Tue, Aug 10, 2004 - Page 3 News List

Forum analyzes China's military drills

PROPAGANDA Military experts yesterday said that Chinese military exercises close to Taiwan are routine, but prime material for China's psychological war against Taiwan

By Joy Su  /  STAFF REPORTER

Military drills recently conducted on nearby Dongshan Island by the Chinese army are routine exercises from a military point of view, but serve as important political tools, according to analysts at a forum yesterday.

"With regard to the political consequences of military exercises, Taiwan has always chosen to be low-key but transparent," said Colonel Shen Ming-shih (沈明室), a doctoral candidate at Fu Hsing Kang College.

"However, the details of Chinese military exercises are always kept highly confidential, and China is accustomed to using the media to exaggerate the political meaning of routine military drills. The drills are thus prime material for China's psychological and propaganda war against Taiwan," Shen said.

He further explained that Taiwanese authorities make public major military exercises to be conducted each year. In addition, in order to avoid cross-strait tension, Taiwanese authorities will purposely delay planned drills or downsize the scale of the exercise.

"With the exception of a few major military exercises, Taiwan has abandoned military code names and begun to refer to all exercises as just drills, a sign of Taiwan's goodwill," Shen said.

Chinese troops last month rehearsed coordinated air, sea and ground attacks on Dongshan, an island in the South China Sea only 277km west of Taiwan's Penghu island.

Similar drills in 2001, code-named "Liberation One," were among the largest ever conducted by the Chinese People's Liberation Army and seen as a military warning to then newly elected President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁).

While the 2001 drills involved roughly 100,000 troops, only 18,000 troops took part in this year's Dongshan military drill.

National Security Council Secretariat Director Lieutenant-General James Liu (劉湘濱) took a similar stance, referring to the psychological aspects of the war games.

"In actuality, the Dongshan Island military drills are part of a series of military exercises conducted around Donghai between March and September. These exercises are routine, regular and scheduled," Liu said.

"Perhaps China really meant to emphasize the political aspects of these drills in 2001 and this year by dubbing them "Liberation One" and "Liberation Two." However, in terms of the substance of the drills, these tactics have no meaning beyond their psychological and propaganda aspects," Liu said.

However, Chao Chien-min (趙建民), a political science professor at National Chengchi University, argued that the political significance of the drills indicated that they were more than mere routine exercises.

"This year, whether the drills were as large in scale as before, they are at least important political news. Also, the drills are coordinated with political events in Taiwan They are not just routine exercises, they are directed specifically at Taiwan," Chao said.

Chao also pointed out that the media reported for the first time that the Dongshan drills were aimed at "achieving control of the air."

"Is it fair to say that in the future China will make gaining leverage in air combat a military priority?" Chao asked.

Liu attributed reports from Hong Kong that Beijing wanted control of the air to propaganda, saying that the timing of the reports made it evident that they came as a response to Taiwan's landing advanced Mirage 2000-5 fighters on the Sun Yat-sen freeway.

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