Mon, Mar 25, 2002 - Page 8 News List

China's military not fit to be feared

By Paul Lin 林保華

Cross-strait relations were not a focal point of the meetings of the National People's Congress (NPC) or the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference. During a speech given on March 12, however, Chinese President Jiang Zemin (江澤民), in his capacity as chairman of the Central Military Commission, boasted to a group of representatives from the People's Liberation Army that all troops must be prepared to resolve the Taiwan question through military means. Jiang said the army should be able to instantly respond to one order and emerge victorious.

On March 15, in a press conference following the NPC's closing ceremony, Premier Zhu Rongji (朱鎔基) stated that the Chinese Communist Party's Taiwan policy had not changed and that Beijing had not abandoned the use of military might as a means to resolve the Taiwan question. However, Zhu also said that it was not necessary to repeat this policy statement day after day, month after month.

From this perspective, the Chinese Communist Party has not changed its autocratic, hegemonist nature and militaristic style, even though it has affected a smile for Taiwan recently. The military budget announced at the NPC meeting constituted a 17.6 percent increase over last year. This is the 13th year the military budget has grown by more than 10 percent. Still, experts estimate the actual increase is as much as three to five times the figure announced at the congress.

In 2000, China was the world's largest importer of arms. Over the past few years, Beijing has bought large quantities of advanced weaponry from Russia, such as Sukhoi fighter jets, Sovremenny-class destroyers and Kilo-class submarines, and has engaged in the research and development of 093-class nuclear-powered attack submarines. There have been rumors recently that China has obtained 40 advanced Shkval (Squall) torpedoes from Russia. These are the "capital" Beijing will use to threaten Taiwan with.

With China's military expansion, one also sees the threat posed by China to Taiwan's security. But Taiwan should not panic in the face of this threat. The books that appeared a few years ago exagerrated China's military strength. Certain politicians with ulterior motives have also exagerrated China's military might in order to scare the people of Taiwan into accepting Beijing's conditions for unification.

A recent article in the Washington Post, however, which points out a crisis of confidence -- as well as other more substantive crises within China's military -- can help us to keep our cool and more objectively face China's military threat.

Similar reports have previously appeared on China's domestic Web sites, pointing out the military's "top 10 secret worries." Concerns related to a confidence crisis were corruption, bureaucratic behavior, lax discipline and low morale. More tangible concerns included the fact that newly purchased weapons lacked proper maintenance by trained personnel and are thus unlikely to be very useful. For example, about 60 percent of the Sukhoi 27 fighters purchased from Russia were unable to even take off. Incomplete equipment may render some of the new hardware incapable of being more than military targets. Sovremenny-class destroyers without early warning planes are a case in point.

During a modernization drive more than 100 years ago, Ching dynasty government officials studied the enemy's tactics in order to vanquish the foreigners. Hoping to build a strong navy with awesome firepower, the government purchased foreign ships and canons and established its own Northern Navy. Because of corruption, however, China's miltiary was defeated by the Japanese in 1894.

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