We need to cool down, PLA professor says

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 17 August, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 17 August, 2010, 12:00am

Amid rising tensions and intensive naval drills in waters to China's east and south, a professor from the People's Liberation Army's National Defence University has two words of advice for the public and military hawks: cool down.

'I would like to say that recently this has been the high season of military drills on the periphery of our country,' Li Daguang said, citing the United States and South Korea's previous and upcoming joint exercises off the Korean Peninsula, the US-Vietnamese naval drill in the South China Sea, and war games in neighbouring Russia and Mongolia.

'We should be aware of unexpected developments, but it doesn't mean we should cry wolf every day,' Li, a PLA senior colonel, said in an unusually measured comment on the recent string of military drills, which have been heavily criticised by the Chinese military.

During a speech at a forum in Guangzhou on Sunday, Li also hit out at a report issued late last year by the mainland's top think tank, the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS), saying its unrealistic assessment of the country's military strength had made its neighbours nervous, the Southern Metropolis News reported yesterday.

He blamed the Yellow Book of International Politics, which ranked China's military power second in the world to the United States', in part for the recent series of military drills taking place near China.

The same report ranked China seventh in terms of comprehensive national strength, following the US, Japan, Germany, Canada, France and Russia.

'Combining these two together would make other countries think China pursues militarism. Under such a conclusion, Russia - which has friendly relations with us - should beware of China because we claimed to be No 2 in the world,' Li said.

The forum at which he spoke marked the 65th anniversary of the announcement of Japan's surrender to China at the end of the second world war. His remarks also appeared before the Pentagon's release today of its annual official military report on China.

Recent much publicised comments by domestic military experts that the US was adopting a policy towards China of containment were made from a geopolitical - not military - perspective, Li said. 'Nowadays the situation is quite different from that of the cold war era, and economic development should still be our main focus. I don't agree with adding too many resources to a military build-up, because the living standard of the masses has still to be improved.'

Li's call for cool thinking comes after a volley of strong words from hawkish PLA generals in response to the Pentagon's announcement the aircraft carrier USS George Washington will take part in a drill in the Yellow Sea with South Korea - a follow-up to the exercises last month on the opposite side of the Korean Peninsula.

Amid the ballyhoo, some mainland military websites even claimed the PLA's DF-21D - an anti-ship ballistic missile dubbed the 'carrier killer' - had been deployed at coastal naval bases.

'It's very dangerous to let such critical comments and speculative reports escalate,' said Anthony Wong Dong, president of the Macau-based International Military Association.

'I think Li's rational comments will help the public, especially angry youths with anti-US sentiment, to calm down.'