China eyes defensive capability in building up military

13:51, October 01, 2009      

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While displaying sophisticated weapons at the 60th National Day parade Thursday, China insists that the glittering military accomplishments are mainly to serve the country's "active defense" strategy.

The People's Liberation Army (PLA) showcased 52 types of new home-grown weapon systems, at the grand military parade marking the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China (PRC).

The military pageant comprised 14 units of marching soldiers, more than 500 vehicles and 151 aircraft, showing both conventional weapons and strategic deterrence.

Spotlighted at the parade were the PLA's airborne early warning and control (AEWC), unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), cruise missiles, J-10 fighters, armored vehicles and other novel military hardware which have been in active service.

However, "the army's weapons were "purely defensive in nature," Wang Xinjun, a research fellow of warring theory and strategy at the PLA Military Science Academy, told Xinhua.

China has implemented a military strategy of "active defense," according to the White Paper on China's National Defense in 2008, issued in January.

Strategically, the country pursues a principle featuring defensive operations, self-defense, "attacking only after being attacked" and "defusing crises before they escalate into a conflict".

Defense Minister Liang Guanglie told Xinhua, ahead of the National Day, the PLA had achieved leaping upgrades in its defensive combat abilities to realize that the armed forces could effectively safeguard the country's sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Over the past six decades, the development of the PLA armament in recent years is "compatible with the country's self-defensive military strategy," according to Wang.

He said "defensive and light weapons dominate the PLA arsenal, with offensive and heavy weapons being complementary," which was decided by top Chinese leaders after the founding of the New China in 1949.

In 1954, the self-defensive strategy was enshrined in China's Constitution in 1954, said Chen Zhou, a military expert at the PLA Military Science Academy who was involved in drafting the country's defense white papers.

The 1954 Constitution says the task of China's armed forces is to "defend fruits of people's revolution and national construction and safeguard state sovereignty, territorial integrity and security."

Chen said, "The defensive nature of China's defense policy has not changed, regardless of the country's national strength and military power."

"Whether a country pursues aggression rests with its defense policy," he said, adding "China military threat theory" was groundless.

Wang said a limited development of offensive weaponry was "purely for fighting invasion," not to invade other countries.

"Only a small proportion of the PLA ammunition is very powerful, long-range arms, which are used as a deterrent to contain war and curb escalation of conflicts."

He said most of the weapons were intermediate and short-range arms.

"China never thinks of invading other countries so it's unnecessary to equip the army with expensive armament for distant fighting," Wang said.

Conventional weapons are always a main stay of the PLA armament, while biochemical and nuclear weapons play a supporting role, he said.

China developed the country's first A-bomb, H-bomb and satellite in the 1960s and 1970s despite the poor technological level and stringent financial status.

However, China says it will unswervingly adhere to the longstanding policy of "no first use of nuclear weapons".

Maj.-Gen. Gao Jianguo, spokesman at the joint headquarters for the military parade, said China would "show restraint" in developing nuclear weapons.

"China has never deployed nuclear weaponry outside its territory. It has not joined the nuclear race and never will in the future," he said.

While reaffirming the will to implement "a self-defensive nuclear strategy, the national defense white paper said, "In peacetime, the nuclear missile weapons of the Second Artillery are not aimed at any country.

"But if China comes under a nuclear threat, the nuclear missile force will go into a state of alert, and get ready for a nuclear counterattack to deter the enemy from using nuclear weapons against China," said the paper.

It said the Second Artillery would use nuclear missiles to "launch a resolute counterattack against the enemy" in case of a nuclear attack and it could perform a nuclear attack "either independently or together with the nuclear forces of other services.

Trump card weapons, such as the nuclear-capable intercontinental ballistic missile, were shown at the parade. The giant equipment, in camouflage, brought the pageant to a climax.

Observers say China's military modernization should focus on defending homeland security as the country's long land and sea borders make frontier defense tough. So a deterrent military force can meet the demand.

In line with the self-defensive strategy, Defense Minister Liang said the Army's mobility level would be upgraded to give greater regional capabilities, and the Navy would be capable of both a strong coastal defense and certain measures for blue water combat.

The Air Force would be transformed from a fleet that could only provide homeland air defense to an aerial power, capable of a combination of offensive and defensive operations, he said.

The Second Artillery Force, China's strategic missile force, has developed "a versatile inventory consisting of both nuclear and conventional missiles of different ranges, capable of carrying various types of warheads," according to the white paper.

Gen. Liang said the PLA's arsenal has been equipped with all major weapon systems on the land, in the sea and air just like other major military powers, including military satellites, advanced jets, new main battle tanks, sophisticated warships and subs, with world-leading standards.

Source: Xinhua
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