World News

China needs focus on military-industrial complex, officer says

BEIJING (Reuters) - China needs to place greater focus on developing a military-industrial complex, much like the United States has done, to ensure a powerful armed forces commensurate with its place in the world, a senior officer wrote in a new book.

Xu Qiliang, then Commander of the Air Force of the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA), delivers a speech during an international forum on peace and development to mark the 60th founding anniversary of the PLA air force in Beijing, November 6, 2009. REUTERS/China Daily

Chinese President Xi Jinping has set great store on China’s military modernisation, including developing an ocean-going “blue water” navy, stealth jets and other advanced technologies to better defend the country’s growing global interests.

In a collection of essays released this week by top officials on the 13th five-year plan, which maps out economic targets up to 2020, Xu Qiliang, a vice chairman of the powerful Central Military Commission, said China needs security to be able to develop its economy.

Citing ancient Chinese philosopher Shang Yang, who helped create a powerful military force in one of the early Chinese states, Xu said a country cannot get rich without decent armed forces.

“Security is a precondition for development, and development is the material base for security,” Xu wrote.

Many countries already mesh civilian resources with military development, and this is a necessary choice for China, he added.

“The Manhattan Project and the Apollo Program of the United States and China’s great undertakings like the Shenzhou space craft and Chang’e moon probe are very good examples,” Xu wrote.

This will also ensure there are new opportunities for economic development in China, he added, a country where growth is slowing and the government is trying to switch to a more sustainable, consumption-driven model.

“It will open up new development spaces, and push the good ship China ahead through the waves,” he wrote.

However, the journey ahead would not be smooth, and many problems have already been found, such as waste, unnecessary duplication of projects, Xu said.

China’s military plans have shaken nerves around the region and rung alarm bells in Washington too, though Beijing insists it has no hostile intent and has a genuine need to upgrade outmoded forces to ensure the security of what is now the world’s second-largest economy.

Xu said China was faced with multiple security threats, though he did not name them.

“Our country is going from large to powerful and is proceeding to the centre of the world stage. External pressures are getting greater, risks and challenges are also growing,” he wrote.

“We must improve our economic, technological and military prowess, otherwise we will be large but not powerful, appearing strong but actually being weak.”

Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Stephen Coates