The Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) started its largest-ever military exercise on Tuesday.
Experts said the exercise has already revealed new trends in the country's military development.
It is the first time the PLA has mobilized four full divisions amounting to about 50,000 troops and deployed 60,000 pieces of heavy equipment up to a maximum of 2,400 kilometers from their bases, accompanied by army aviation units.
To test the mobility of the world's biggest army, numbering nearly 2.3 million - which has not been engaged in a major military conflict for nearly 30 years - PLA headquarters selected four elite divisions from its Lanzhou, Shenyang, Jinan and Guangzhou Military Commands to carry out the two-month long exercise.
Motorized troops from the military commands of Lanzhou passes a bridge on Tuesday. The exercise "Stride-2009" participated by one army division from each of the military commands of Shenyang, Lanzhou, Jinan and Guangzhou begins. (Xinhua Photo)
The PLA's General Staff Headquarters said three of the divisions had glorious battle histories stemming from victories in the Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945) and victories against U.S. troops during the Korean War (1950-1953).
"They are required to improve PLA battle effectiveness in a modern warfare environment for the present and in the future," Gong Fangbin, a professor at the PLA's National Defense University, said Wednesday.
"Long-distance mobility is a key requirement for the armed forces to carry out anti-terror missions and operations to protect China's overseas interests," Gong said.
The professor said the exercise also revealed a transformation of the country's defense construction concept.
"China is less likely to face a large scale inland attack since no other countries -- including the United States -- want to take the chance of adopting military force in dealing with Chinese affairs.
"Instead, China is now in growing demand of smaller, agile task forces able to conduct precise joint operations," he said.
A foot soldier takes part in a joint training exercise on Tuesday. The exercise "Stride-2009" participated by one army division from each of the military commands of Shenyang, Lanzhou, Jinan and Guangzhou begins.(Xinhua Photo)
According to PLA Headquarters the exercise, code named Stride-2009, includes coordination between army ground troops and aviation units.
"There are comparative weaknesses the PLA should overcome before it has real ability to conduct joint operations," Gong said.
According to a report by the PLA Daily on Wednesday, the army's Jinan Military Command held joint training in July which involved the army, navy and air force as well as the second artillery force and militia in the east Shandong peninsula and central Henan Province.
It was the first PLA theater-level joint training in which all of the army's services within one of its major military regions participated.
Missile artillery soldiers from the military commands of Jinan are filling up a missile. The exercise "Stride-2009" participated by one army division from each of the military commands of Shenyang, Lanzhou, Jinan and Guangzhou begins. (Xinhua Photo)
Although there is still dispute on why and how the PLA should conduct such joint training, it was essential for the troops' development to hold more exercises, said Senior Colonel Li Yadong, chief of the operations department of Jinan Military Command.
The joint training also simulated a maritime crisis in which PLA naval troops enrolled 38 local military reserves to complement their divers' unit and radar operators.
"Those efforts concentrated on regional conflicts and overseas deployment the PLA may possibly encounter in the future," Gong said. "That accords with the exercise's code name, to stride."
The professor was surprised PLA headquarters announced "Stride-2009" three months before its commencement and revealed details.
Previously, PLA headquarters usually released short reports at the conclusion of annual tactical exercises and would seldom unveil maneuvers to outside media even though they were just drill exercises.
The increased information provided about the exercise by the headquarters and moves to greater transparency, such as a media tour to a military base ahead of the anniversary of the PLA's founding, are viewed by Gong as showing the army's mounting confidence based on its increasing capability.
"The PLA is showing more and more what it is and what it does to the outside world. This is understandable as a reflection by the military of the Communist Party doctrine to increase the country's openness," he said.
Gong said that people would witness more PLA activities than they usually did. Previously these had been regarded as taboo because of concerns over leaks of military secrets.
"The exercise itself has nothing to hide," he said. "The stronger military power is, the less it wants to conceal." Source: Xinhua