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A Force for Peace
Chinese military contributes its fair share to a better world
By Bing Cheng | NO. 32 AUGUST 10, 2017

Chinese and U.S. warships take part in a joint military maneuver in the Western Pacific on June 20, 2016 (XINHUA)

This year, the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) has turned 90. Since its founding, the PLA has made great achievements for national independence, the liberation of the people and China's modernization drive and become an important force in safeguarding national security and world peace.

As China develops, the PLA has also been growing.

In terms of weaponry and equipment, China's second aircraft carrier has been launched and is undergoing equipment debugging, outfitting and comprehensive mooring trials.

The home-grown 200-ton multipurpose jumbo air freighter Y-20 has officially entered military service, marking major progress in the strategic delivery capability of the PLA Air Force.

The J-20, a fourth-generation medium and long-range fighter jet independently developed by China, will enhance the PLA's comprehensive combat capability so as to better safeguard national sovereignty, security and territorial integrity.

In addition, research is on to develop strategic weapons and China's air defense and anti-missile capabilities have improved significantly.

Although China's military strength has increased to a certain extent, yet it has always tried to control the scale of defense spending. Currently, the per-capita average military

spending of the PLA is only a little more than $60,000, far below the $200,000-300,000 per-capita average in countries such as the United States, Britain, France and Japan.

Moreover, from 2011 to 2017, the growth of China's defense expenditure gradually declined, and is 7 percent this year. A significant share of the expenditure has been used to replace outdated equipment, improve the living, training and working conditions of service personnel at primary levels, and promote

military-civilian integration.

Moreover, the PLA is carrying out its 11th downsizing to reduce troops by 300,000 as part of its efforts to build a more elite and efficient army.

Peacekeeping role

China pursues a defense policy which is defensive in nature. It doesn't seek hegemony but to promote regional and world peace.

China has contributed more peacekeepers than any other permanent member of the UN Security Council and is one of the largest financial contributors to UN peacekeeping missions.

Over the past 10 years, the PLA participated in 27 international humanitarian emergency rescue operations and delivered emergency assistance worth about 1.23 billion yuan ($182.8 million) to 24 countries. Currently, it is building an 8,000-strong standby peacekeeping force.

In accordance with UN Security Council resolutions, China has sent escort naval vessels to the Gulf of Aden and Somali waters. Since December 2008, China's naval escort operations have provided protection for more than 6,000 ships passing the coast of Somalia, half of which were foreign vessels.

China attaches importance to and participates in international arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation efforts. It holds that the UN and other relevant international organizations and multilateral mechanisms should play an important role in strengthening existing multilateral arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation systems, respect and take into consideration all legitimate security concerns, and maintain global strategic balance and stability.

China opposes nuclear terrorism, and has taken measures to maintain a good nuclear safety record. It has meticulously fulfilled its obligation under the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on Their Destruction, and set up organizations at various levels to implement the convention.

It has always advocated the peaceful use of outer space, opposed the weaponization and arms race there, and advocated that the international community negotiate a legal instrument as the best way to prevent such occurrences.

Chinese troops arrive in Balykchy City, Kyrgyzstan, on September 14, 2016, before they participated in Peace Mission 2016 joint counter-terrorism exercise under the framework of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (XINHUA)

Exchanges and cooperation

Building military mutual trust is an effective way to safeguard national security and regional peace and stability. China aims to enhance political mutual trust and promote common security, following the principle of equal consultation, respecting each other's core interests and major security concerns, not targeting a third country, and not threatening or undermining other countries' security and stability. It has been enriching the content and form of all-round military exchanges and mutually beneficial cooperation and promoting the establishment of an equal, mutually beneficial and effective military mutual trust mechanism.

First, China is committed to maintaining stable military relations with major countries in the world. With the United States it has carried out consultations on non-proliferation, counter-terrorism and bilateral military and security cooperation. They are working to build a new type of army-to-army relations featuring "mutual trust and cooperation, non-conflict and sustainability" through expanding joint efforts in disaster relief and mitigation, peacekeeping, anti-piracy and other areas.

Chinese and U.S. armed forces have signed a code of safe conduct on naval and air force encounters, and expanded the mutual notification mechanism of major military activities.

Exchanges between frontline commanders and pilots of the navies and the air forces of the two countries have been enhanced.

The strategic partnership between China and Russia has developed comprehensively, and both countries have maintained a high level of defense exchanges. In May 2016, they held the first joint computer-simulated anti-missile drill. Their pragmatic cooperation continues to deepen, and the two sides have reached consensus on the global strategic situation and many other issues.

Defense exchanges between China and Japan are gradually resuming, and the defense departments of the two sides are jointly promoting the establishment of an air and maritime contact mechanism.

Second, China is active in regional multilateral security dialogues and cooperation. It attaches importance to defense and security consultations with neighboring countries such as Mongolia, Japan, Viet Nam, the Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand, Singapore, India and Pakistan.

China has worked with member states of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), which groups China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, India and Pakistan, to deepen defense collaboration and deter the "three evil forces" of terrorism, separatism and extremism.

In accordance with their important consensus on building a "community of shared destiny," China and Pakistan continue to deepen and expand anti-terrorism cooperation. The PLA, together with the militaries of Pakistan, Afghanistan and Tajikistan, is also establishing a coordination mechanism in fighting terrorism.

China supports the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in playing a leading role in integrated development in East Asia. In addition to the launch of the mechanism of China-ASEAN defense ministers' informal meeting, China has participated in pragmatic cooperation in various fields under the framework of ASEAN Defense Ministers' Meeting-Plus, promoted joint counter-terrorism efforts and contributed to related joint exercises.

Lastly, China plays a significant part in disaster relief cooperation. In recent years, the PLA has assisted in providing relief materials to disaster-stricken countries, and sent professionals to participate in international disaster relief operations.

They have closely communicated and coordinated with relevant countries and international organizations, and promoted the formulation of regional disaster relief mechanisms and personnel training.

In 2009, for the first time, a PLA medical unit was sent to Gabon to deliver medical services and train local doctors. It also conducted a rescue exercise in the African country.

In 2010, a PLA medical team went to Peru to provide humanitarian medical aid and carry out joint emergency rescue drills with local medical workers.

Joint training

The PLA adheres to the principles of being non-aligned, non-confrontational, and not directed against any third party, as well as the guidelines of mutual benefit, equality and reciprocity in conducting exercises and training together with armed forces of other countries. They have promoted mutual trust and cooperation as well as sharing useful experience, and boosted China's military modernization.

Joint counter-terrorism exercises have been institutionalized under the framework of the SCO. In 2002, China for the first time took part in a joint counter-terrorism military exercise with Kyrgyzstan. In 2003, SCO member states held their first multilateral joint anti-terrorism drill. In the past 10 years, China and other SCO members have held more than 10 joint anti-terrorism military maneuvers under the codename "Peace Mission."

In 2003, China and Pakistan held a maritime search and rescue drill, the first for China. The PLA Navy has since held bilateral or multilateral exercises on maritime search and rescue, communication, formation movement, diving, joint escort and other subjects with its counterparts in India, France, the UK, Australia, Thailand, the U.S., Russia, Japan, New Zealand and Viet Nam.

Joint training has also been held widely on land. In 2007, the PLA held a joint training with Thailand, the first ever with a foreign country. Since then, it has held joint training on anti-terrorism, security, peacekeeping, mountain warfare and amphibious warfare with Pakistan, India, Singapore and Mongolia and explored new training models.

The author is a guest commentator for China Today magazine

Copyedited by Sudeshna Sarkar

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