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China's military 'opening up'


China's military 'opening up'


China’s military has historically been very secretive and cautious in relations with the outside world, particularly the West. But in recent years there have been signs of a greater willingness to interact with the international community, though China remains wary of an increased US and European presence in what it regards as its sphere of influence. In a rare interview with a senior Chinese military figure Colonel Geng Yangsheng gave euronews an insight into how and why things are changing. He talked to China expert Dr Robert Lawrence Kuhn firstly about his country’s growing role in international peacekeeping.

Geng: “The Chinese military has been actively involved in United Nations Peacekeeping Forces since 1990s. So far the Chinese military has taken part in more than 20 United Nations Peacekeeping Forces operations. Currently we have more than 2,000 Chinese military officers working in nine United Nations Peacekeeping Forces operations. Nine Chinese military officers were killed in United Nations Peacekeeping Forces missions. In December 2008, the Chinese military was asked to join the United Nations Peacekeeping Forces operations in the waters off Somalia. The Chinese military has been contributing greatly to the peace keeping mission in the region. The Chinese military has helped greatly in providing the security to Chinese and international fleets and ships travelling in the region. In addition, Chinese military has been involved in many humanitarian aid missions. The Chinese military has successfully took part in ten humanitarian aid operations so far.”

Kuhn: “The PLA (People’s Liberation Army) puts great emphasis on military exchanges between China and other countries. Why is this the case? And in particular talk about the relationships between the Chinese military and the militaries of European countries.”

Geng: “I am very happy to introduce China’s military exchanges to you. Military diplomacy is part of our country’s general diplomacy. We operate under the ‘grant diplomatic strategy’. In recent years, China’s military has been opening up more and more. Our military departments have carried out exchanges and cooperation with their counterparts in different areas. Such exchange and communication can boost the cooperation and friendship between China and other countries’ militaries. It also makes a contribution to the development of relations between our nations and others.”

Kuhn: “Colonel Geng, the press conference on China’s national defence in 2010 is attracting the world’s media, (they are) coming here to hear you, to understand about the Chinese military. How does that make you feel?”

Geng: “It is within our expectation to see lots of journalists coming to us. We know that China’s national defence is always a media focus. This is because China’s military is on its way to modernisation. While keeping its tradition of national defence, it is playing bigger roles in international affairs and practices its obligation as a big country.”

Kuhn: “China’s national defence in 2010 is the 7th White Paper produced by the PLA since 1998. How do you see the trends during this time?”

“Starting from 1998, we have published 7 white papers on national defence. Every white paper has its own new features. I have introduced them in the press conference. The main purpose is to show to the world that China’s military is becoming more open. China’s military has had a rapid development in recent years. There is criticism over some weapons development. Some people said China’s military lacks transparency. I have to emphasize that China has kept increasing the transparency of its military. For instance, we have invited many foreign officers to watch our big military exercises. We also set up the press office of the ministry of defence, and we have been publishing the white paper on our military for seven consecutive years.”

Kuhn: “This White Paper, entitled ‘China’s National Defence 2010’, is an attempt to build transparency into the PLA’s communications. Included are the revolution in military affairs and military operations other than war, such as peacekeeping and disaster relief.  But does this White Paper and the press conference achieve transparency? It’s a small step on a long journey.”

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