China’s ‘sea parade’: Honing military skills and striking fear

by Frank Ching/ April 17, 2018 / Manila Times

IN his epic speech at the Communist Party congress last October, XiJinping, party leader and state president, announced the initiation of “a new stage in strengthening and revitalizing the armed forces.” By 2035, he promised, “the modernization of our national defense and our forces is basically completed” and “by the mid-21st century our people’s armed forces have been fully transformed into world-class forces.”

Last week, China displayed the impressive progress it has made in modernizing its naval forces in military exercises in the South China Sea off Hainan that it called a “sea parade,” presided over by Xi himself.

More than 10,000 naval officers took part in the display of power, which featured 76 fighter jets as well as 48 surface ships and submarines, including China’s first aircraft carrier.

One indication of the rapidity of China’s progress is the disclosure by state media that of the 48 vessels involved, more than half were commissioned after Xi assumed power in 2012. And the pace is not going to slacken.

Wang Xiaoxuan, a Beijing-based military expert, wrote in the China Daily that “the problem of a relatively small aggregate tonnage of naval vessels must be resolved, in order to increase the navy’s capability to confront naval hegemonies in the world.”

“To be a world-class navy, the Chinese navy should catch up with the world’s most advanced navies,” Wang said.

Another commentator, defense industry analyst Wu Peixin, was quoted as saying that the Chinese navy had been rapidly catching up with the US navy in terms of its technological and operational capabilities.

“Ten years ago,” he said, “it would appear fantastic if someone told you that we would soon begin commissioning a domestically built carrier and several of the world’s mightiest destroyers.”

Xi was very much involved, giving the order for the drills to start and watching the activities from the “Changsha,” a guided missile destroyer.

The “sea parade” was the biggest naval exercise in Chinese history. Such exercises are not simply meant to keep soldiers on their toes. Their purpose is to hone China’s military skills while projecting an image of power. One goal is to strike fear into the hearts of potential adversaries. The sudden announcement April 12 of live-fire drills six days later in the Taiwan Strait was an undisguised attempt to intimidate the government and people of the island. Read more…

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