Swiss Colonel Christof Gertsch still remembers the first officer from the Chinese People's Liberation Army he met in Lebanon, where they both served as United Nations' military observers more than 10 years ago.
"He was a very nice guy," says Gertsch, Switzerland's defense attache (DA) to China since 2003. "It is good for PLA to engage in peacekeeping around the world."
In the past four years, Gertsch has visited many places around China, especially to observe and learn about the life and work of the PLA soldiers and officers. "They are friendly, professional and motivated," he says.
Gertsch has read many newspapers and seen television reports about the PLA engaged in flood-hit areas. "They are very brave men and do their best to help people in need," he says.
Now the chief of Defense Attache club in Beijing, the Swiss colonel organized many activities to help foster a mutual understanding between the DAs and PLA. "People with different social and cultural background sit together, exchanging ideas and making friends."
He says that they have had more time to ask questions during their visits to the PLA barracks and many other places previously off-limits to foreigners. "I have found the PLA is becoming more and more transparent. And I am personally convinced that this process will continue," he says. "But I can also understand it is a huge nation and huge task to protect the country."
During his term, China and Switzerland started military contacts and cooperation. In the past two years, Switzerland's defense minister, commander of the air force and chief of armed force all visited Beijing. "The friendship between Switzerland and China has gone very well in recent years and I believe this will keep going in the future," he says.
(China Daily 08/01/2007 page21)