China News Digest, Issue 1, April 2011
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  • Defence

    Science & Technology

    Domestic Affairs



    The Chinese Ministry of Defence released its 7th defence white paper titled “China’s Defence in 2010”. The document has 10 chapters including the security scenario, defence policy, modernization and development of PLA, utilization of armed forces, defence mobilization and development of reserve force, military legal system, China's defence science & technology industry, defence expenditure, building mutual military trust, and, arms control & disarmament. Of these the third, fifth, sixth and ninth entries mentioned above have been treated as separate chapters for the first time. During the release ceremony, several Chinese military officials also answered media queries on the document. On the current nature of PLA, an official asserted that the defensive nature of PLA would never change, nor would it ever practice hegemonism or military expansionism. There were also other queries on the direction of PLA’s modernization, how China would counter the US threat in Asia-Pacific, logistic issues in foreign military missions and its response to nuclear threat.


    The PLA Daily of China has reported on 28 Feb 11 in its online edition that the Indian budget for the FY 2011-12 proposes an outlay of Rs 1644.1 billion (approximately $ 36.3 billion) which would be 11% higher than the last FY. The report, which is actually from the Chinese official news agency Xinhua, also mentions that of the entire proposed defence outlay, Rs 691.9 billion (approximately $ 15.3 billion) would be spent on basic infrastructure. It quoted the Indian FM saying that the increased defence outlay is to meet the modernization needs of the three forces. In this connection the Chinese report mentions that the various weapon systems which India military is slated to procure within FY 2011-12 include fighter aircrafts, warships and missiles. Of these the Indian Air Force alone plans to procure 126 modern fighters, it said.



    J-20, China’s fourth generation stealth fighter aircraft, is still in the phase of research & development, stated Maj Gen Zhu Heping of the PLA AF while speaking to reporters on 03 March 2011 in Beijing. As to the expected timeframe by which the aircraft would be finally ready for induction into China’s airpower, Maj Gen Zhu said “there’s still some time required” and “is difficult to say”.
    Maj Gen Zhu Heping is a member of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) and the deputy head of the PLA AF Command Academy. Incidentally, the 4th meeting of the 11th CPPCC opened in Beijing on 03 March 2011 and Maj Gen Zhu made the statement just before the CPPCC meet.
    It may be recalled that the first “successful” test flight of J-20 on 11 Jan 2011 was made on the eve of the US Defence Secretary Robert Gates’ China visit which had been widely reported and has since been a matter of speculation in the strategic community. The timing and machine of the test had also raised concerns about China’s future military objectives, especially since the US/NATO is the only other possessor of operational stealth fighters in the world. The reported ignorance of Chinese President Hu Jintao regarding the test flight, how China might have developed J-20 from the debris of a fallen USAF F-117 Nighthawk in Serbia (1999) and China trying to smuggle relevant technology out of the US were the other highlights of such speculation.
    That a PLA AF training commander is downplaying the matter might be an attempt to take the heat out of the current scrutiny on China. The fact however remains by this admission of Maj Gen Zhu that China is indeed developing the J-20 stealth aircraft. Russia is the other country which is also developing the T-50 stealth aircraft.


    Based on information from the Chinese defence ministry on 05 Mar 2011, the PLA Daily reported online on 07 Mar 2011 that China and Pakistan would be carrying out a joint air force exercise named Xiong Ying-1 (Gallant Eagle-1) inside Pakistani territory during 05-30 March 2011. However, the Chinese report failed to offer any rationale for the Sino-Pakistani exercise other than to “learn from each other and promote friendly cooperation” with the stereotype footnote that it “is not aimed at any third country”. The fact remains that carrying out such a prolonged joint air exercise between Pakistan and China without sufficient disclosure about the nature, content, objectives and the specific area within Pakistani territory have reasons for concerns in India.


    Two Chinese warships namely Wenzhou and Ma’anshan reached the Karachi Port on 07 Mar 2011 to participate in the 12-nation international naval exercise named Aman-11. This exercise would be held in Pakistani waters near Karachi during 08-12 March 2011 and would comprise of coastal special forces’ exercises and military exercises on sea involving warships, aircrafts and special forces. The two Chinese warships would also attend an international naval symposium and conference after the exercises. Apart from China and Pakistan, the US, France, UK and Japan are also participating in the exercise. India does not participate in the Aman series of exercises which used to be a China-Pakistan affair. It may be noted that China and Pakistan are also carrying out another joint air exercise within Pakistani territory from 05 March 2011. That exercise called “Xiongying-1” (Gallant Eagle-1) would continue till 30 March 2011. Needless to say, both China and Pakistan are going ahead with joint military exercises without any clearly stated military objectives but which nonetheless would result in better understanding and coordination for their joint military operations.


    The PLA Daily of China stated in an article on 02 March 2011 that PLA deputies to the National People’s Congress (NPC) and the PLA members to the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) have increasingly participated in the political affairs of the country since 2010. NPC and CPPCC are the Chinese equivalents of bicameral legislatures. The report says that these PLA legislators have undergone various types of training, carried out survey and research at grassroots and have held detailed discussions with relevant departmental authorities and experts on many major national issues. These activities have culminated into a series of proposals which the PLA legislators have submitted to the NPC and CPPCC on the eve of their annual meets concluded in early March 2011. The topics of these proposals are not limited to defence issues but encompass various issues of national planning and people’s livelihood. Chinese authorities in NPC and CPPCC have reportedly appreciated the content of these proposals and have taken them into record. It is since 2010 that the PLA legislators started showing keen interest into China’s macro-policies and gaining better understanding of the overall situation of China. Since 2010 April, six batches of 160 PLA deputies in total have attended a training course meant only for NPC deputies. They have also held discussions with relevant authorities in ministries/commissions and experts on topics like innovation, environmental protection, water conservancy etc. Again early this year, 206 PLA deputies had debated on the draft of the 12th five year plan of China. Similarly, PLA members of CPPCC and its regional organs have attended some task report meets. In 2010 too, PLA legislators have submitted some proposals with strategic implications to the Party Central Committee, State Council and the Central Military Commission. These include a proposal on strengthening China’s maritime boundaries and one on the Shandong Peninsula Blue Economic Zone (SPBEZ). The SPBEZ is the latest Chinese scheme which aims to increase the portion of marine resources in the overall Chinese economy.

    Science & Technology


    The PLA Daily reported on its online edition on 03 Mar 11 that work on China’s first Rendezvous and Docking Target space programme is progressing smoothly. According to their plan, the Tiangong-1 (Heavenly Palace-1) space station and the Shenzhou-8 spaceship would be launched in close succession in the latter half of this year. The report was made on the basis of a statement made by a spokesperson of China’s manned space programme on 02 Mar 2011.
    Tiangong-1 reportedly has completed all system tests, systems interface matching and flight simulation tests and is about to start mechanical and thermal tests. The Shenzhou-8 spaceship is expected to complete its electrical tests by mid-March 2011. Progress on the R&D of all the scientific experimental equipment to be carried by Tiangong-1 and Shenzhou-8 is also reportedly going on smoothly.
    Both Tiangong-1 and Shenzhou-8 would be launched by Long March-2F carrier rockets. The rocket for Tiangong-1 has completed its first phase of tests, while the rocket for Shenzhou-8 is being assembled. Work is also going on at the launch pad, landing site and on the test control communication systems. Two additional female Chinese astronauts have been selected and are undergoing training at present.
    The Chinese spokesperson stated that Space Rendezvous and Docking is a key basic technology for China for stable development of its manned space programme. China plans to launch two more spacecrafts viz. Shenzhou-9 and 10 in 2012 after the first successful rendezvous and docking experience with Tiangong-1 and Shenzhou-8 to be followed by manned space rendezvous and docking and subsequently launching of its manned space experimental laboratory and scientific experimentation activities.
    Tiangong-1, which is part of the Chinese 921-2 Project, is stated to be an 8.5 ton "space laboratory module" with a lifespan of two years on which Shenzhou-8, 9 and 10 spaceships would dock.

    Domestic Affairs


    The Chinese Communist Party Secretary for the Tibet Autonomous Region Mr. Zhang Qingli has accused that every time the Dalai Lama and his organization causes some “big trouble”, the economy of Tibet gets a major jolt backwards. Mr. Zhang said this to Guangming Daily on 06 March 2011 in Beijing on sidelines of the 4th session of the 11th National People’s Congress of China. To justify he gave the example of tourism in Tibet before and after the March 2008 unrest, which the Chinese authorities blame the Dalai Lama for orchestrating. Mr. Zhang said that in 2007 more than 4 million tourists had visited Tibet, which dropped to 2.2 million in 2008. Mr. Zhang was clearly using the card of economic prosperity to wean away dissident Tibetans residing within the Chinese territory. “Stability is too important for Tibet, Tibet cannot waver under any other influence”, said Mr. Zhang. Stating that the current trend of development in Tibet as “very good”, he revealed the following figures on Tibet’s recent completion of China’s 11th five year plan: -
    (a) In 2010 Tibet’s GDP touched 50.746 billion Yuan ($ 7.724 billion); average annual growth rate in the preceding 5 years being 12.4%.
    (b) Net per capita income of the Tibetan farmer/herdsman reached 4138.71 Yuan ($ 629.974), a 17.2% growth over 2009 and double that of 2005.
    (c) In 2010 a total of 6.8514 million tourists visited Tibet which is 3.8 times of 2005.
    (d) Housing for Tibetan farmers/herdsmen is registering good progress; in the last five years 274800 poor households of 1.4 million Tibetan farmers/herdsmen have been relocated to safe dwelling units.
    (e) Work is also going ahead on constructing boarding schools and primary/middle school buildings for Tibetan children.


    Chinese authorities, namely the National Development & Reform Commission, the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) administration and the Xinjiang Production & Construction Corps, are finalizing a special package deal for the restive and backward XUAR in west China. The package will be part of China’s 12th Five Year Plan and ostensibly would contain schemes to address some of the resentments of the XUAR indigenous ethnic minorities. On 25 March 2011, Xinhua, the official Chinese news agency revealed that the XUAR aid package would be funded by 19 Chinese provinces and central municipalities. Major sectors to be targeted are housing (especially for the migrating herdsmen), employment, urbanisation, infrastructure, two-language education policy (Chinese + 1 local language of Turkic origin), vocational and labour training (in more prosperous Chinese provinces/companies) and general living facilities. Some of the measures would aim at uplifting the “scientific, technical and cultural levels” of the local population. Two cities, namely Kashgar (near the China-Pak-Tajik-Kyrgyz border) and Horgos (on the China-Kazakhstan border) have been earmarked for development as Special Economic Development Regions. The big state-owned enterprises of China have been asked to invest more in XUAR to kick-start the region’s economy. On 25 Mar 11, senior Chinese leader Zhou Yongkang took stock of the XUAR package in Beijing. He directed the agencies to plan according to the actual needs of XUAR with both immediate and long-term perspectives and ensure time bound implementation. However, it remains to be seen whether such economic sops can diminish political discontent amongst ethnically different Uygurs, a section of who are demanding independence from Chinese altogether.