China wants to build mutual trust with other countries through a variety of ways, including military exchanges, says a senior People's Liberation Army (PLA) official.
"Military exchanges with other countries have maintained an active, pragmatic and effective momentum (since early 2007)," Major General Zhang Bangdong, director of the foreign affairs office of the Ministry of National Defense, told China Daily.
One way this goal is being met is through high-level visits by senior military officials. Intensive preparation for the upcoming anti-terror drill by Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) members also plays a role. In addition, participation in the security summit, the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore in mid-June, was also important, Zhang says.
Six SCO members will stage a joint anti-terrorism military drill from August 9 to 17. The exercises, dubbed "Peace Mission 2007", will be carried out in Chelyabinsk in Russia's Ural Mountains region and in Urumqi, capital of Northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.
Around 1,600 soldiers from China's army and air force - including airborne and logistics units - will take part in the drill.
Joint military exercises serve as a window for demonstrating the image of the Chinese military as well as China's defense policy. They also serve as an important avenue in which to promote international cooperation, Zhang says.
"By actively taking part in the joint anti-terror drill, we can show the international community our efforts to fight against terrorism, separatism and extremism and promote the peace and stability in the region so as to help them build trust in China," he says.
Since 2000, China has invited foreign military observers or military attaches stationed in the country to watch military exercises conducted by the PLA on five occasions.
At the same time, the Chinese army has sent members abroad to participate in bilateral or multilateral joint drills with other countries.
Since 2001, Chinese soldiers have conducted nine joint anti-terror drills or maritime rescue and search exercises with Pakistan, India, Thailand, Britain, France, Australia and the United States.
In the first half of this year, China received senior military officials from the United States, Russia, Pakistan, India, the Republic of Korea, Indonesia, France, Germany and some African countries.
They included Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff Peter Pace and Commander-in-Chief of the US Pacific Command Admiral Timothy Keating. They told reporters during their respective China visits that China posed no threat despite its military development.
Meanwhile, some senior Chinese military officials, such as General Cao Gangchuan, vice-chairman of the Central Military Commission of the Central Committee of Communist Party of China, visited other countries including Cuba, Chile, Argentina and Greece. Cao, who is also the state councilor and defense minister, is also expected to visit Japan in September.
"The frequent military exchanges help enhance mutual understanding between China's military and others and it is also conducive to improving coordination and cooperation involving major regional and international affairs," Zhang says.
While preserving relations with other military powers, China has intensified mutually beneficial military cooperation with neighboring countries and has nurtured military ties with developing countries, Zhang says.
(China Daily 08/01/2007 page21)