Foreign and Military Affairs

PLA growth not a threat to regional peace: Liang

Updated: 2011-06-06 08:41

By Ma Liyao (China Daily)

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Development of military still lags far behind United States

SINGAPORE - China's military development is still 20 years behind the United States', and it is not a threat to regional peace, Chinese Defense Minister Liang Guanglie said on Sunday.

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Liang's comments, made at the Shangri-La Dialogue hosted by the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) in Singapore, come at a time when China's rapidly growing military is drawing more attention from the world. Addressing a question regarding to the current development of the Chinese military, Liang said that it is still at the mechanizing stage. "A large portion of our military is still motorized, and only a small part is mechanized."

"We have a generational gap with other developed militaries," he said.

"Although we have made some breakthroughs and progress in military science and technology," said Zhai Dequan, deputy secretary-general of the China Arms Control and Disarmament Association, "the overall military development level of China remains much lower compared with Western militaries".

The People's Liberation Army reiterated its goal of accomplishing mechanization and attaining major progress in informationalization by 2020, according to the 2010 Defense White Paper released in March.

Under that goal, the PLA "perseveres with mechanization as the foundation and informationalization as the driving force, making extensive use of its achievements in information technology, and stepping up the composite and integrated development of mechanization and informationalization", the paper said.

Countries capable of mechanizing troops can deploy armed forces at a relatively long distance from their borders, said Gary Li, analyst at Exclusive Analysis, a London-based specialist intelligence company.

Li said the United States is the only country in the world capable of doing that.

Li said the PLA's development at the current stage is just "filling up the gap".

"The US is developing what it already has, while China is making what it has never had. And that may be one of the reasons" China is drawing more public attention than the US whenever it tests new weapons, Li said.

Another reason, Li added, is China's sensitive strategic position. "The country has no natural allies. The complicated surrounding environment has made it difficult for China to develop its military. Almost every move will be noticed and questioned."

In his speech on the last day of the forum, Liang said China would never seek hegemony or military expansion. "This is a solemn pledge made by the Chinese government to the international community," he said.

China's military policy is defensive, and - unless its sovereignty was challenged - it would not be a threat to regional peace and security, even if its military reached a high level, due to the country's traditional philosophy, culture and geopolitical location, Zhai said.

The US' continuing military presence in the region has raised concerns about its relationship with China. Liang said both countries now share common views on bilateral ties and hope to build a mutually respectful and beneficial partnership.

Liang met with US Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg on the sidelines of the dialogue.

Liang also spoke about cyber security, saying China is under frequent attacks from various sources, which are hard to identify. He said countries should create a common regulation to guard against cyber attacks.

This year is the 10th anniversary of the Shangri-La Dialogue held by the IISS, also named the Asia Security Summit, a non-official forum to provide a platform for defense officials, experts and observers to exchange views on security issues in Asia.

Liang is the highest-ranking Chinese defense leader to attend the forum, and it's the fourth year that China has sent a senior level delegation to the meeting.

Li Lianxing contributed to this story.


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