Wednesday, July 26, 2006

China eyes stronger military against threats

BEIJING (Reuters) - China needs stronger military forces as it faces growing instability and threats to national security, the ruling Communist Party's ideological mouthpiece said according to reports in the state media on Wednesday.

An essay in the latest issue of Qiushi, or Seek Truth, says China must strengthen its military to guard a peaceful international setting for economic growth, the official China News Service reported.

"Destabilizing and uncertain factors are increasing and having a major impact on China's security environment," the essay said.

"History demonstrates that one cannot rely on others granting peace, and only building a strong military and firm national defense can provide a reliable security barrier," it added.

Qiushi magazine is the Communist Party's ideological mouthpiece and often carries essays by senior officials and theorists. The latest essay appears to reflect unease about China's military preparedness, even with rapidly rising defense spending over the past decade.

The essay did not specify the threats calling for stronger defense, but it said that Western foes did not want to see a strong China.

"Hostile Western forces do not want to see a strong socialist China emerge in the east, and they are constantly cooking up vain attempts to hold in check and contain China's development."
Supporters of independence for Taiwan -- the self-governed island that China has claimed as its own since their split in 1949 amid civil war -- are also a "major peril", it added.

China has experienced deepening friction with Japan over Tokyo's treatment of its World War Two invasion and its increasingly assertive foreign policy.

Beijing's relations with Washington are strained by mutual mistrust, even as the two countries seek to cooperate over curtailing North Korea's nuclear weapons program and defusing other regional disputes.

"At present, the political and military environment on China's periphery is quite complex, and unpredictable factors are clearly rising," the essay said.

China's 2.3-million-strong People's Liberation Army is the world's largest standing force and Beijing has said its defense budget will rise 14.7 percent to 283.8 billion yuan ($35.5 billion) in 2006.

That is much smaller than United States' $419.3 billion defense budget for 2006, but many in Washington say China's real defense spending is higher than its official figure.


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