PLA develops as a defensive force

08:10, September 30, 2009      

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Compared with human history, 60 years is a short span.

But over the last 60 years since the founding of the People's Republic of China, the Chinese people have witnessed earth-shaking changes on their land. The country has ascended to the status of the world's third largest economy from an impoverished, semi-colonial and semi-feudal society before 1949 and is expected to soon become the second largest economy. During this period, it has also rid itself of the derogative title of "Sick Man of East Asia", and has been successfully ranked as a world athletics power.

There are good reasons for the Chinese to feel proud of the countless miraculous accomplishments of their motherland in so a short period and look forward to bigger achievements in the future. The military parade, to be held on Oct 1 along Chang'an Avenue that runs north of Tian'anmen Square to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the birth of New China, is expected to greatly boost the people's will to make larger strides in the development of their country.

Since New China was founded in 1949, a total of 13 military parades have been held in Beijing on National Day. Due to display of a variety of military equipment and participation of more specialized branches of the People's Liberation Army (PLA), this year's parade will be more magnificent and attract more attention from the outside world than in the past. The military pageant will comprise 56 units of marching soldiers, rolling equipment and air formation, showing not only first class conventional weapons, but also deterrent strategic ones.

Undoubtedly, the showcase of China's latest military development on the eventful day will add to the people's self-esteem and their pride in the progress the country has made in its national defense construction. The PLA's ability to safeguard national security and world peace will be a big boost to their confidence.

Despite the glittering military accomplishments, China has taken an uneven road in defense construction during the past six decades.

It is known that a country's surrounding security environment is a determinant on what kinds of security strategy it will adopt. It will directly decide the direction of the country's defense building and military development. Between 1949 and the mid-1970s, China was confronted with a very harsh national security condition. That forced the country to put the focus of all of its work at that time on how to fend off a possible large-scale military invasion by adversaries. Under the domination of the country's guideline of "preparing for an immediate, large-scale and nuclear war", China had to use the lion's share of its limited economic and social resources to beef up its weak national defense and troops development. As a result of such an exhaustive military policy, the country's input into its much-needed economic construction was not enough, thus negatively affecting the coordinated development of its overall national security and its economic revival. The military posture also contributed to the country's failure to provide a solid technological and financial foundation for its military modernization drive.

Since its adoption of reform and opening-up policy, China's guidelines on its defense and military development has undergone a radical change - from the past preparation for a military struggle to focusing on economic construction. The country's military development was thus contextualized in terms of how to serve its overall economic and social development. China's infusion of finance into the military has since then been kept at a relatively low level. Also, many of the country's military airports and ports have been transformed for civilian use to support economic development. At the same time, the country's military guideline underwent a fundamental shift from preparing for an emergency war to pursuing modernization as its long-term goal during the peaceful period.

With the acute realization that a war is impossible in the foreseeable period, China has taken full advantage of the peaceful environment and pushed forward with its military modernization drive and the self-defense capability.

After confirming its military policy that the country should be capable of winning local wars in conditions of informationalization, China's national defense and military development has taken a big stride toward mechanization and informationalization.

China's peaceful development is now at a new starting point and the PLA is shouldering a glorious and sacred historical mission of safeguarding peace and security for the country's long-vowed resurrection. To maintain national security and world peace, China must improve its defense and combat capabilities, especially for dealing with multiple and complicated threats.

According to China's defense and military development timetable, it should lay a solid foundation for its military development by 2010 and basically realize mechanization by 2020 and then make substantial headway toward informationalization. And, by the middle of this century, it will basically have a modernized defense and military.

In persisting with the strategy of a "rich nation and strong military", China will forever adhere to a military strategy of active defense and promise to strike others only after being struck. All of its military development and activities are to create a favorable security environment and defuse crises before they escalate into a conflict and war. As the world's largest developing country with lengthy land and sea border with other countries, China should have a deterrent military force. The country has also made crystal clear that it would unswervingly adhere to the policy that it will not be the first to use nuclear weapons and will always stick to a self-defensive nuclear strategy and not join the nuclear race.

Dominated by such a self-defensive strategy, the build-up of China's military will surely contribute to, but not to threaten, regional peace and security and that of the world as a whole.

The author is a rear admiral with the Institute of Strategic Studies of the National Defense University.

Source:China Daily

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