Western myth to play up China's military threat

13:34, June 13, 2011      

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A deadly killer jet that can take on the most advanced miliary fighters of the world's sole superpower. A behemoth "ship" under construction that will project the military power of the "Middle Kingdom" further off its coast. An army of cyber hackers ready to do all the havoc on the Internet.

These days, news stories by some Western media about China's military strength tend to play up its increasing size and menacing potential. Some Western observers have tried to hint to readers that something "big and evil" is fast evolving in China.

It turns out that the killer jet is just a stealth fighter yet to complete its test flight. By comparison, the US military has put their own stealth fighters, the F22s, into active service for many years.

The behemoth "ship" is an aircraft carrier under construction, but it hardly makes a splash because not only traditional military powers like the United States and Russia have aircraft carriers, but even lesser powers, such as Thailand and Argentina, have their own carriers as well.

As for cyber hackers, they could be a bunch of web-savvy young people anxious to show off their skills, who have nothing to do with the Chinese military.

Myths about China's military like this are not hard to find in the West and elsewhere. It underlines the fact that some countries are growing increasingly uneasy about China's military capabilities as the country, supported by a booming economy, has loomed larger and larger on the world stage.

To get a true overall picture of China's military, one needs to take a close look at real strategy and capabilities of the People's Liberation Army (PLA). Any attempt to mystify its real strength and intention can get one nowhere.

Chinese political and military leaders have availed themselves every opportunity to reiterate to outsiders China's unswerving commitment to "peaceful development." They do it so often that their remarks fall flat on some foreign ears, but the key message they try to get across has remained the same: China doesn't want war; China needs peace.

With more than 1.3 billion people to feed and tough internal challenges like the widening income gaps and great strains on energy and environment by rapid economic growth, China has little choice but to make the most of a largely peaceful environment and seek business opportunities rather than make enemies with other countries.

For example, according to one estimate, China has to create some 20 million jobs a year in the next 20 years to keep tens of millions of migrant workers and college graduates employed. That is roughly one-third of Britain's overall population.

Chinese Defense Minister Liang Guanglie has recently said that the key to judging whether a country is a threat to world peace does not lie in the strength of its economy or military, but indeed the practical domestic and foreign policy it pursues.

Late last year, after a crucial meeting of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, Dai Bingguo, Chinese state councilor in charge of foreign policy, has expounded on several occasions China's strategy of peaceful development.

In a long and detailed article under the title of Commitment to Peaceful Development, Dai said China believes win-win cooperation with other countries, instead of expansionism or hegemony, serves its national interests better.

In his words, China's commitment to peaceful development "will not change in 100 or 1,000 years."

Despite all the hype about China's military strength, China's defense spending, in proportion to its gross domestic product (GDP), has remained fairly low, compared to the world's major developed countries.

China's military spending is some $80 billion in 2010, roughly 1.4 percent of its GDP, while that of the major countries is around 3 percent to 4 percent, the Chinese government figures show.

Many Western observers assume a much higher spending for China's military than official figures indicate, and some put the figure as much as some $150 billion. However, even that wild guess pales when compared with the staggering US figure of $729 billion.

In terms of real capabilities, China's military is still regional in nature rather than global.

In contrast with the United States, the world's uncontested sole military superpower, China lags far behind when it comes to global reach of military forces and the ability for their rapid deployment around the world.

PLA Chief of the General Staff Chen Bingde, in a recent US tour, said China's military strength is 20 years behind the United States.

For China, widespread myth about its military power underscores a need to communicate more often and more effectively with other countries on the issue. The increasingly frequent overseas tours of its top military officials probably herald China's greater efforts for that end.

Source: Xinhua
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