|New Era for China's Military Diplomacy|
Military contacts and exchanges between China and the United States have been in the spotlight again since the two nations agreed to resume bilateral military contacts on October 25. As an integral part of Chinese diplomacy, military links have played an ever increasingly important role in China's foreign relations.
Military contacts and exchanges between China and the United States have been in the spotlight again since the two nations agreed to resume bilateral military contacts on October 25.
After the summit of President Jiang Zemin and US President George W. Bush at Bush's ranch in Crawford, Texas, it was reported that the two nations planned to hold defence consultations at vice-defence ministerial level and other exchange programmes.
Observers noted that as an integral part of Chinese diplomacy, military links have played an ever increasingly important role in China's foreign relations.
China's military diplomacy has ushered in a new era of all-round, multi-channel development since the country launched its drive of reform and opening to the outside world more than two decades ago and especially after the convocation of the Fourth Plenum of the 13th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) in 1989.
According to the Foreign Affairs Office of the Defence Ministry, more than 1,600 Chinese military delegations have visited more than 90 countries during the past two decades. In that period, China received 2,500 foreign military groups, half of which were high- ranking delegations headed by defence ministers, commanders-in-chief, chiefs of general staff or army commanders.
Statistics show that China has formed military diplomatic ties with 146 foreign countries and sent military attaches to 103 countries while 74 foreign countries have stationed military attaches in China.
China has placed the consolidation and enhancement of military ties with neighbouring countries at the top of its agenda.
The continuously growing Sino-Russian military relations have pushed forward strategic co-operation with Russia, China's largest neighbour.
During the first two years of the new century, Zhang Wannian and Chi Haotian, both vice-chairmen of China's Central Military Commission (CMC), have visited Russia.
During Russian Defence Minister Sergei Ivanov's China tour last May, China's top State and military leaders, including State President and CMC Chairman Jiang Zemin and Premier Zhu Rongji, met with him and members of his delegation. The two sides had an in-depth exchange of views on the international strategic situation and the enhancement of mutual trust and co-operation in the military field.
China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan held discussions for strengthening mutual trust and disarmament along border regions which eventually led to the founding of the Shanghai Co-operation Organization (SCO), which now groups China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.
The "Shanghai Spirit," which was summed up as "mutual trust and benefits, equality, co-ordination, respect for diversified civilizations, and the pursuit of common development," was not only acclaimed inside the SCO, but also heeded highly by the rest of the world.
During this year's SCO defence ministers meeting, ministers exchanged views and reached a consensus on such issues as jointly fighting terrorism, separatism and extremism, further increasing military co-operation and safeguarding regional security.
To strengthen anti-terrorist co-operation, the Chinese and Kyrgyzstani armies recently held a successful joint anti-terrorism exercise.
In addition, China has increased military exchanges with northeast Asian countries, and continued to develop military relations with members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and South Asian nations, making unremitting efforts for regional peace, stability and development.
For years, China has kept strengthening and developing military exchanges and co-operation with other developing countries.
In line with the principle of mutual respect, equality, mutual benefit, and non-interference in other countries' internal affairs, China has scored fairly remarkable successes by providing assistance to relevant developing countries, expanding personnel exchanges and stepping up consultations and co-operation in international affairs with them.
Meanwhile, China has maintained and developed traditional friendly relations with most African countries in the military field. For example, in 2000, Chinese military delegations visited 18 African countries.
China also made breakthrough progress in developing military ties with Latin American and Oceanian countries with high-level military visits and expanding professional and technical exchanges. Since the beginning of this year, China has sent military delegations to more than 10 countries including Brazil, Chile, Cuba, Sudan, South Africa, Zambia and Cameroon, and has hosted foreign military delegations from more than 10 countries including Brazil, Chile, Argentina, Columbia, Bolivia, Cuba, Antigua and Barbuda, Sudan, Equatorial Guinea and Kenya.
China has attached importance to developing military exchanges with Western countries like the United States and the member nations of the European Union (EU).
Despite the twists and turns of Sino-US military ties, both China and the United States have been aware of the importance of communication and showed the desire to improve their military ties for the stable and healthy growth of state-to-state relations.
The exchange of visits by high-level military leaders, regular security consultations and personnel exchanges have increased mutual understanding, expanded consensus, reduced differences and developed friendship, thus positively contributing to the growth of Sino-US relations.
The latest successful Sino-US summit will undoubtedly enhance confidence in the further improvement and development of Sino-US military relations.
Meanwhile, military relations with EU states have also developed smoothly.
Defence Minister Chi Haotian visited Germany and Greece in March, and high-level military delegations from France, Sweden, Denmark and Belgium also visited China this year.
Military relations with Canada, Australia and New Zealand also progressed.
Thanks to the growth of its comprehensive national strength and its rising international status, China has explored more areas for military exchanges.
Besides the exchange of high-level visits, China has conducted active professional and technical military exchanges, overseas studies by military students, naval fleet tours, United Nations (UN) peacekeeping operations, multi-lateral security talks and co-operation, as well as arms control and disarmament.
The Chinese army has actively participated in UN peacekeeping operations. China has sent 600 military observers, liaison officers, advisers and staffers on 10 peacekeeping missions since 1990. Two military engineering units with 800 men were sent to Cambodia, demonstrating China's readiness to maintain world peace.
The Chinese army has attended major international arms control negotiations, including negotiations on the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and their Destruction, and on the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological and Toxin Weapons and Their Destruction, and earnestly implemented all regulations.
Under the guideline of "participation on an equal footing, reaching unanimity through consultation, seeking common ground while reserving differences, and proceeding in an orderly way and step by step," the Chinese army has also attended regional security talks and meetings of varied forms.
The great progress of China's military diplomacy in recent years is an eloquent reflection of the outstanding achievements made in overall diplomacy, which was steered by the third-generation leadership of the CPC Central Committee with Jiang Zemin at the core.
In future, China's military diplomacy will continue to support an independent foreign policy of peace, serve the State's overall diplomacy and the national defence and army modernization drive, further increase mutual understanding, friendship and co-operation with the armed forces of other countries to contribute still more to world peace and stability and common development.