Regular Press Conference of the Ministry of National Defense on August 26

Source:China Military Online Editor:Chen Zhuo 2021-08-30 16:39:32

By Senior Colonel Tan Kefei, Deputy Director General of the Information Office of the Ministry of National Defense (MND) and Spokesperson for the MND

Senior Colonel Tan Kefei, 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?August 26, 2021. (Photo: mod.gov.cn)

(The following English text of the press conference is for reference. In case of any divergence of interpretation, the Chinese text shall prevail.)

First, I would like to announce three pieces of news.

The first is that the Chinese military will host, for the first time, a multinational peacekeeping live exercise “Shared Destiny-2021” at the PLAA Queshan combined tactical training base in central China’s Henan Province from September 6 to 15. Militaries of China, Pakistan, Mongolia and Thailand will dispatch more than 1,000 troops to participate in the exercise, involving major components of peacekeeping forces including infantry, fast response, security, helicopter, engineering, transportation, and medical services units.

This exercise features a scenario of joint operations of multinational peacekeeping forces, and a close-to-real battlefield environment set in accordance with the international, professional and realistic combat standards. In the exercise, drills of battlefield reconnaissance, security patrol, armed escort, protection of civilians, response to violent and terrorist attacks, construction of temporary operation base, battlefield first aid, and pandemic control will be conducted, for the purpose of responding to the UN “Action for Peacekeeping” initiative, promoting practical cooperation among troop-contributing countries and making joint efforts to enhance the peacekeeping standby forces’ capability of carrying out tasks.

China will fight for peace and safeguard peace. China is a firm supporter of and active participant in UN peacekeeping operations. Recently, several senior UN officials, including Jean-Pierre Lacroix, Under Secretary-General of the United Nations Department of Peace Operations, spoke highly of the outstanding contributions made by Chinese “Blue Helmets” to UN peacekeeping operations. The Chinese military, as a proactive practitioner of the vision of building a community with a shared future for mankind, will continue to take a more active part in UN peacekeeping operations and always be a staunch defender of world peace.

The second one. From September 23 to 30, the Peacekeeping Affairs Center of China’s Ministry of National Defense and the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations will co-host the “Shared Mission 2021” UN peacekeeping mission joint command post table-top exercise at the training base of the Peacekeeping Affairs Center in Beijing. The exercise will be conducted in accordance with the standard operational procedure of UN peacekeeping missions and unfolded in the three steps of theoretical preparation, case study and review and evaluation, with English as the working language. Participants will study cases and come up with the best solutions in terms of armed patrol, protection of civilians, emergency response, logistics support, military-civilian cooperation and other peacekeeping tasks. About 70 people will participate in the exercise, with the Chinese participants organizing the exercise in Beijing, and the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations and UN missions in Lebanon, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and South Sudan joining the exercise via video link.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of China’s restoration of its lawful seat in the UN. The exercise is aimed at promoting multilateralism, serving the building of a community with a shared future for mankind, and responding to the UN “Action for Peacekeeping” initiative. Its results and experience will be shared with the UN and other troop contributing countries.

The third one. The 10th Experts' Working Group meeting on Humanitarian Mine Action under ASEAN Defense Ministers’ Meeting (ADMM-Plus) will be held via video link at the PLA Army Engineering University on September 14. Co-chaired by China and Cambodia, the meeting will be attended by representatives from 18 members of ADMM-Plus, ASEAN Secretariat, ASEAN Regional Mine Action Center, and International Committee of the Red Cross. The meeting is designed to have in-depth communication and discussion on the opportunities and challenges regarding mine-clearing cooperation, so as to promote the building of a multilateral mine-clearing cooperation mechanism with deeper cooperation and greater coverage in the Asia-Pacific region.

Since its establishment, the ADMM-Plus mechanism has focused on addressing regional security issues and played an important role in strengthening defense cooperation, promoting common security, and safeguarding peace in the Asian-Pacific region. China stands ready to work with all parties involved in the ADMM-Plus mechanism to actively advance cooperation at all levels and in all areas, provide help and assistance to relevant militaries within its capacity and make new and bigger contributions to preserving peace and stability in the region.

Question: Exercise Xibu Unity-2021 (also known as Zapad/Interaction-2021) has captured close attention from domestic and foreign media and people. Could you please brief us on the highlights and achievements of this exercise?

Answer: China-Russia joint exercise Xibu Unity-2021 recently wrapped up successfully at the PLAA Qingtongxia Combined Tactical Training Base in Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region. The exercise has set a new height of major-country relations, opened up new prospects of major-country military exercises, and explored new models of joint training and exercise. It has achieved the goals of strengthening China-Russia strategic mutual trust, deepening exchanges and cooperation, and tempering real-combat capabilities of the two militaries.

The exercise featured many innovations, breakthroughs and highlights. First, both heads of Chinese and Russian defense ministries attended the event. Chinese State Councilor and Defense Minister General Wei Fenghe and Russian Defense Minister General Sergei Shoigu observed the live-fire drills together, held talks and witnessed the signing of cooperation documents. Wei also invited Shoigu to visit the Minning Town, a model of poverty alleviation cooperation between the eastern and western China. The construction of the Minning Town was proposed and promoted by Chinese President Xi Jinping. In the town, the two defense ministers witnessed the great accomplishments made by the Communist Party of China (CPC) in the past 100 years since its founding, and the remarkable achievements in poverty alleviation led by the CPC. This has given the military exercise more political significance.

Second, this was the first time that Russian has sent sizable troops to participate in strategic and campaign-level exercises organized by the Chinese military. General Li Zuocheng, Member of China’s Central Military Commission (CMC) and Chief of the CMC Joint Staff Department, acted as chief director of the exercise. Gen. Li attended the opening ceremony of the exercise where he announced the kick-off of the exercise, which marks the transition of the PLA’s high-level exercises from the independent research and training to joint exercises opening to foreign militaries.

Third, the Chinese and Russian troops operated in a highly integrated way, realizing the transition from separate grouping and planning to mixed grouping and joint planning, and from joint training in different platforms to joint training in the same platform.

Fourth, a China-Russia specialized commanding information system was used to achieve accurate command and control of the troops’ operations. The two militaries carried out efficient collaboration by virtue of the network information system, realizing the transition of the joint operations between the two militaries from joint operations in form to joint operations in essence.

Fifth, innovations of joint counter-terrorism operational tactics, including saturation fire assault, in-depth air landing and occupation of key locations, drone swarm penetration and attack, etc. were introduced in the exercise, and the operational mode transformed from air-ground integrated attack to all-dimension and all-domain penetration.

Held against the background of profound changes in the global situation and rampaging COVID-19 pandemic, the exercise, defined by the two militaries’ joint planning and operation in response to real threats, showed the world the historic achievements and brand new outlook of the Chinese military after its overall revolutionary reform to realize the goal of building a strong military, and displayed the two sides’ resolve and capability of jointly handling security threats and safeguarding regional peace and stability. The exercise is of great significance in the history of China’s military development and China-Russia relations.

Next, the two militaries will resolutely implement the consensus reached by the heads of state of the two countries, keep strengthening strategic communication and practical cooperation, and continue to explore new modes of international military cooperation for the new era, so as to inject new political, contemporary and security connotations into the China-Russia comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination for a new era.

Question: It is reported that the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress (NPC) has recently deliberated and adopted the newly revised version of the Military Service Law. What’s the purpose of the revision of the military service law? What are the innovations and improvements in military service policies and institutions?

Answer: The military service law is an important law concerning a nation’s military institution. It is of great importance for standardizing and strengthening the military service work, ensuring performing military services by citizens in accordance with the law, providing sufficient replenishment and reserve of service members, and building consolidated national defense and strong armed forces. On August 20, the newly revised version of China’s Military Service Law was deliberated and adopted at the 30th meeting of the Standing Committee of the 13th NPC. On that same day, President Xi Jinping signed the No.95 Presidential Order to officially enact the law, which will come into force on October 1, 2021. The revised version of the Military Service Law follows Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era, Xi Jinping Thought on Strengthening the Military and the military strategic guideline for a new era. It is guided by the goal of building a strong military, aimed at improving combat readiness and driven by reform and innovation. Based on the idea that it is an honor to serve in the military and focusing on building a world-class military, the policies and institutions of military service are innovated and optimized in the revised military law to improve the recruitment of new conscripts and retention of active-duty service members, ensure the support of veterans, and make military service a profession respected by the whole society.

With 65 articles in 11 chapters, the main changes are in eight aspects. First, it strengthens the Party’s unified leadership over the military service work in the form of law and confirms the guiding role of Xi Jinping Thought on Strengthening the Military. Second, it optimizes the basic military service system by revising “combining compulsory service members with volunteers, militia members with reserves” into “combining voluntary and compulsory military services with the former as the mainstay”. Third, it adjusts the reserve service system by defining the reservists as those pre-assigned to active military units and those assigned to reserve units to perform reserve service.

Fourth, it improves the military service registration system by standardizing its subjects and scope, procedures and methods, review and verification, and information management. Fifth, it puts more emphasis on the recruitment of high-caliber service members by stipulating that higher education institutes should have a dedicated office responsible for conscription and raising the age limit of conscription for postgraduates to 26-years-old. Sixth, it improves the benefits for service members by stipulating that compulsory conscripts who have rendered meritorious service may be promoted ahead of time to be non-commissioned officers; recruits may retain their household registration; compensations for the families of compulsory conscripts shall be borne by central and local finance together.

Seventh, it optimizes the retirement and resettlement policies by adding that non-commissioned and commissioned officers may choose to receive monthly retirement pay after exiting active service. Finally, it innovates new ways and approaches of military service work. It is stipulated that the state should strengthen informationalization of military service work, establish mechanisms concerning the assessment, incentives and accountability of the work, and further identify the legal liabilities of offices and individuals.

Question: US defense and military leaders recently made some negative remarks about China-related issues on multiple occasions. US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said that China’s sovereignty claim over most waters of the South China Sea violates the rights enjoyed by Southeast Asian countries under international law. Chief of Staff of the US Air Force Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr. said the PLA Air Force will surpass the US Air Force in 2035 and there will be catastrophic consequences if the US Air Force cannot catch up. What’s your comment on their remarks?

Answer: For some time, some people in the US military have made irresponsible and erroneous remarks on China-related issues repeatedly. We are firmly opposed to that. The relations between the two countries and the two militaries face serious difficulties and are at a critical juncture. The root cause is that the US sticks to hegemonism, Cold-War thinking, and zero-sum game. It doesn’t accept, allow or tolerate China’s growth and development. Taking China as a strategic rival and security threat, the US has launched all-rounded containment and suppression against China, which has seriously damaged China’s national sovereignty, security and development interests.

China firmly adheres to the path of peaceful development, upholds a national defense policy that is defensive in nature, and remains a constructor of world peace, a contributor of global development and a defender of international order.

China is the largest contributor of peacekeeping troops among the permanent members of the UN Security Council. Since 1990, the Chinese military has dispatched more than 40,000 peacekeepers to participate in 25 UN peacekeeping missions. In addition, China has dispatched naval vessels to execute regular escort missions at the Gulf of Aden and in waters off the Somalian coast, taken an active part in international disaster relief, humanitarian assistance, and international anti-pandemic cooperation, and carried out extensive global and regional counter-terrorism cooperation. China stays committed to safeguarding multilateralism and international fairness and justice, and promoting common human values including peace, development, equity, justice, democracy and freedom. These efforts are widely recognized by the international community.

Facts have proved and will continue to prove that China’s defense development is a positive factor in the growth of forces for peace in the world, and the Chinese military is always a staunch force in protecting world peace and stability and serving the building of a community with a shared future for mankind.

Regarding the South China Sea issue, China has indisputable sovereignty over South China Sea islands and their neighboring waters. China is committed to working with countries directly involved to settle the disputes through negotiation and consultation on the basis of respecting historical facts and international law.

However, the US, a country out of the region, has over and again flaunted its military power, stirred troubles and made provocations in the South China Sea under the disguise of “freedom of navigation” and in disregard of international law and the basic norms governing international relations. The US has undermined the efforts made by regional countries in maintaining peace and stability in the South China Sea. It is a direct source of heightened tensions in the South China Sea.

A healthy and stable mil-to-mil relationship is in the interests of both China and the US and meets the general expectation of the international community. We urge the US side to truly respect China’s core interests and major concerns, correct its wrong words and deeds, and do more to facilitate the development of bilateral ties and military relations. The Chinese military will resolutely safeguard China’s national sovereignty, security and development interests and protect peace and stability in the region and the world at large.

Question: We noticed that the Chinese military has provided COVID-19 vaccines to militaries of some countries this month. Please give us more information.

Answer: The situation of global COVID-19 prevention and control remains complex and challenging. The Chinese military, while making efforts to control the pandemic within, honestly acts on President Xi Jinping’s promise of making China’s COVID-19 vaccine a global public good and continues to provide COVID-19 vaccine assistance to relevant foreign militaries.

Since August, the Chinese military has successively provided COVID-19 vaccines to the militaries of Bolivia, Ethiopia, Myanmar, Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. Next, the Chinese military will continue to work closely with defense departments and militaries of foreign countries to strengthen cooperation on fighting the pandemic, tide difficulties together, and make a greater contribution to building a global community of health for all.

Question:Recently, the US military held the Large Scale Exercise (LSE) 2021, and troops from the US, the UK, Australia and Japan jointly participated in the exercise. The exercise is aimed to strengthen the rules-based regional order and maintain a “free and open Indo-Pacific”. According to media reports, the US, Japan, India and Australia plan to conduct maritime joint exercise Malabar 2021 in the Philippines Sea from August 26 to 29. Some analyze that the exercise mainly targets China who is increasing maritime activities. What's your comment on this?

Answer: We have noticed relevant movements of the US. China always holds that international military exchanges and cooperation should be conducive to safeguarding regional peace and stability and enhancing mutual understanding and trust, rather than targeting or undermining the interests of any third party. However, the US, for some time, by perceiving some other countries as its imaginary enemies, organized large-scale military exercises, formed small group alliances and showed off its military power in relevant waters, which has severely undermined regional peace and stability, and run counter to the common aspiration of countries in the region to pursue peace, cooperation and development.

What should be emphasized is that practicing unilateralism and instigating confrontation will only lead to tension, instead of bringing about so-called “freedom and openness”. We hope relevant countries can respect the common expectations of the people in the Asia-Pacific region for peace and development, conform to the historical trend, abandon their Cold War thinking, stop building confrontational blocs, and do more things that are beneficial to regional and world peace and stability. China will continue to promote common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable security. Weare willing to work with regional countries to deepen security cooperation, jointly address threats and challenges and make the Asia-Pacific region a stable plate in the world.

Question: According to media reports, Japanese Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi recently said that Japan is highly concerned about the situation in the East China Sea and the South China Sea, and “China is trying to change the status quo unilaterally backed by force and coercion”. Japan’s Ministry of Defense announced that it plans to deploy an electronic warfare unit on the Yonaguni Island and deploy the ground-to-air and ground-to-ship missile units of Japan Ground Self-defense Force on the Ishigaki Island by 2023. It is also reported that Japan intends to revise the Mid-Term Defense Program (MTDP) to increase spending on weapons and equipment of its Self-Defense Forces (SDF) and increase investment in areas of outer space, cyber and artificial intelligence to respond to China’s increasingly aggressive behavior in surrounding waters. What’s your comment on this?

Answer: For some time, Japan has ignored the basic norms governing international relations, recklessly hyped up the so-called “Chinese military threat”, fiercely criticized China’s legitimate maritime activities, and constantly created excuses for its own military expansion, which is extremely wrong and irresponsible, China is firmly opposed to it.

The Diaoyu Island and its affiliated islands have always been an inherent part of Chinese territory. China has indisputable sovereignty over the islands in the South China Sea and their neighboring waters. China has firm will and resolve to safeguard its own sovereignty, security and development interests. Meanwhile, China stays committed to settling disputes through dialogue and consultation.

China has never coerced other countries by force or engaged in military expansion, nor enslaved the people of other countries. In modern times, it is the Japanese militarists that frequently launched wars of aggression, oppressed and enslaved the people of Asian countries, and brought lasting and grave disasters to countries like China in this region. Due to these historical reasons, China and other Asian countries are very concerned about the recent wrong actions of the Japanese side, including visiting the Yasukuni Shrine by some politicians, whitewashing Japan's militarism, and its continuous increase of military deployments in the region. We urge the Japanese side to reflect on its history of aggression, draw lessons from history, stop spreading rumors to smear China and do more things that are conducive to enhancing mutual trust with neighboring countries and maintaining regional peace and stability.

Senior Colonel Tan Kefei, 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 August 26, 2021. (Photo: mod.gov.cn)

Question: The situation in Afghanistan has undergone major changes. The Taliban forces have entered Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan, and announced founding of the “Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan”. There are comments that the current situation in Afghanistan is largely due to the hasty withdrawal of the US troops. What’s your comment on this?

Answer: The US launched the Afghan war 20 years ago, plunging Afghanistan into turmoil and the flames of war. Over the past two decades, the war has killed over one hundred thousand Afghan civilians and displaced about 11 million people who have become war refugees. The recent hasty withdrawal of the US troops from Afghanistan has delivered a significant impact again on the situation in Afghanistan. What has happened proves that problems cannot be solved through power or military means, which, on the contrary, will trigger more problems and greater turmoil .

At present, the situation in Afghanistan has undergone major changes. China always respects the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Afghanistan, follows the principle of non-interference in Afghanistan’s internal affairs and adheres to a friendly policy toward the entire Afghan people. China respects the Afghan people’s rights to make independent choice of their own future, and stands ready to continue to develop good-neighborliness, friendship and cooperation with Afghanistan and play a constructive role in Afghanistan’s peace and reconstruction..

Question: Recently, Jaushieh Joseph Wu, head of the Taiwan authorities’ foreign relations department, has stated on many occasions that Taiwan is at the very forefront of the threat of mainland’s military expansion, hence, Taiwan should improve its self-defense capabilities and keep strengthening cooperation with “like-minded countries”. Besides, it’s also reported that in order to ensure the accomplishment of the so-called “territory” defense mission, the Taiwan authorities have been stepping up the research and development of weapons and equipment. What’s your comment on this?

Answer: The one-China principle is the universal consensus of the international community, and adherence to the one-China principle is a universally recognized norm governing international relations. The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) authorities blatantly made “Taiwan independence” remarks, arrogantly clamored for provocations. They are just biting off more than they could chew.

We warn the DPP authorities and the “Taiwan independence” separatist forces that any attempt to solicit foreign support is doomed to be a pipe dream, and seeking “independence” by military means leads to a dead end. China must and will be reunified. No one should underestimate the strong determination, firm will and strong capability of the Chinese people to safeguard national sovereignty and territorial integrity. The Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has maintained a state of high alert at all times and stood ready to smash any “Taiwan independence” separatist plot.

Question: According to the news released by the PLA Hong Kong Garrison recently, the troops stationed therein have successfully completed the 24th rotation on August 25 since they began garrisoning Hong Kong in 1997. What are the special considerations for this rotation? What anti-epidemic measures have the garrison troops taken? How will the PLA Hong Kong Garrison perform its defense duties in the future?

Answer: The Chinese PLA Hong Kong Garrison has successfully completed the 24throtation since its deployment to Hong Kong in 1997. With the approval of the Central Military Commission (CMC), this routine rotation was organized in accordance with the relevant provisions of the Law of the People’s Republic of China on Garrisoning the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR). It is conducive to further improving the Garrison’s ability to perform defense duties. In response to the current situation of the COVID-19 pandemic, the garrison troops have adopted strict measures in pandemic prevention and control during the rotation, including organizing the screening of people, wearing personal protective equipment throughout the process, and avoiding unnecessary contact en route to ensure that the pandemic prevention and control work could be carried out in a safe and orderly manner.

Next, the PLA Hong Kong Garrison will firmly follow the command of the CPC Central Committee, the CMC and President Xi Jinping, firmly implement the “one country, two systems” principle and the Basic Law, and perform the defense duties in accordance with the law. The garrison troops will firmly support the HKSAR government in its law-based governance, actively participate in social public welfare undertakings, join hands with Hong Kong compatriots to overcome the difficulties and obstacles, and always serve as an anchor for national sovereignty, security and Hong Kong's prosperity and stability.

Question: It is reported that breakthroughs have been made in the quality and efficiency of the PLA Navy’s pilot cadet recruitment in 2021, and significant progress has been made in the training of carrier-based fighter pilots. Please give us more relevant information on it.

Answer: The PLA Navy pilot recruitment in 2021 is indeed a hot topic, which has drawn wide attention from all walks of life. Both the number of places open for application and the number of applicants have increased significantly compared with those of previous years, covering more than 200 regions in 22 provinces across China, with more than 13,000 students signing up. At present, the PLA Navy has successfully accomplished pilot recruitment for 2021 with breakthroughs both in quality and efficiency. The recruitment has the following three features:

First, the scores of the admitted students in the national college entrance examination have hit a new high, with an average of 55 points above the cut-off score of the Tier 1 universities, and the admitted students with a score of 600 or more account for 22 percent.

Second, the selection of carrier-borne fighter pilot cadets has been overfulfilled with a large number of excellent cadets of high potential for flying carrier-borne aircraft standing out, effectively meeting the needs in training carrier-borne fighter pilots.

Finally, the navy’s juvenile aviation schools have gradually become a major channel for fresh pilot cadets recruitment. Since 2015, the PLA Navy has established 14 juvenile aviation schools based on local quality regular high schools in different provinces, which have contributed 38.6 percent of admitted pilot cadet candidates this year.

Next, the cadets will receive comprehensive and systematic training at the Naval Aviation University (NAU). Among them, some will be selected to attend the training program combining carrier-borne aircraft piloting and naval ship operational commanding, and some will be sent to Tsinghua University, Peking University, or Beihang University for joint degree programs with student status both at the NAU and at one of the three civilian universities.

Since last year, the PLA Navy has made a major breakthrough in training carrier-borne fighter pilots. Apart from selecting trained pilots from naval aviation units, the Navy also recruit pilot cadets from high schools. Not long ago, several pilot instructors of NAU obtained the qualification certification for night-time take-off and deck-landing on aircraft carrier, marking that the university is able to carry out full-time domain training of carrier-borne fighter pilot cadets. Gradual progress has been made in large-scale and systematic training of carrier-borne fighter pilots. Those youths who have lofty ambitions to fly aircraft and navigate ships are welcome to join the PLA Navy carrier-borne fighter pilots.

Question: Recently, as variants become more transmissible, the Covid-19 pandemic resurged across the world and infectious cases reappeared in multiple places in China. How does the military strengthen epidemic prevention and control? What specific measures does the military take to support local anti-epidemic efforts?

Answer: Recently, the Covid-19 pandemic resurged across the world and infectious cases reappeared in multiple places in China. Under the strong leadership of the CPC Central Committee, the CMC and President Xi, the military has always regarded epidemic prevention and control as an important political task. In accordance with China’s overall epidemic prevention and control deployment, the military has activated the emergency response mechanism in the first place, responded to the situation in a scientific and precise manner, and adopted practical and effective measures for the management and control of key regions and cities, the prevention and control of key troops, and the protection of key personnel, so as to minimize the epidemic’s impact on combat-readiness training and major tasks. All troops of the military have maintained good combat readiness.

At the same time, in response to the current situation of epidemic prevention and control, and at the request of local governments, relevant medical units of the military have proactively assisted local governments in carrying out such tasks as nucleic acid testing and epidemiological investigation, and completed those tasks with high standards and quality. The people’s military will always be ready to follow orders and act without hesitation, resolutely complete the epidemic prevention and control tasks assigned by the Party and the people, and serve as a staunch defender of the people’s safety and health.

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