As the mainland's naval taskforce of two destroyers and one supply ship sails in full force to the pirate-infested Gulf of Aden off Somalia, the high-profile expedition has understandably attracted intense international media scrutiny and speculation over its implications, in the long and short terms. The overwhelming positive reaction to the announcement, along with Beijing's first explicit acknowledgment that it was 'seriously considering' building an aircraft carrier, have signalled that the international community has finally come to accept the inevitable with some sense of calm, even though there is unease among neighbouring countries such as Japan and India. The acceptance is a welcome change after years of dominant concerns and noise in the west over the so-called China threat following the phenomenal rise of the mainland's economic might. Beijing has every right to undertake what is billed as China's first modern deployment of battle-ready warships beyond the Pacific, and the first since the 15th century under Admiral Zheng He. After all, the mainland's economic security is at stake as about 60 per cent of its imported oil comes from the Middle East, and most of that passes through the Gulf of Aden. The European Union, India, the United States, Russia, and even Iran have already had naval ships patrolling in the area. Although such an expedition is the nation's first and puts its naval capability to the test under the glare of the international community, the fact that there are more than a dozen mainland reporters on board who are allowed to file daily reports says something of Beijing's confidence and its willingness to be open about its usually secretive armed forces. Moreover, the deployment is an important sign that China wants to have a more powerful presence in international matters. After all, China has the world's fourth-largest economy and it is already a global trading power. Despite the fact that the global slowdown has hit its economy faster and harder than expected, the mainland's economic growth is likely to be among the first to recover and rebound in the latter half of next year. As the country's economic might grows, so will its military strength. It is interesting to note that the international reaction to Beijing's revelation that it plans to build an aircraft carrier, after years of flat denials, has been even more muted. It has been an open secret that China has always wanted its own aircraft carrier and has made intense preparations in the past decade. There has been consistent speculation that work on the nation's first aircraft carrier has been under way for some time. Beijing's public acknowledgement has been carefully thought out and timed. Along with the deployment of the naval taskforce to Africa, it is aimed at preparing mainlanders and the international community for China's biggest military parade on October 1, the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic. The mainland's leaders have a long-standing tradition of staging grand celebrations for landmark National Day anniversaries. On the 35th anniversary in 1984, Deng Xiaoping presided over the grand parade, reflecting his status as paramount leader. On the 50th anniversary in 1999, Jiang Zemin reviewed the troops in an elaborate ceremony, marking the pinnacle of his leadership and the beginning of the rise of the mainland's economic might in the international arena. The 60th anniversary next year will cement President Hu Jintao's leadership position since he came to power in late 2002. The grandest military parade to date will see a display of the mainland's latest weaponry. Whether outsiders like it or not, China is no longer shying away from flexing its military muscle.