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'Swords or ploughshares': China must balance wealth and power
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With two-digit growth in military expenditure, recent naval escort missions in Somali waters, and the upcoming unveiling of new air-force equipment in the National Day parade, talk of the "Chinese military threat" has once more surfaced on the international stage.

Although China's economy now occupies the third place in the world, there is still a long way to go to realize its strategic objective of "wealth and strength", said Jiang Luming, professor of the PLA University of National Defense. All of China's military investment is for peaceful purposes, and any national defense infrastructure will be for self-defense.

As the director of the National Defense Economy Research Center at the University, Jiang told China News Service, "Significant progress has been made in China's economic development. It is urgent for China to grow stronger while improving its economy. There are, however, ideological and structural barriers within the military that need to be addressed."

Civilian enterprises have little access to military industry

Achieving the goal of "wealth and strength" requires a harmonious development of the whole country and the introduction of civilian enterprises into the military industry, Jiang said. "Economic power serves as a strong support to national defense. The latter, in return, will provide a significant stimulus to the development of the former. Only when military and civilian enterprises work together in military industries can the development of the economy together with national defense enter a healthy cycle."

In 2006, Jiang wrote an article pointing out that national defense buildup was being neglected within the framework of Chinese economic development; military industries were not accessible to civilian enterprises, thus weakening their influence on national economic development.

"Combining civilian enterprise with the military will strengthen capability in terms of the information war. It is an important future trend in our national defense strategy. China's top decision makers are becoming increasingly aware of the importance of the issue, and appropriate policies are being developed. Nevertheless, we have to work hard to assign a greater degree of civilian enterprise involvement in national defense," Jiang said.

In recent years, China has made considerable headway in this direction, in such fields as talent-development and logistics and transportation services. For instance, China now has a comprehensive motorway network with five north-south highways and seven east-west highways. There is also a rail network with five north-south railways and seven east-west railways. The construction of a transportation network goes some way to addressing the modern defense industry's need for comprehensive transportation capacity.

"There is an urgent need to maintain this strategy of involving civilian enterprise in national defense. There will be opportunities for development, but there are also obstacles. For example, military production is in principle open to all civilian enterprises, but in practice there are invisible barriers to access. Some barriers relate to technology, but the majority concern operational mechanisms. Involving civilian enterprise in military production represents a significant challenge to the current balance of economic interests."

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