Xi Jinping tells Chinese defence firms to aim higher and catch up on weapons technology

Documentary aired on state television reveals push to develop supercomputing, ballistic missile defence and satellite navigation systems

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 04 October, 2017, 11:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 04 October, 2017, 9:52pm

President Xi Jinping has ordered Chinese defence firms to speed up weapons development and aim to do better than the world’s most powerful militaries, a documentary aired on state media revealed.

His list of areas to work on included supercomputing, ballistic missile defence and satellite navigation systems, according to one of eight episodes in the Powerful Military series shown on state broadcaster CCTV on Monday.

China has also been cultivating young scientific talent specialised in advanced military hardware as it tries to modernise the People’s Liberation Army, according to the documentary.

Dozens of advanced warships went into service last year as China stepped up its weaponry hardware to meet its goal of having a blue-water navy capable of operating globally.

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Xi – who also chairs the Central Military Commission – said in the documentary that scientists and weapons developers should aim to catch up to, and even surpass, the technology of other countries.

“The importance of weaponry development has increased as military technologies continue to be upgraded in recent years,” Xi said. “It’s impossible to win a battle if there is a weaponry gap.”

China’s anti-ballistic missile technology is catching up to that of the United States, the documentary said, citing tests conducted by Senior Colonel Chen Deming and his research team.

“So far only two countries in the world can successfully intercept ballistic missiles – the United States and China,” the documentary said.

Chen has been involved in China’s anti-missile tests over the past three decades, including one in the country’s northwest in 2010, which was reported for the first time by Xinhua on July 25 last year. That was 10 days after South Korea announced it would deploy a US missile shield to defend itself against threats from the North, despite protests from Beijing.

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Meanwhile, the documentary noted that 40 per cent of the Beidou satellite navigation system research team were students from the PLA’s National University of Defence Technology.

And dozens of undergraduates from the university’s computer department were part of the Tianhe-2 programme – the world’s fastest supercomputer from 2013 to 2015.

Shanghai-based military expert He Qisong said the documentary showed China’s mission to develop advanced military technologies that eclipsed those of other countries – especially the United States.

“Actually, many innovative technologies involving satellite and computer research are all being worked on by undergraduates and graduates – meaning these young people will be working on Xi’s goal to build a combat-ready fighting force into the future,” he said.

He added that China had put a lot of funding into defence research and development over the past three decades.