Mil­i­tary mod­ern­iza­tion aimed at pro­mot­ing peace

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - VIEWS -

China’s de­fense bud­get has in­creased in line with its rapid eco­nomic devel­op­ment. In ac­cor­dance with that trend, China’s de­fense bud­get this year has ex­ceeded 1 tril­lion yuan ($151 bil­lion) for the first time, but for­eign me­dia out­lets are us­ing it as an ex­cuse to once again hype up the “China threat” the­ory, claim­ing its in­creas­ing de­fense spend­ing is aimed at chal­lenge the ex­ist­ing world or­der and ex­pand­ing its power.

Are th­ese me­dia claims true? Let us an­a­lyze the Peo­ple’s Lib­er­a­tion Army’s con­tri­bu­tion to hu­man­i­tar­ian re­lief work, peace­keep­ing mis­sions and in­ter­na­tional ef­forts to thwart piracy be­fore draw­ing a con­clu­sion.

Af­ter the end of the Cold War, the pos­si­bil­ity of a de­struc­tive war be­tween great pow­ers has de­clined sig­nif­i­cantly, but dis­putes among coun­tries, do­mes­tic ten­sions, ter­ror­ist at­tacks and ma­jor nat­u­ral dis­as­ters have be­come more fre­quent. Among other things, th­ese de­vel­op­ments have forced mil­lions of peo­ple to flee their homes and seek asy­lum in other coun­tries, lead­ing to a hu­man­i­tar­ian cri­sis.

To deal with such crises, the United Na­tions Gen­eral Assem­bly es­tab­lished the Emer­gency Re­lief Co­or­di­na­tor in De­cem­ber 1991. The then UN sec­re­tary-gen­eral set up the De­part­ment of Hu­man­i­tar­ian Af­fairs, which over­sees the co­or­di­na­tion of hu­man­i­tar­ian re­sponse, pol­icy devel­op­ment and hu­man­i­tar­ian ad­vo­cacy. Ac­cord­ingly, the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment and mil­i­tary de­part­ments es­tab­lished a mech­a­nism called “pro­vid­ing hu­man­i­tar­ian aid of emer­gency re­lief sup­plies for dis­as­ter vic­tims world­wide”.

Be­gin­ning with the as­sis­tance to Afghanistan in 2002, Chi­nese troops have per­formed dozens of in­ter­na­tional hu­man­i­tar­ian tasks world­wide, of­fer­ing re­lief sup­plies worth more than $100 mil­lion in the form of tents, medicines, foods and med­i­cal equip­ment to those coun­tries hit by dis­as­ters. And in 2009, the China In­ter­na­tional Search and Res­cue team be­came the 12th qual­i­fied corps in the world, and the sec­ond in Asia, to un­der­take in­ter­na­tional heavy res­cue oper­a­tions (a spe­cial type of fire­fight­ing and pro­vid­ing emer­gency med­i­cal ser­vices).

The PLA has taken part in many dan­ger­ous and ar­du­ous hu­man­i­tar­ian and re­lief mis­sions. Af­ter the out­break of the Ebola virus epi­demic in West Africa, mainly in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, in 2014, China sent a res­cue team care­fully cho­sen from the 302 PLA Hos­pi­tal even as other coun­tries kept evac­u­at­ing their cit­i­zens from the af­fected ar­eas. The med­i­cal aid the PLA pro­vided for the peo­ple in those coun­tries helped curb the spread of the Ebola virus.

As dis­putes among less-de­vel­oped coun­tries have risen in re­cent years, the UN has taken up peace­keep­ing mis­sions in or­der to defuse re­gional ten­sions and al­le­vi­ate the im­pact of eth­nic, sec­tar­ian and civil wars. And China’s con­tri­bu­tion to the UN’s ef­forts has been con­sid­er­able. Since join­ing the UN Spe­cial Com­mit­tee on Peace­keep­ing Oper­a­tions in 1988, China sent mil­i­tary ob­servers to the UN Truce Su­per­vi­sion Or­ga­ni­za­tion in 1990 and for­mally built a peace­keep­ing force to carry out the UN’s tasks in Cam­bo­dia in 1992.

China has been mak­ing in­creas­ing con­tri­bu­tions to UN peace­keep­ing mis­sions to pro­mote world peace and se­cu­rity. First, China has made huge con­tri­bu­tions to UN mis­sions in terms of man­power, ma­te­ri­als and fi­nan­cial re­sources. Last year, it contributed $844 mil­lion to UN peace­keep­ing oper­a­tions, which ac­counted for 10.2 per­cent of the to­tal ex­pen­di­ture — the sec­ond-high­est con­tri­bu­tion among all coun­tries.

Sec­ond, the PLA’s peace­keep­ing ca­pa­bil­ity has im­proved over the years. At present, 2,409 Chi­nese peace­keep­ers are en­gaged in peace­keep­ing mis­sions abroad.

Ad­dress­ing the Peace­keep­ing Sum­mit at the UN Head­quar­ters in New York in Septem­ber 2015, Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping pledged that China would build a standby peace­keep­ing force of 8,000 troops to help strengthen UN peace­keep­ing oper­a­tions. Chi­nese troops are tak­ing part in more and more di­ver­si­fied peace- keep­ing mis­sions; in fact, they are now en­gaged in nine dif­fer­ent ar­eas, in­clud­ing engi­neer­ing, trans­porta­tion and med­i­cal treat­ment.

Third, China’s peace­keep­ing oper­a­tions have helped sta­bi­lize se­cu­rity in many re­gions. So far, Chi­nese peace­keep­ing troops have re­moved more than 9,000 land mines and other ex­plo­sives, built or re­paired 10,000 kilo­me­ters of roads and 300 bridges, trans­ported over 1 mil­lion met­ric tons of ma­te­ri­als and treated about 130,000 pa­tients.

Un­til 2008, piracy was ram­pant in the Gulf of Aden and the wa­ters off So­ma­lia. Af­ter the UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil al­lowed coun­tries with com­mer­cial in­ter­ests in the re­gion to send their naval ves­sels to es­cort ships in the Gulf of Aden on get­ting clear­ance from So­mali au­thor­i­ties, China dis­patched the first batch of the PLA Navy’s ships to those wa­ters to pro­tect com­mer­cial ves­sels from pi­rates.

The PLA Navy has suc­cess­fully per­formed its es­cort du­ties for nine years. The ex­pand­ing scale of the PLA Navy’s con­voy fleets shows it is com­mit­ted to ful­fill­ing its in­ter­na­tional re­spon­si­bil­i­ties as a ris­ing power. By April 9 this year, the Chi­nese navy had sent 25 fleets and ac­com­plished 1,029 es­cort mis­sions in­volv­ing 6,337 ships. In ac­tural terms, the Chi­nese fleets have thwarted pi­rate at­tacks on 43 ships.

Be­sides, the Chi­nese navy’s abil­ity to safe­guard in­ter­na­tional mar­itime se­cu­rity has greatly in­creased, and it is more ca­pa­ble of ex­e­cut­ing long-term, long-dis­tance and chal­leng­ing tasks. For in­stance, the 25th fleet had suc­cess­fully es­corted ships for 119,768 nau­ti­cal miles till July this year.

The Chi­nese mil­i­tary’s com­mit­ment to hu­man­i­tar­ian re­lief work, peace­keep­ing and fight­ing piracy is not only aimed at safe­guard­ing China’s na­tional se­cu­rity but also to pro­vide pub­lic goods for global se­cu­rity. Per­haps a Chi­nese say­ing — mea­sure the stature of great men by the yard­stick of small men — can help ex­plain why some for­eign me­dia out­lets hype up the “China threat” the­ory. Facts show that China’s in­creas­ing de­fense bud­get will never pose a threat to world peace. On the con­trary, China is com­mit­ted to con­tribut­ing more to en­sure global se­cu­rity and sta­bil­ity.

China is com­mit­ted to con­tribut­ing more to en­sure global se­cu­rity and sta­bil­ity.

The au­thor is a pro­fes­sor of in­ter­na­tional stud­ies at PLA Univer­sity of In­ter­na­tional Re­la­tions.


Cui Jian­shu

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