Europe was not an equal one.

In contrast, the Belt and Road Initiative is not meant to expand socialist forces or to create a camp that can stand up to the United States.

The objective is to promote joint development by emphasizing the domestic political situation of each separate nation.

More than 150 nations and international organizations have already decided to participate.

Q: But isn't the efforts by China to extend its influence mainly in East Asia and bring nations there into its camp also leading to heightened concerns?

A: With the exception of China and North Korea and a few other nations, East Asia is under the influence of the United States. In particular, Japan continues to be in a situation of a 'client state' strictly controlled by the United States in terms of foreign affairs and national security.

That is the major issue facing East Asia.

Q: But the fact is there is a deep-rooted resistance among the Japanese toward China not only because it continues to expand its military capabilities, but also because it has a totally different state structure. How do you view that?

A: During the Meiji Restoration, Japan pushed forward with a stance of 'escaping Asia and becoming like the West.' After World War II, Japan took a strategy of 'escaping the West and becoming like the United States.' I believe Japan now faces a third turning point. Now is the perfect opportunity for Japan to utilize the emergence of China and Asia, which is geographically close to it.

Now is the time for Japan to escape from an excessive dependence on the United States and 'return to Asia.'

With China breaking through the efforts by the United States to contain it, Japan should move away from being controlled by the United States and cooperate with China to create a new order in East Asia.


Kenji Minemura has worked as an Asahi Shimbun correspondent in both Beijing and Washington, D.C.