China called its growing military strength a force for peace and Communist Party rule on the 80th anniversary of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) yesterday as a senior commander warned Taiwan against risking war.
President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤), addressing hundreds of soldiers, sailors and airmen at the Great Hall of the People, promised more money for military modernization and to include greater use of technology and professional troops.
The anniversary has brought a crescendo of propaganda seeking to advertise China's growing military confidence but also to counter Western claims that the PLA threatens regional stability.
"The PLA is internationally renowned as a powerful, disciplined army and has won the deep trust and high regard of the party and people," said Hu, who is also chairman of the powerful Central Military Commission.
"We will gradually increase spending on national defense as the economy grows and continue to modernize national defense and the armed forces," he added, as a plethora of former leaders looked on, including his predecessor, Jiang Zemin (
Hu mentioned Jiang several times and praised his "thinking on enhancing defense and military capabilities" as one of the PLA's guiding principles.
Jiang, who turns 81 this month, shuffled on and off the stage, repeatedly looked at his watch and at times appeared to doze off. Jiang shook hands with Hu after his speech but made no public comments.
The appearance of Jiang and former premiers Zhu Rongji (
"We will ... ensure that our armed forces are capable of winning a war in the information age," Hu said, in a speech punctuated by thunderous rounds of applause. "Modernization of weapons and equipment should be accelerated and personnel training enhanced."
The People's Daily said in an editorial that the PLA was a force for peace: "It provides a staunch security protection for our country's development in an important strategic period ... and plays a major role in protecting world peace."
The editorial also said the military was an "important force" to ensure the party's grip on power.
"In the face of profound changes and daunting tasks, political work can only be strengthened and not weakened," Hu said. "The PLA is forever at the Chinese Communist Party's command."
This was one of no less than 15 instances of Hu referring to the party's total command over the 2.3 million-strong military -- a repudiation of what officials have called hostile calls for the army to shift its loyalties to the government.
The anniversary also included reminders that preventing Taiwan's independence remained the Chinese military's key mission.
Though Hu did not directly mention Taiwan, Defense Minister Cao Gangchuan (