Last updated at: (Beijing Time) Tuesday, March 23, 2004

From military exercises to military diplomacy

Mar. 16 on China's Yellow Sea Sino-French joint military exercises are getting on like a blazing fire. Along with constant implementation of China's policy of reform and opening up and the growth of its overall national strength, the opening up of China's army is being stepped up, showing a trend of all dimensional development.


Mar. 16 on China's Yellow Sea Sino-French joint military exercises are getting on like a blazing fire. As people know, though joint military exercise is an important reflection of the intimate relationship between two or several armies it is after all part of a military exchange. Along with constant implementation of China's policy of reform and opening up and the growth of its overall national strength, the opening up of China's army is being stepped up, showing a trend of all dimensional development.

At 8:00 am Mar. 16, two battleships on each side of the Chinese and French navies set off from Qingdao port and after piercing through the light morning fog they arrived at the designated waters where they began the eight-hour joint military exercises. This is the joint military exercise the largest in scale ever carried out by the Chinese navy and a foreign navy and the first naval maneuver between China and a western country.

The Chinese army has been carrying out frequent joint war exercises with foreign armies over the last two years. First in the autumn of 2002 the Chinese army and Kyrgyzstan army held a joint anti-terrorist exercise on the border of China and Kyrgyzstan. The year 2003 saw the most numerousness of joint military manoeuvre. The most spectacular one was the joint anti-terrorist exercise by SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organization) members - China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, which was both grand in scale and substantial in content. It was widely hailed by the international community. Then were the Sino-Pakistani and Sino-Indian joint naval exercises. All of them achieved the anticipated objectives.

*Spectacular joint military exercises.

*Establishing high-level mutual visits and consultation mechanism with military powers.

*Drastic expansion of training programs for military officers.

*Extension of organizational visits to alien lands.

The opening up of China's army is being stepped up, indicating a trend of all-dimensional development
Though joint war exercise is an important reflection of the intimacy between the two or several armies it is after all part of a military exchange. As China is carrying out constantly its reform and opening up policy with an overall growth of national strength, the opening up of China's army is being intensified, showing the trend of an all-dimensional development.

According to the agreement reached by the leaders of the two countries the Chinese army and the Russian armies have established consultation mechanism between their headquarters of the General Staff. Visiting exchanges and consultations between the top leaders of the two armies have been integrated into the track of the mechanism. In March Russian army's First Deputy Chief of General Staff paid a visit to China to attend the 8th consultation meeting between the two headquarters of General Staff as stipulated in the agreement.

The visiting exchange by senior officers between the Chinese and US armies has been written into agreement and actually carried out, but was interrupted by the warplane collision incident over the South China Sea. The recent visit of the US' Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to China and the Chinese Defense Minister's visit to the US indicated that the visiting exchange by senior officers between the two armies has been restored. Under normal circumstances this trend of visit exchange between the two armies is going to be furthered.

Due to various restricting factors in history mutually entrusted training of Chinese and foreign military officers could not be realized until 1980s when the situation was alleviated. Take for example China's top military academy - the PLA University of National Defense, it has trained thousands of middle-rank military officers for about a hundred countries and areas. Foreign military officers engaged in its long-term training programs come from more than 20 countries and areas. For years the Chinese army has sent out officers to study and do research work at military academies and research institutes in such countries as the United States, Russia, France, the UK and Australia. They join the study programs that may last as long as several months or even a few years.

The foreign exchanges the Chinese army is engaged in are of a great universality and comprehensiveness unprecedented ever since the founding of New China. In recent years the Chinese army sent out organizational visits to an even greater part of the world. This refers to the visits in formation by the navy. For more than 20 years the capital ship formations of Chinese navy have covered every ocean except the Arctic Ocean and paid visits to many countries of the five continents. In the meantime the Chinese navy welcomed the naval formations from various military powers of the world.

*Chinese officers impressed foreign colleagues with their accomplishment

*Mutual trust requires frequent exchanges.

*The increasingly severe international situation demands trans-boundary military cooperation.

*Extensive exchanges bring about complementary effect.

A few years ago as the new China-made guided missile destroyer visited the US, overseas Chinese and Chinese descendants in the US and those who came from Canada mounted the ship on hearing the news. As they recalled the past in the light of the present they couldn't help heave with emotion. American friends on board were also amazed. Chinese military officers who have been abroad for studying, lecturing and researching surprised their foreign colleagues with their accomplishment, especially the professional accomplishment. Through frequent and extensive military exchanges with foreign countries the Chinese army has presented their revolutionized, standardized and modernized achievement in the face of the international community.

During the period when China practiced close-door policy, except for a few armies from neighboring countries, the Chinese army had almost none of military exchange with foreign armies. Western countries, even some neighboring countries were suspicious and wary of the Chinese army. Apart from political and diplomatic reasons the factor that the Chinese army lacked understanding and mutual trust with foreign armies was also an important reason.

Since the Chinese army opened the gate to foreign exchanges it has established various forms of relations with the world powers and the neighboring countries. Personnel visit exchanges, student exchanges and joint war exercises tend to increase in frequency, which provides effective channels for deepening and enhancing bilateral and multilateral understanding and trust.

Meanwhile China is also a nuclear country with nuclear deterrence and actual combat ability. For this reason to step up connections with armies of other nuclear countries and enhance mutual trust is of great importance for the prevention of nuclear accidents and wars.

The modernization process of the Chinese army started at a relatively later stage and has a lower level as compared to the military powers. The gap is huge. To realize "striding-over" development the Chinese army needs to learn from foreign armies under the principle of self-reliance and make full use of everything that can be utilized. With increasingly extensive foreign exchanges the Chinese army has learned a great deal of advanced military theories and ideas from the military powers as well as many useful experiences in army construction. These are very conducive to the speeding up of the Chinese army modernization process.

In the meantime it is a dual exchange. Foreign armies are also interested in learning the merits and strong points of the Chinese army. As China has made big breakthrough in the area of space engineering last year saw European Union invite China to join the research and development program of "Galileo" satellite positioning system. The two parties have signed official agreement. It is a model of mutual study and cooperation between the two parties.

At present terrorism has become a harmful threat to mankind. The containment and elimination of terrorism cannot in any way be achieved by one country or one region alone. It has to rely on international cooperation through coordinated actions such as joint war exercises, enhancing bilateral or multilateral military cooperation and improving joint anti-terrorist combat abilities. This has been made necessary by the general trend of international anti-terrorist cause. Apart from combating terrorism, the dealing with pirate rings which have become increasingly violent, various forms of drug trafficking and smuggling rings as well as the rescuing job in various catastrophic accidents require trans-boundary military cooperation. All of these require practical and effective military exchanges.

In the new century China is rising up in a peaceful way. As a spear in war and shield in peaceful times the Chinese army is coming to the global military stage with a completely new feature.

By People's Daily Online

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