Army may expand on Spratlys
CHINESE authorities have hinted they will augment military installations on the Spratlys, whose sovereignty is being contested by several Asian countries.
In a series of articles marking the 67th anniversary of the founding of the People's Liberation Army (PLA), the Chinese media has made clear the army's intention to boost its power projections.
Sources close to the PLA said the top brass had put pressure on the party and government leadership to increase funding for troops deployed on the sprawling Spratly archipelago.
Senior PLA officers have expressed frustration over the fact that, because of lack of funds and a long supply line, Chinese naval units have lagged behind the Vietnamese in the game of stationing at least symbolic garrisons on the islets.
Yesterday, Xinhua (the New China News Agency) pointed out that soldiers billeted on the Spratlys ''now enjoy much better living conditions, as a result of efforts made by the central authorities''.
Xinhua disclosed that in the past few years, ''central authorities'' had earmarked more than 100 million yuan (HK$89 million) to improve life in the Spratly garrison.
Analysts said Xinhua's reference to central authorities confirmed unofficial reports that funding for PLA activities in the Spratlys came from the army as well as civilian government departments.
Xinhua said the money had been used for infrastructure such as forts, reservoirs and desalination plants, as well as for amenities including air conditioners, gas ovens and refrigerators.
Major national papers yesterday carried remarks by Defence Minister Chi Haotian that the PLA would ''further its modernisation drive'' to better ''safeguard the integrity of China's territory, airspace and territorial waters''.
Various branches of the Government have also pledged extra resources to promote army modernisation and welfare.
Military analysts said in an apparent effort to deflect criticism about the PLA getting an excessively large share of the pie, the media had also run stories of how army units had helped civilians.
The semi-official China News Service yesterday reported that the Xinjiang military district had ''in recent years'' forked out 2.4 million yuan to help poor children receive education.
As a result of pro-independence agitation by Uighur and Tibetan nationalists in Xinjiang and Tibet, Beijing has boosted the budget for armies guarding the two autonomous regions.
The semi-official Hong Kong China News Agency reported yesterday that 6,520 PLA officers had become cadres in the Shenzhen special economic zone in the past 14 years.
Twenty-two per cent of these work in administrative departments and five have become ''municipal leaders'' or their equivalent.
Many cities have been asked by Beijing to find employment for demobilised PLA staff.