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Military announces exercises to enhance transparency

Updated: 2013-02-28 00:36
By Zhao Shengnan ( China Daily)

For the first time, China has announced the number of military exercises it will hold this year, in order to improve transparency and highlight its determination to safeguard the country's core interests, observers said.

The People's Liberation Army will conduct around 40 military exercises in 2013 to improve its combat abilities and help soldiers fully prepare for war, according to the Military Training Department of the PLA General Staff Headquarters.

The army will put China's key security-related interests in a more prominent position and will strengthen live-ammunition and confrontation exercises, said the statement, which was released by the department on Tuesday.

The announcement came after the military released a number of reports about its activities over the past few months. The Ministry of National Defense told China Daily the disclosures were intended to enhance transparency and share military achievements with the Chinese people.

"As a responsible power, we released related information to demonstrate policies, strengthen trust and enhance transparency," the ministry's bureau for press affairs said in a written response earlier this month.

But amid China's ongoing territorial disputes with neighbors in the South and East China seas, the disclosures were alleged to be a show of muscle that raised regional tension. Criticism of the Chinese military's transparency has never stopped.

Yao Yunzhu, director of the Center on China-American Defense Relations with the Academy of Military Science, said the number of exercises is not big given the size of the Chinese military, which serves the world's largest population.

The army, in line with China's anti-waste campaign, is concentrating its limited resources on the expensive scenario-oriented exercises to protect the country's core interests, said Yao, referring to a regulation on the army's expenditure that was approved by Party chief Xi Jinping last week.

The army is also becoming increasingly transparent and confident in announcing its moves, she said.

China succeeded in conducting a land-based mid-course missile interception test and debuted it first jumbo airfreighter Yun-20, as well as launched military exercises in the East and South China seas, in January.

The exercises this year, with greater difficulty and training intensity, will cover joint air-land combat, live-ammunition confrontations on the open sea and coordinated aerial defense, the statement said.

It is a common practice in the international community to greatly improve combat abilities through live-ammunition exercises, said Pan Zheng, a military scholar with the National Defense University of the PLA, citing a number of joint live-ammunition drills the United States has launched with its Asian allies Japan and South Korea last year.

The disclosures by the Chinese military are not a big deal, as every army in the world has the innate responsibility of preparing for war with adequate combat capacities, and the country has also frequently invited foreign military attaches to witness its exercises, said Pan.

The Chinese military has made many endeavors to improve its transparency, and its strategic purpose is always clear: adhering to a peaceful development path and defensive national defense policies, the defense ministry said.

Growing openness is an inevitable trend for the Chinese military as the country is narrowing the gap with major global military powers over technologies and does not need to deal with opponents with "mystery" anymore, military commentator Wu Jian said.