Jin Yinan: The Fundamental Difference

1. Translation

Published by People’s Daily Online (人民网) twelve days ago, as part of an interview and discussion series:

People’s Daily Online, January 5, 2013 (Reporter: Huang Zijuan) PLA National Defense University Strategic Research Institute director General, professor Jin Yinan, was recently a guest at People’s Daily Online’s “National Defense Culture Examples” interview series, discussing issues of “strategy cultures and modern defense” with netizens and exchanging views with them.

人民网北京1月5日电 (记者 黄子娟)近日,国防大学战略研究所所长金一南教授做客人民网“国防文化系列访谈”,就“战略文化与现代国防”的话题与网友交流。

When discussing Sino-American strategic cultural differences, Jin Yinan said that Sino-American strategic cultural differences were very big. Rabindranath Tagore had once said that conflicts and conquest [or subjugation] were quintessential in the spirit of Western nationalism, and its core was definitely not about cooperation. National interest as permanently defined by America was the core of its strategic culture, mainly:
1. safeguarding global freedom of action for America, to go whereever it wanted to, without anyone being in a position to stop them
2. Making sure that major strategic resources and markets would be acquired. This includes oil, natural gas, and all kinds of resources America needs
3. holding back hostile and opposing forces, and controlling key regions.


Jin Yinan said that here, the fundamental strategic interest defined by America had no ideological color, and its defined lasting national interests included nothing about human rights either. The core was America’s interest, whichever way it could be achieved. This was mainly through control, conquest [or subjugation], to talk again if conquest didn’t work, to cooperate, to make unilateral gains when feasible, and to enter win-win when unilateral gains weren’t achievable. This was the biggest difference between China’s and American strategic cultures.



Appropriating Rabindranath Tagore in the context of delivering damning assessments of America’s “strategic culture”, and beautifying implications about China’s, may amount to subjugation, too. Here is how Isaiah Berlin  (quoted by Amartya Sen) described Tagore’s view of political liberty:

Tagore stood fast on the narrow causeway, and did not betray his vision of the difficult truth. He condemned romantic overattachment to the past, what he called the tying of India to the past “like a sacrificial goat tethered to a post,” and he accused men who displayed it – they seemed to him reactionary – of not knowing what true political freedom was, pointing out that it is from English thinkers and English books that the very notion of political liberty was derived. But against cosmopolitanism he maintained that the English stood on their own feet, and so must Indians. In 1917 he once more denounced the danger of ‘leaving everything to the unalterable will of the Master,’ be he brahmin or Englishman.

Tagore’s criticism, used by General Jin in his strategy-culture discussion, was part of India’s struggle against British colonialism. But – as Amartya Sen (2001) sees it – while Tagore consistently and growingly sharply criticized British administration over India, his criticism was less noticed than that of other opponents of Britain’s colonial rule:

This point – Tagore’s criticism – is often missed, since he made a special effort to dissociate his criticism of the Raj from any denigration of British—or Western—people and culture.



» Espionage, not Corruption, NTDTV, Aug 31, 2011
» Discussion leaked, Taipei Times, Aug 30, 2011
» Strategic Culture, Jeffrey S. Lantis via asrudiancenter, Nov 4, 2008



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