Top brass map out PLA's 'go west' role

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 02 July, 2000, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 02 July, 2000, 12:00am

THE Central Military Commission, the mainland's top military authority, has highlighted social stability and national security as key issues of the Government's plan to develop western provinces.

Commission Vice-Chairman and Defence Minister Chi Haotian billed the 'go west' plan as 'an important strategy in the face of a new era'. His strident remarks were made at the first meeting in Beijing on Friday to discuss the PLA's role in the multibillion-dollar plan.

The development strategy covers politically sensitive areas including Xinjiang, where festering separatism is worrying mainland leaders. Xinjiang has been rocked by riots, bombings and assassinations since 1996.

General Chi outlined a range of responsibilities the army should hold in the decades-long scheme, including building a transport network, water and telecommunication projects and taking part in environmental campaigns.

The commission also issued a circular calling on the armed forces and armed police to devote themselves to the ambitious programme.

'The programme holds significant implications in maintaining state security and social stability, speeding up modernisation as well as re-invigorating the nation,' the circular said.

Yesterday, the Liberation Daily said the armed forces taking part in the campaign had to 'tackle the likely problems involving national security and military issues in developing the western regions'.

The remark is a sign that authorities predict problems for the ambitious scheme, given most people in the western regions live in poverty.