A nation of China’s standing needs a military of proportional stature. The People’s Liberation Army, which celebrated its 95th anniversary yesterday, is on track through reform and modernisation.
President Xi Jinping’s vision is for it to attain the goal of a world-class defence, peace and security force by the time of its centenary. That is an aim to be welcomed and supported for Chinese, as well as regional and global, development.
The United States and like-minded nations warily eyeing the PLA’s rise consider China a rival and threat. They perceive the development of aircraft carriers, fighter jets, drones, missiles and tracking and interception systems as being about projecting power and increasing Beijing’s territorial footprint.
But Chinese are not alone in wanting a stronger and more effective military; governments everywhere are upgrading. Of the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, China is the only one not to have gone to war over the past four decades and is also the biggest contributor to international peacekeeping forces.
China has the world’s largest standing military, but only in the past two decades or so has modernisation become as important as economic growth and improving livelihoods. Boosting capability is essential to protect national security, safeguard expanding interests and help maintain global peace.
Under Xi’s direction, a new command system has been put in place, forces downsized with quality in mind, and a push made to root out corruption. He highlighted that in a speech for the anniversary, calling for the cultivation of higher-calibre and evermore professional personnel and elevated levels of education in technology and innovation.
The PLA in Hong Kong marked the event with a flag-raising at its navy pier in Admiralty, catching some citizens off guard. But there should have been no surprise; its mission is manyfold and includes guarding borders, national security, and emergency response and disaster relief.
Defending territorial integrity and sovereignty are key roles; US provocations over Taiwan have to be rebuffed. It adheres to Beijing’s foreign policy doctrine of non-interference in others’ affairs, maintaining world peace and promoting shared development.