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White paper clears illusions

By Liu Qiang | China Daily | Updated: 2013-04-23 08:12

The white paper on national defense, "Diversified Employment of China's Armed Forces", which Beijing issued on April 16, is different from the previous seven ones because it covers every related subject. The white paper is informative and succinct, and offers compelling answers to questions on why China should develop its armed forces, and what it is composed of and committed to. These changes manifest China's higher level of transparency and growing confidence in matters of national defense.

A highlight of the latest defense white paper is its modified structure. Its main body of five chapters has been distilled from 10 of the earlier white papers. It starts with a layout of the security landscape China faces at home and beyond, the emerging security challenges and the defense policies and principles its armed forces adhere to. This is followed by a detailed account of the structure of the armed forces, and an elaboration of the three major tasks undertaken by them in three chapters.

The white paper for the first time illustrates the structure of the armed forces by revealing the actual number of army, navy and air force personnel, and the designations of the combined army corps under the seven military area commands as well as the main missile lineup.

Although this, to a great extent, refutes some countries' accusation that China lacks transparency when it comes to its military, "China threat" theorists still say the white paper does not disclose the exact number of personnel that make up the secondary artillery force, the arm of the People's Liberation Army in charge of nuclear and conventional missiles.

There is no uniform standard for military transparency. And the delicate nature of military information means that there will not be full disclosure, which applies to all countries. Every country has its special law and regulation on military secrets. So accusing China of not giving full information on its missile force is not only unfair, but also a blatant disregard of its efforts to improve military transparency.

The latest white paper excels the previous ones in its account of the diversified employment of the armed forces. It says the armed forces are employed to fulfill three major goals: defend national sovereignty, security and territorial integrity; support national economic and social development; and safeguard national maritime rights and interests as well as world peace and regional stability.

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