If force can't win the day, diplomacy won't either, PLA Daily says

Don't expect negotiators to achieve what soldiers cannot on the battlefield, PLA Daily says

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 29 July, 2014, 3:46am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 29 July, 2014, 3:46am

A commentary published by the military's mouthpiece yesterday reflects the increasing assertiveness of the PLA. It cautioned that diplomats could not be expected to achieve any goal that could not also be attained by using force.

The tough rhetoric on the front page of the PLA Daily comes amid rising concerns the military carries the upper hand in determining how Beijing settles its territorial disputes with neighbours, sidelining the nation's diplomats.

"Things that cannot be obtained by soldiers using guns on the battlefield should not be expected to get done by the mouths of diplomats at the negotiation table," it said. "The fate of the nation has never been so closely linked to the strength and weakness of the army, and the victories and defeats on the battlefield as it is today."

A weak combat capability would only lead to humiliation, and the army needed to carry out reforms to enhance its strength and "frighten the enemy", it said.

It also called on the military to deal seriously with corruption, saying it was the main reason for its failures over the past decades.

Concerns are rising over whether China will be more tempted to flex its military muscle in its handling of territorial disputes with neighbours, particularly Japan over the East China Sea, and Vietnam and the Philippines over the South China Sea.

Ni Lexiong , a military affairs commentator, said the article was aimed at promoting the belief "China has to show its force". "It is saying we should not have any illusions about peaceful settlement and be ready for war," Ni said.

Professor Kerry Brown, director of the China Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, said the military had been given a bigger role under the new leadership.

"For China, which is having challenges at the moment, there is a need for a kind of strong military that will support its desire to have a bigger role in the region," Brown said. "I don't think it's surprising that the military is feeling more confident."

A report by the International Crisis Group in 2012 on China's handling of the South China Sea dispute said the People's Liberation Army outranked the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the bureaucratic hierarchy.

Shi Yinhong , an international relations professor at Renmin University, said he did not agree with the commentary. "Diplomacy itself is very important. Sometimes diplomacy can successfully defend national interest. Getting prepared for war is a different matter, and to openly put it that way is not appropriate," Shi said.