Opinion / Op-Ed Contributors

Navy sailing with the times

By Zhang Junshe (China Daily) Updated: 2014-04-21 10:56

Wednesday marks the 65th anniversary for the founding of the People’s Liberation Army Navy of China. Over those years, the Chinese navy has grown from almost nothing into a formidable force with both comprehensive defense capabilities and strategic deterrence potential.

In recent years, the Chinese navy has concentrated on modernizing its equipment and raising its general technology standard to deal with complex traditional and non-traditional security challenges. Currently China’s latest generation of destroyers is comparable with Japan’s Akizuki class of missile destroyers, while its type 054 frigate is comparable to the France’s La Fayette class of frigate, indeed it even has advantages in its stealth and air-defense capabilities. At the same time, China has also trained its sailors to be able to master them.

The Chinese navy has also strengthened the construction of supply platforms and introduced a series of huge hospital ships as well as ambulance lighters and helicopters. In September 2012, China’s first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, entered service, which was of great significance for navy and country. The Chinese navy also improved its ability to implement non-military missions such as escort duties and humanitarian search and rescue operations. Since Dec 26, 2008, Chinese naval vessels have been escorting Chinese ships in the Gulf of Aden, and assistance has also been offered to foreign ships when needed. They have also delivered humanitarian aid for the UN World Food Programme. China has sent 17 fleets and protected more tan 5,000 ships in all.

In November 2013, Peace Ark hospital ship went to help the Philippines after parts of the country had been devasted by typhoon Haiyan. The hospital ship had just returned from its “Harmonious Mission 2013”, during which it visited and provided medical services for eight Asian countries and also saved some fishing ships that were in danger off the Xisha Islands. But despite being in need of rest the the crew sailed to the Philippines to provide what aid they could.

Most recently, the Chinese navy has been a key member of the international operations in search of the missing Malaysia Airlines plane. It was also in consideration of the 239 passengers and crew on board, which included 154 Chinese nationals, that the Chinese navy decided to cancel its fleet review ceremony, which was to part of the anniversary celebrations.

However, this move, which is in accordance with international custom, has aroused a great deal of unwarranted speculation, with some Western media and experts suggesting that China canceled the ceremony because the United States would not attend as Japan wasn’t invited.

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