Spokesmen system to boost military transparency

Updated: 2013-11-21 01:59

By Wu Jiao and Mo Jingxi (China Daily)

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China unveiled spokesmen for its seven military branches on Wednesday night in an effort to beef up the country's military transparency.

The branches are the General Political Department, the General Logistics Department, the General Armament Department, the navy, the air force, the Second Artillery Force and the Armed Police.

Other large military units will also appoint spokesmen.

Liang Yang, a 43-year-old former navy captain with experience in international exchanges, becomes the first spokesman for the Chinese navy as the country strengthens its naval build-up to safeguard maritime interests.

The other spokesmen are mainly officials in charge of information and publicity from their related branches, military sources told China Daily.

The spokesmen will release timely information about the key activities of their units, in response to related concerns from the public and the media, the sources said.

The effort is to "further introduce and explain the Chinese military's build-up and development to international society, and to respond to concerns from both home and abroad”.

Experts said the move will enhance China's military transparency and facilitate the military's exchanges with the public and foreign countries.

Li Jie, a senior expert at the Naval Military Studies Research Institute of the People's Liberation Army, said the spokesmen system is necessary.

Li also said it is a common practice for major military powers, including the United States and Russia, to appoint spokesmen for each military branch.

"The spokesmen system can improve the transparency of the Chinese military and gain more trust from the international community,” he said.

Previously, the military used to release information through spokesmen from the Foreign Affairs Office of the Ministry of National Defense.

Li Qinggong, deputy secretary-general of the China Council for National Security Policy Studies, said the spokesmen from the office now mainly come from the land forces, and might not be familiar with other fields.

The spokesmen system comes amid the latest efforts by China to boost its military transparency.

In recent years, the military has taken steps to enhance its transparency, including setting up the defense ministry's monthly press briefing system and releasing national defense white papers.

Liang Yang, the former captain of the guided missile destroyer Changzhou, sailed to the Gulf of Aden as part of China's anti-piracy mission, and rescued a Panamanian ship from pirate attack as part of an escort task force. Liang was also a UN military observer in Libya in 2004.

"Liang has a clear overall picture of the navy's conditions and is well-experienced in carrying out missions at sea. He is capable of handling various situations and can deliver orders to the military accurately”, Li Jie said.

Moreover, his experience in the escort mission to the Gulf of Aden has made him familiar with navies from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the European Union. His experience working at the UN gave him further understanding of international affairs, Li Jie said.

Along with the development of China's navy, exchanges with foreign countries have increased, underlined by practices including joint patrolling and safeguarding maritime interests, he said.

Li Qinggong said the establishment of the spokesmen system is very meaningful for the navy.

China wants to enhance its maritime strategy with a strong navy, and more navy-related issues will be reported in the future, Li Qinggong said.

"Having a spokesman for the Chinese navy also shows that the military force is willing to act more openly in a diplomatic perspective,” he said, adding that in the United States all military forces or headquarters have spokesmen to explain or respond to issues concerning the public and mass media.