By Senior Colonel Ren Guoqiang, Deputy Director of the Information Office of China's Ministry of National Defense (MND) and Spokesperson for the MND
Senior Colonel Ren Guoqiang, spokesperson for the Ministry of National Defense (MND) of the People's Republic of China (PRC), answers reporters' questions at a regular press conference on May 29, 2020. (Photo: mod.gov.cn)
Question: When attending a plenary meeting of the delegation of the People's Liberation Army(PLA) and the People's Armed Police Force(PAP) at the third session of the 13th National People's Congress, President Xi Jinping pointed out that COVID-19 posed a major test to the Chinese military. The people’s military took immediate action upon the Party’s orders and contributed a great deal to the battle. Please brief us on the military’s achievements in assisting civil sectors and other countries to fight the pandemic.
Answer: Since the COVID-19 outbreak, President Xi Jinping, as the core of the Communist Party of China(CPC), commander-in-chief of the military and leader of the people, has personally directed and deployed the national response, and led the whole Party, whole military and people of all ethnic groups in the war against the pandemic. Upholding the “people-oriented” development philosophy, and acting on its fundamental purpose of serving the people whole-heartedly, the PLA has bravely took on the most difficult and arduous tasks, making great contributions to the strategic achievements in preventing and controlling the epidemic.
With the spread of COVID-19 across the world, the PLA has actively engaged in international anti-epidemic cooperation with the defense authorities and militaries of many countries. The Chinese military has dispatched military anti-virus experts to four countries including Laos and Cambodia; provided epidemic control supplies to the militaries of more than 20 countries, including Pakistan, Russia, and Thailand; and, held video conferences with militaries of Russia, South Africa, and other countries to share epidemic prevention and control experience. In these ways, the PLA contributed the “Chinese strength” to the global anti-virus efforts.
The virus respects no borders, but true friendship stands in hardships. As President Xi has pointed out, mankind lives in a community with a shared future. Only through solidarity and collaboration could we defeat the pandemic. The PLA will continue to work closely with foreign defense departments and militaries to jointly disperse the gloom of the pandemic with the sunshine of cooperation, and safeguard our common home through solidarity.
Question: In the just concluded Two Sessions, it was announced that China’s defense budget for 2020 will grow by 6.6 percent compared with the previous year. What’s your comment on that? Please brief us on how the defense budget will be used.
Answer: As examined and approved by the 3rd session of the 13th NPC, the defense budget of the central government for 2020 will increase by 6.6 percent from the previous year, maintaining a moderate and steady growth.
China stays committed to the path of peaceful development, a defensive defense policy, and balanced economic and defense development. The scale of defense expenditure is determined in accordance with economic development, defense needs and the current domestic and international situations.
China’s defense budget will mainly be spent in the following areas.
First, in view of China’s economic and social development, the defense budget will be used to improve the working, training, and living conditions of the armed forces, and provide better benefits for the officers and soldiers.
Second, it will be used to promote the modernization of weapons and equipment, implement the major programs and key projects specified in the 13th Five-year Plan and eliminate certain outdated equipment and upgrade some outmoded equipment.
Third, it will be used to advance defense and military reform and provide finance for the reform of military policies and institutions.
Fourth, it will be used to strengthen combat-readiness and realistic training and provide support for diversified military missions, such as international peacekeeping, vessel protection, humanitarian aid, and disaster relief and rescue.
As China grows stronger, the PLA will better fulfill its missions and tasks in the new era, provide more public security goods to the international community, and make greater contributions to world peace and stability, and the building of a community with a shared future for mankind.
Question: This year is the final year of achieving a decisive victory in the battle against poverty. What has the military done to help win this battle?
Answer: When attending a plenary meeting of the delegation of the PLA and the PAP at the third session of the 13th National People's Congress on May 26, President Xi Jinping pointed out that the armed forces, while performing their military tasks, shall support the civil sectors in economic and social development and winning the battle of poverty alleviation, and assist the civil sectors to maintain social stability. Being a people’s military under the absolute leadership of the CPC, the PLA has always put people first and has exerted its strengths to carry out a variety of campaigns of targeted poverty alleviation. Being an important force on the special battlefield against poverty, the PLA has provided targeted assistance to 924,000 impoverished people of 293,000 households in 4,100 poor villages.
The PLA’s engagement in poverty alleviation has three defining features. First, it follows the Party’s absolute leadership. The military has resolutely implemented the decisions and instructions of the CPC Central Committee and President Xi, and taken poverty alleviation as a key political duty. It has went to rural areas to publicize the Party’s and the nation’s decisions on eliminating poverty and policies for improving the well-being and welfare of rural households, boosting people’s confidence and resolve to step out of poverty and backwardness through hard work.
Second, it stays in alignment with the PLA’s purpose of serving the people. All troops view the places they station as their hometown and the local people as their families. They have helped form Party branches in 3,468 poor villages. Provincial military commands have recommended over 5,100 veterans to be secretaries or members of the Party branches. Based on the actual needs of the villages, the troops have supported 8,351 projects covering farming, animal husbandry, rural tourism and agricultural products processing to help local people earn higher incomes.
Third, it has generated many practical measures for targeted poverty alleviation. The PLA has made targeted efforts to help eliminate poverty through education. It has helped build 156 “Bayi Aimin Schools” along the route of the Long March and 1,544 primary schools and kindergartens in designated villages. It has also provided medical assistance by building 1,458 clinics in impoverished villages and 113 hospitals at or above level-2 in poor counties. Besides, officers and soldiers have been organized to plant trees every year to help improve ecological environment.
Lifting China’s poor people out of poverty is a dream pursued by the Chinese nation for thousands of years. With the strong leadership of the CPC Central Committee and President Xi, the military will act on its fundamental purpose of serving the people whole-heartedly and make strenuous efforts both in the battle of improving combat readiness and the battle of poverty alleviation, so as to live up to the Party’s and the people’s expectations.
Question: In recent years, more and more young people of draft age are willing to join the military. Many of them are interested in the policies of recruiting non-commissioned officers(NCOs) directly from college graduates. At present, the epidemic prevention and control has leveled off. Could you please brief us on this year’s NCO recruitment?
Answer: On May 4th, the Youth Day, President Xi Jinping sent the message "youth shines through hardships and life is elevated through hard work" to young people of all ethnic groups across the country. We welcome aspiring young people to join the military and serve the country. This year’s recruitment of NCOs from college graduates has been scheduled to start on August 1 and end on September 30. At present, the national conscription website has opened an online registration channel for that. Compared with previous years, this year’s conscription has the following characteristics:
First, the number of college graduates recruits will increase to implement decisions and plans of the CPCCC. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the CPCCC and the State Council have made a series of decisions and plans on securing employment, broadening employment channels for college graduates, increasing the number of college graduates recruits and increasing the proportion of fresh graduates in conscription. Therefore, this year’s recruitment of NCOs will be focused on civilian college graduates, especially fresh graduates. This move is conducive to recruiting young talent for the military and broadening the employment channels for college graduates. It can help improve combat capabilities of the armed forces and ease employment pressure in civil sectors.
Second, the draft of NCOs will be organized together with that of conscripts to expand the talent pool. Based on the Implementation Plan for the Reform of Biannual Recruitment and Retirement for Service Members approved by the State Council and the CMC, this year’s recruitment of NCOs will be organized together with the recruitment of conscripts for the second half of the year. For conscription authorities, it would be easier to manage and coordinate conscription and improve the quality and efficiency. For the armed forces, they would be able to select talent from a larger pool and recruit more high-calibre personnel. For the young people registered for conscription, they would have more opportunities and realize their dreams of joining the military and serving the country.
Third, the recruitment will be conducted with more targeted measures to strengthen the overall NCO team in the military. This year’s conscription will be organized directly by the conscription office of the MND instead of prefecture-level authorities in previous years. More specifically, an online registration of young applicants will be organized nationwide to have a clear understanding of the number and professional abilities of the applicants. This can help ensure the accuracy and effectiveness of the conscription plan, recruit more young people with specialties needed by the military and strengthen the overall NCO team.
Question: According to media reports, China's first domestically-built aircraft carrier Shandong has left the Dalian Shipyard on May 25 for military missions at sea. This is its first training since being commissioned five months ago, showing that the Shandong has primarily formed its combat capabilities. Could you please brief us on this?
Answer: The PLA Navy is conducting sea trials and training exercises for aircraft carrier Shandong in accordance with the annual training plan to test the performance of weapons and equipment, strengthen training and enhance the ship’s capabilities to perform missions and tasks.
Question: At present, China’s domestic epidemic prevention and control has entered a normalized stage. What measures has the military taken for normalized epidemic prevention and control?
Answer: The domestic situation of containing COVID-19 has been steadily improving. However, the task of defeating the disease remains arduous as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to spread in the world. Following the national plans and requirements on disease control and prevention, the military will work together with all public health forces in the nation to carry out normalized control measures and further enhance epidemic control in the military. First, control measures for military units concerning the entry and exit, movement of personnel and public facilities management will be adjusted in line with the risk levels of the areas the military units stationed. We will implement the normalized control measures and will not let our guard down. Second, our overseas military units including peacekeeping forces will strengthen epidemic control and take necessary and reasonable measures to ensure their safety. Third, we will highlight epidemic control in key areas such as the reopening of military schools and send supervision teams for the reopening. Fourth, we will strictly implement the measure of "early identification, reporting, isolation, and treatment" for people with suspected symptoms such as fever, investigate suspected cases promptly and effectively block pathogen transmission.
Question: The United States has taken a series of negative actions against China recently. The White House issued a so-called United States Strategic Approach to the People’s Republic of China to exaggerate US-China confrontation. US military vessels and aircraft frequently came to the South China Sea to conduct freedom of navigation operations. What is your comment to these actions?
Answer: The US report ignores basic facts and deliberately distorts China’s political system and strategic intentions to exaggerate the so-called “China threat” and advocate all-round toughness against China. The report is full of Cold War and hegemonic mentality, arrogance and prejudice. It starts with a false presumption and comes up with a wrong judgment and conclusion. China is strongly dissatified and firmly opposed to it.
The current situation in the South China Sea is generally stable. The United States sent warships and aircraft to the South China Sea to carry out the so-called freedom of navigation operations to conduct close-in reconnaissance against China's islands and reefs and hold targeted military exercises. These operations are the real drivers for militarization of the South China Sea. China urges the US side to respect the efforts made by the countries in the region to safeguard peace and stability in the South China Sea and make more positive and constructive efforts.
Question: Recently, at the unveiling ceremony of the United States Space Force service flag, US Defense Secretary Mark Esper said that in the past few years, US opponents have militarized the space and turned it into a battlefield. On May 18, Japanese Defense Minister Taro Kono announced the official establishment of the first Space Operations Squadron within the Japan Air Self-Defense Force, the Space Domain Mission Unit. What's the comment of China on the establishment of space forces by the US and Japan in succession?
Answer: We pay close attention to what you mentioned. In fact, outer space is the public property of humankind and should be used for peaceful purposes. It is a common responsibility of the international community to safeguard the security of outer space. China has always advocated and proactively committed to the peaceful use of outer space, and firmly opposed the weaponization of and arms race in outer space.
Some countries build up their military forces and seek absolute military superiority in outer space under the pretext of military threat from other countries, which will trigger arms race therein, and hurt global strategic stability. China urges the countries concerned to hold a prudent and responsible attitude to prevent the outer space from being reduced to a new battlefield, and to work together in safeguarding lasting peace and tranquility therein.
Question: In recent years, the defense and military ties between China and its neighbors have been strengthened. However, there are also some disputes and differences. What’s your comment on China’s military cooperation with neighboring countries?
Answer: It should be noted that the current security situation around China is generally peaceful and stable. China has always focused on building a community of shared future with its neighboring countries, pursued the foreign policy of "building friendship and partnership with neighbors," and developed friendly and cooperative relations with its neighbors. China is committed to peacefully resolving disputes over territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests. Meanwhile, China will unswervingly defend its own national sovereignty, security, and maritime rights and interests.
In the new era, China has made a lot of progress in promoting military cooperation with neighboring countries. First, there is greater mutual trust between China and its neighbors. Following the direction set by the heads-of-state, the PLA has strengthened high-level exchanges, strategic dialogues, and professional exchanges with the defense departments and armed forces of neighboring countries. It has promoted cooperation mechanisms such as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization(SCO), Beijing Xiangshan Forum, and security cooperation under the China-ASEAN framework and continued to deepen new security partnership with neighboring countries. Second, there have been extended practical cooperation. China and its neighboring countries have regularized bilateral and multilateral joint exercises and training on counter-terrorism, peacekeeping, rescue, maritime security and service tactics. They have had extensive exchanges in border and coastal defense, academic institutions and think tanks, education and training, medicine and medical treatment, and equipment technology. These efforts have enriched the contents of China’s defense relations with neighboring countries. Third, anti-pandemic cooperation has achieved remarkable results. Since the COVID-19 outbreak, the PLA leaders have expressed mutual sympathies and support with defense and military leaders of China’s neighboring countries. we have provided each other with material assistance. China has sent military anti-epidemic expert groups to some neighboring countries and held video conferences to share the experience of pandemic prevention and control. With these activities, the friendly relations between the PLA and the defense departments and armed forces of neighboring countries have been further enhanced.
Question: On this year’s May 4th Youth Day, President Xi Jinping’s message received strong response from China’s youth. The military barracks has attracted many aspiring young people to make contributions to the great course of building a strong military. Please tell us what the military has done to study and internalize the spirit of President Xi’s message.
Answer: President Xi’s May 4th message to young people of all ethnic groups in China received a strong response in the military. Based on its own realities, the military organized a series of activities under the theme of “Bear in mind President Xi’s words and build a strong military with your own efforts” to celebrate the May 4th Youth Day. The activities include themed Communist Youth League activities, keynote lectures, and publicity of young members’ meritorious service. The military units and individuals that have being commended this year by the national Communist Youth League collectively launched an initiative, calling on the military youth to firmly obey the Party's command and follow the Party’s lead, actively participate in military training to improve combat preparedness, practice strict discipline and healthy and civilized lifestyle, and make contributions in areas needed most by the Party and the people.
“Youth shines through hardships, life is elevated through hard work”. During their study and discussion, young service members said that they would unswervingly implement the decisions and plans of the CPCCC, the CMC, and President Xi Jinping, take the passion for the Party and the country as the driving force, make relentless efforts to realize the Chinese dream and the building of a strong military as a new force for military build-up in the new era.
Question: Recently, the official WeChat account of the PLA Rocket Force released a video of the opening of a military school. According to reports, many military academies have been reopened and resuming classes successively. Please confirm and introduce the situation.
Answer: In accordance with the plans for pandemic control and prevention of the nation and the military, the opening of the spring semester in military schools shall be organized prudently based on local epidemic control situations and implement an accountability mechanism. At present, military schools are gradually reopening and organize the return of students. According to our information, military schools have made solid preparations, including adjusting curriculum and upgrading teaching facilities, to ensure a quick start of normal classroom teaching after the returning of students.
Question: Some foreign media reports say a border confrontation happened recently between China and India. Please confirm.
Answer: China’s position on the border issue between China and India is clear. The Chinese border defense forces stays committed to maintaining peace and stability in the border areas. At present, the situation in the China-India border areas is generally stable and controllable. The two sides can resolve related issues through the established border-related mechanisms and diplomatic channels.
Question: Tsai Ing-wen took office as the leader of Taiwan on May 20. On May 21, the US State Department approved the sale of an estimated $180 million worth of MK-48 Heavy Weight Torpedoes and related equipment and technology to Taiwan. What’s your comment?
Answer: China firmly opposes the sale of arms by the US to Taiwan. The wrong action of the US seriously violates international law and the basic norms of international relations, the one-China principle and regulations of the three China-US joint communiqués. It is a grave interference in China’s internal affairs and greatly undermines the relations between China and the US and the military-to-military relationship. It harms the peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait and is extremely dangerous. We urge the US to stop selling arms to Taiwan immediately, stop developing any form of official relations with Taiwan, and do not send wrong messages to the "Taiwan independence" separatist forces.