China's Defense Minister Liang Guanglie stressed on Monday that the absolute control under the Communist Party of China (CPC) has guaranteed the country's armed forces have achieved landmark progress in the past six decades.
Liang, a State Councilor and also member of the Central Military Commission (CMC) as a full general, made the remark during an exclusive interview with Xinhua less than ten days leading to a grand military parade scheduled on China's National Day.
The minister said a solid ideological and political leadership by the CPC is the greatest difference between the People's Liberation Army (PLA) and the armed forces of Western countries, by which the Party's troops have endured various tests and shown loyalty, bravery and services to the people.
The PLA has achieved leaping upgrades in its defensive combat abilities to realize that the armed forces could effectively safeguard the country's sovereignty and territorial integrity, Gen. Liang said.
Liang emphasized that the PLA could not make the achievements without several rounds of disarmament and its internal reforms to optimize the military resources and command systems since the People's Republic of China was founded in 1949.
The PLA once had 6,000,000 uniformed members. The most high-profile cut was conducted by late CMC Chairman Deng Xiaoping who made a surprising decision in 1985 to reduce ranks by 1,000,000, mostly from the army and military schools.
After the latest cut in 2005, the PLA now has 2.3 million servicemen, although it remains the world's most populous armed force.
Gen. Liang said that after consistent efforts by scientists and researchers as well as China's improving industrial capacities, the PLA's arsenal has been equipped with all major weapon systems on the land, in the sea and air just like other major military powers.
"We now have military satellites, advanced jets, new main battle tanks, sophisticated warships and subs," Liang said, adding that some of the weaponry have caught up with world-leading standards.
After nearly 60 years of construction and development, China has set a strategic target to realize basic defense and military modernization, he said.
Achieving this objective, the Army's mobility level will be upgraded to give greater regional capabilities, and the Navy will be capable of both a strong coastal defense and certain measures for blue water combat, Liang said.
The Air Force will be transformed from a fleet that could only provide homeland air defense to an aerial power capable of a combination of offensive and defensive operations, and the Second Artillery Corps, China's strategic missile troops, will become a truly efficient force with both nuclear and conventional striking power, he said.
The military parade on Chang'an Avenue in front of the Tian'anmen Square on Oct. 1 will probably be the best footnote to Liang's remarks.
According to Lt. Gen. Fang Fenghui, general director of the parade, 52 types of new weapon systems developed with China's own technologies will be showcased to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the founding of the PRC.
China will unveil for the first time the PLA's airborne early warning and control (AEWC) aircraft, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) and other novel military hardware which have seen active service.
With a distinctive theme of "Made in China" to be showcased by the military parade, the Defense Minister said the Chinese defense industry has been also upgraded from copying Russian made weapons in 1950s and 1960s to a self-reliance on designing and manufacturing from the 1970s onwards.
Another progress is the improved heritage of national defense mobilization which has played a unique role and advantage in the PLA's service in peace time and in missions to help civilians in emergencies, Liang said.
The two events that impressed the 68-year-old minister most were the PLA's engagement in fighting a severe flood disaster in 1998 and the devastating earthquake in Sichuan Province last year.
"The troops and even many veterans were quickly mobilized and gathered to fight the flood at the front line in spite of danger to life," Liang said.
"I also witnessed very moving moments during the earthquake relief work when quake survivors saved by the PLA soldiers expressed their sincere appreciations," he said.
(Xinhua News Agency September 22, 2009)