Mon, Mar 18, 2013 - Page 5 News List

Under Xi, China seeks to cool row over islands

Reuters, HONG KONG

Xi’s father, the late senior party official and revolutionary military commander Xi Zhongxun (習仲勛), was also purged, but became a key leader of China’s economic reforms after he was rehabilitated.

In interviews carried in official state media on Friday, Liu praised Xi, who heads the armed forces as chairman of the Central Military Commission, and said China would continue to strengthen its military under his leadership.

CRACKDOWN

Liu has also led a crackdown on corruption in the armed forces after more than two decades of soaring defense outlays created opportunities for widespread graft and waste in the 2.3 million strong PLA.

In a commentary published last month in the Chinese language edition of the nationalistic Global Times newspaper, Liu said earlier wars with Japan had severely disrupted China’s development at crucial periods in its recent history.

China’s economic revival was now at a critical period and it must avoid being drawn into an “inadvertent” war, he wrote.

“The United States and Japan are afraid we are catching up to them and will do anything to contain China’s development,” he said. “We must not be fooled.”

Liu’s warnings suggest some senior military and political leaders fear a clash with the powerful Japanese military could be politically fraught for the ruling CCP, particularly if Washington intervened in support of its treaty ally Japan.

However, decades of strident propaganda have fostered widespread Chinese public hostility to Japan over its wartime aggression in Asia.

That has made it difficult for Beijing to make concessions or compromise with Tokyo over the islands without suffering a politically damaging backlash.

Some Chinese defense analysts say Liu’s comments, aimed at a domestic audience, are intended to allow Beijing more flexibility in dealing with Tokyo, while the hardline rhetoric from other, publicity seeking officers is to persuade foreigners that China is serious about its territorial claims.

Indeed, until recently, Chinese state media was issuing a daily stream of bulletins announcing ship deployments in the East China Sea, naval combat exercises, the launch of new warships and commentaries calling for resolute defense of Chinese territory.

“The unintended consequences could be just the opposite,” said Shen Dingli (沈丁立), a security policy expert at Shanghai’s Fudan University.

“Ambitious generals are well heard domestically and Liu Yuan’s moderate views are overwhelmed,” he added.

In a further sign Beijing wants to curb hawkish sentiment, one of China’s most outspoken military officers, retired Major General Luo Yuan (羅援), has been dropped from the government’s top advisory body, the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference.

BOMBING RANGE

Luo, a prolific blogger and media commentator, famously called for China and Taiwan to join forces last year and use the disputed islands as a bombing range.

Despite his regular warlike commentaries, Luo also called for the establishment of a unified coast guard to establish firm control over the paramilitary maritime agencies.

Chinese military and security experts have welcomed Beijing’s decision to combine four of the five big maritime agencies, widely known as the “five dragons”, under the command of the Chinese National Oceanic Administration.

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