Chinese generals urge PLA to expand navy as war risk rises

Generals call on military to shift focus from land forces to maritime power amid higher threats of conflict from several directions

PUBLISHED : Friday, 03 July, 2015, 11:53pm
UPDATED : Friday, 03 July, 2015, 11:53pm

Two senior Chinese military leaders have called on the People's Liberation Army to beef up its naval capacity and combat readiness amid a higher risk of "warfare on the doorstep".

In a 5,000-word article published on Friday in People's Daily, the Communist Party's flagship mouthpiece, General Cai Yingting, commander of the PLA Nanjing military area command, and his political commissar General Zheng Weiping, said the PLA should learn lessons from the war with Japan that ended 70 years ago.

"There have been profound challenges from territorial disputes on our country's periphery, geopolitical competition among big powers, and ethnic and religious friction. Tensions in surrounding hot spots are also on the rise," the article said. "The risk of chaos and warfare on our doorstep has increased.

"We should be more vigilant … and put combat preparedness at the front of our minds."

The Nanjing command is one of the country's seven key major military regions and its key mission is to defend the East China Sea, where China and Japan claim sovereignty over the Diaoyu Islands, known as the Senkakus in Japan.

The comments come as Beijing prepares to mark the 70th anniversary of the end of the second world war in Asia by staging a major military parade in Tiananmen Square on September 3.

They also follow the PLA Navy's first live-fire drill simulating the resupply of missiles in a combat environment in the Yellow Sea on Thursday. The sea was the key battlefield of the first Sino-Japanese war, which lasted from August 1894 to April 1895.

The generals' article said China's recent history included enemy invasions from the sea, and the military needed to break from its traditional focus on land forces and strengthen its naval capacity. "Our country is in the critical stage of transforming from a land power into a land-cum-maritime power," the article said.

The article said that during the anti-Japanese war the party joined with guerrilla forces and civilians to defeat the enemy. The party troops learned from that conflict that it should only engage in battles that were "profitable" militarily or politically.

Cai and Zheng demanded the PLA learn from the US army's training style by introducing " cruel and bloody confrontation" - an attribute of war - to their drills, and the top leadership and the public should accept that casualties from the drills could be on par with actual combat.

Hong Kong-based military observer Liang Guoliang said it was "a very rare move" for a commander and political commissar to jointly pen an article on war strategy.

Beijing-based retired major general Xu Guangyu said the article aimed to raise awareness in the PLA and the public about the need for comprehensive defences, saying preparation for a prolonged fight over China's territorial sovereignty and integrity is a must.

"China should not only be capable of fighting wars over territorial disputes in the East China Sea or other places, but also be ready for lasting combat once a conflict breaks out," Xu said. "This article asks both the army and people to be trained seriously to meet the new demands of modern information warfare."