Mon, Nov 06, 2017 - Page 8 News List

Tense future

As China aims for a ‘world-class army’, Asia is starting to worry

By Ludovic Ehret  /  AFP, BEIJING

This year, Beijing opened its first foreign military base, in Djibouti. Since 2008, its navy has participated in anti-piracy operations off the coast of Somalia and in the Gulf of Aden.

The country is the largest contributor to UN peacekeeping operations among the permanent members of the security council, with some 2,500 soldiers and military experts deployed.

The moves are all part of a larger, decades-long effort to modernize the country’s military, which had become riddled with corruption, incompetence and waste.

‘ABSOLUTE CONTROL’

But while Xi flexed his muscles at the head of China’s central military commission during his first term, he is likely to observe more caution in future, having consolidated his power base by bringing down two of the country’s highest-ranking army officers for corruption, said James Char.

He also reaffirmed the party’s “absolute control” over the army during the recently concluded congress.

“Now that it’s done, he does not need to risk an external crisis any more. Therefore, we can reasonably expect Beijing will conduct less coercive diplomacy in the near to medium-term,” Char said.

“The Chinese military will continue to operate further and further away from China’s shores, and probably also establish more overseas bases,” he added.

But, while it will continue to aggressively defend its own territorial claims, “it will likely act cautiously abroad and will not engage in overseas constabulary missions such as those carried out by the US military in Iraq or Afghanistan for example.”

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