Chunxue Yang & Zewen Song
Established in 2006, the Beijing Xiangshan Forum (formerly called the Xiangshan Forum) has been supported by the China Academy of Military Sciences. It has consistently adhered to principles of equality, openness, tolerance, and mutual learning, aiming to gather wisdom, expand consensus, and enhance mutual trust. The forum is a crucial platform for international security and defense dialogue and holds significant international influence.
The 10th Beijing Xiangshan Conference, themed “Common Security, Lasting Peace,” was held at the Beijing International Convention Center from October 29 to October 31. It achieved tremendous success, marked by the highest attendance of national leaders and participants in the history of the Xiangshan Forum.
More than 1,800 individuals, comprising specialists, professors, and observers from various nations, attended the event. The participants included 99 official delegations, 19 defense ministers, 14 military chiefs (commanders of the nation’s defense forces), and members of six international organizations.
In terms of agenda setting, the forum underwent innovation and expansion. Apart from the four plenary sessions, there were eight parallel breakout sessions and ten mini-seminars.
The topics of the plenary session were “The Responsibility of Great Powers and Global Security Cooperation,” “The Role of Developing Countries in Global Security,” “Asia-Pacific Security Architecture: Present Situation and Future,” and “Regional Security and Development: Path and Goal.” These themes embodied the overarching theme of “Common Security and Lasting Peace,” demonstrating China’s concern for global security and development.
It is noteworthy that this forum organized unique events like the “Seminar for Chinese and Foreign Young Military Officers and Scholars” and “Sun Tzu’s Art of War and Current International Security Challenges,” allowing more participants to voice their opinions. Among these, the symposium on “Sun Tzu’s Art of War” was warmly embraced and met with much concern from academics both domestically and internationally.
Six specialists, representing five different nations, contributed unique insights and viewpoints to the discussion. Sun Tzu’s Art of War, recognized as the earliest known art of war in China and the world’s first military manual, predates Clausewitz’s “On War” by over 2,300 years, earning it the status of a “Holy Book of Military Science.”
Comprising approximately 6,000 words and 13 articles, the author is Sun Wu, a general of Wu whose ancestral home is Le’an, Qi State in the Spring and Autumn Period.
The ideas of “Cautious War” and “Defeating the enemy without fighting,” central to Sun Tzu’s Art of War, are deeply ingrained in people’s hearts, emphasizing conflict prevention over warfare tactics. This connection is directly tied to the forum’s theme of “Common Security, Lasting Peace.”
Sun Wu, a general in the State of Wu during the Spring and Autumn Period, authored Sun Tzu’s Art of War, often called Sun Tzu’s Art of War. Recognized as the “Holy Book of Military Science,” Sun Tzu’s Art of War is the oldest military work globally and the oldest extant military treatise in China.
This timeless masterpiece is a priceless relic from China’s extensive history of military culture, serving as a crucial component of its rich traditional life. The essence of ancient military thought finds embodiment in the work’s wide and rich content, profound thinking, and rigorous logic.
The opening seminar of the forum, Sun Tzu’s Symposium on the Art of War, commenced on the morning of October 29. Major General Nie Lailai, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Military Sciences’ Institute of War Studies, facilitated the lecture.
Global participants engaged in a lively discourse, sharing their perspectives and insights into the Art of War. Feng Dewei, vice president of the US Naval Analysis Center, emphasized that studying Sun Tzu’s Art of War “should not only pay attention to its time value but also take into account the new changes in the form of war and the security situation.”
According to Michael Vatijutis, a senior consultant at the Swiss Center for Humanitarian Dialogue, “a key point of Sun Tzu’s art of war is not entirely about war but how to avoid war.” Many participants highlighted Sun Tzu’s “cautious war” theory from The Art of War, contributing to the dissemination of China’s global security initiative.
Emphasizing the prevention of conflict rather than its initiation, Sun Tzu’s concepts of “Cautious War” and “Defeating the enemy without fighting” have become deeply ingrained in people’s minds. These ideas resonate seamlessly with the forum’s theme of “Common Security, Lasting Peace.”
In the past four years, the Xiangshan Forum has once again convened offline. During this period, the global financial landscape has undergone significant shifts, witnessing various local conflicts and a pessimistic outlook for the worldwide situation.
The world finds itself in an unstable phase, marked by events such as the coup in Myanmar, the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, and the tension between Palestine and Israel, among other contradictions. Serious economic regression, population collisions, and severe food shortages have become increasingly prominent phenomena.
In response to these challenges, China, the world’s second most populous and largest developing nation, has taken the lead in preserving global stability by establishing the Beijing Xiangshan Forum.
Serving as an equal, and secure exchange platform for all nations, this forum plays a crucial role in stabilizing the current state of the world and fostering international cooperation.
Firstly, this forum serves as a venue for international cooperation and communication. China strategically utilizes the Beijing Xiangshan Forum as a key platform to actively promote regional cooperation and development, foster amicable relations with foreign nations, and showcase its progress and image on the global stage.
With a particular focus on global and Asian concerns, the Xiangshan Forum aims to advance peace and development in Asia while facilitating communication and collaboration among regional nations.
Notably, representatives from conflicting nations, such as Israel and Palestine, have been extended invitations to participate in this conference, providing a diplomatic channel for communication between the two parties.
Recognizing the importance of enhancing communication and cooperation with other nations, China seeks to support the development of bilateral relations, fostering mutual understanding and friendship. This approach lays a solid foundation for the continued growth of bilateral relations, a necessity as China’s economic, political, and cultural exchanges with other nations continue to deepen.
Secondly, the forum plays a crucial role in amplifying the voices of developing countries. Within its framework, “The Role of Developing Countries in Global Security” was featured in four plenary sessions.
Additionally, eight parallel group meetings delved into subjects such as the “ASEAN-centered regional security cooperation framework,” “New security framework in the Middle East,” “Humanitarian relief and disaster reduction: military cooperation,” and “Global South.” These topics closely align with the needs and demands of developing countries, showcasing China’s genuine concern and attention to their issues.
Historically, many developing nations have struggled with economic disparities, large populations, disordered industrial structures, and limited comprehensive national strength, making it challenging for them to garner international attention and voice their concerns in the global arena.
Notably, the Xiangshan Forum witnessed the largest-ever participation of developing countries, reflecting a significant milestone. In a concerted effort to effectively support these nations in expressing their perspectives and actively listening to their voices, China extended invitations to key figures such as the Secretary-General of ASEAN, the Vice-Chairman of the International Committee of the Red Cross, the Secretary-General of AsiaInfo, and representatives from regional and international organizations including the SCO, the Arab League, NATO, and the European Union.
Thirdly, this forum outlines a blueprint for China on the world stage. This year holds special significance as it marks the 10th anniversary of President Xi Jinping’s vision of building the Community of Shared Future for Mankind and the decade since the launch of the “Belt and Road Initiative.”
The theme of the 10th Xiangshan Forum in Beijing, “Common Security, Lasting Peace,” encapsulates the core principles of China’s global security initiative and actively embodies the concept of the Community of Shared Future for Mankind.
By hosting the Beijing Xiangshan Forum, China not only imparts its wisdom but also presents a comprehensive plan for developing Asia and the world. This event underscores China’s commitment and responsibility as a major nation in promoting regional prosperity, stability, and common development.
As China ascends on the global stage, the world’s attention increasingly turns towards it. Through platforms like the Xiangshan Forum, China showcases its development achievements and contributions to global governance, aiming to enhance international understanding and recognition. This, in turn, elevates China’s international image and bolsters its influence in international discourse.
Lastly, the forum serves as a conduit for spreading the rich tapestry of traditional Chinese culture. The symposium on “Sun Tzu’s Art of War” revolves around the theme of “Sun Tzu’s Art of War and the current international security challenges.” It delves into the crucial concepts within Sun Tzu’s Art of War, exploring their enlightening and reference significance in addressing contemporary global security challenges.
The enduring principles of “Cautious War” and “Defeating the enemy without fighting” from Sun Tzu’s Art of War resonate deeply, promoting the importance of conflict avoidance and offering an alternative approach to resolving international contradictions.
This dissemination holds great significance for the present era, aligning seamlessly with the forum’s overarching theme of “Common Security” and “Building Community of Shared Future for Mankind.” Furthermore, it underscores China’s commitment to resolving international disputes and contradictions through peaceful means.
As Hou Angyu, a researcher at the Academy of Military Sciences, aptly stated, The Art of War belongs not only to China but to the entire world; it is not solely historical but also forward-looking. This forum accentuates the universal significance of military philosophy and practice in the governance of global security.
It not only upholds the strategic insights embedded in Sun Tzu’s Art of War but also transcends individual cultural or historical perspectives. Such exchanges are pivotal for building mutual trust, promoting military transparency, and minimizing misunderstandings, particularly in the contemporary global context.
This becomes increasingly crucial as the international community faces pressing challenges such as terrorism, cybersecurity concerns, regional conflicts, and competition among major nations. Collaborative efforts are essential to address these global issues effectively.
In summary, the Beijing Xiangshan Forum serves as a valuable platform for military officers and scholars from both China and abroad to exchange ideas, foster collaboration, and engage in discussions on pressing global issues.
Beyond its role as a forum for addressing military and security matters, the Beijing Xiangshan Forum stands out as a vital platform for promoting international cooperation, strengthening mutual trust, and collectively safeguarding world peace and security.
In the dynamic landscape of international affairs, the Xiangshan Forum’s role and influence are poised to grow, making it an indispensable contributor to the ongoing efforts to advance global security governance.
*The authors are affiliated with the Baize Institute for Strategy Studies at Southwest University of Political Science and Law, P. R. China.
**The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of The Diplomatic Insight. The organization neither endorses nor assumes any responsibility for the content of this article.