Illustration: Liu Rui/GT
During the seven years I was the spokesperson for China's Ministry of National Defense, I handled topics related to the country's peaceful development and modernization of its defense capabilities almost on a daily basis.
Many foreign journalists, scholars, and others concerned with China's defense asked me questions about the development of the country's aircraft carrier, J-20 stealth fighters, and whether the PLA Rocket Force was equipped with new missiles.
I provided objective information on defense and military development during and after press conferences and organized foreign journalists' visits to our troops. My colleagues also introduced the modernization of the Chinese military through various channels and platforms. Such endeavors contributed to developing an objective, balanced, and comprehensive view of China's military.
However, some journalists were very interesting. If I didn't brief them on the latest development of China's military's buildup, they perceived the military as non-transparent and a threat. If I showed them conventional weapons, they said it was just for show and the military was still viewed as a threat. If I showed them advanced weaponry, they worried we were even more threatening due to the country's rapid development.
I was confused by all this and wondered if a therapy had been developed that could cure them of their "Chinaphobia?"
Many asked that since the Chinese military pursues peaceful development, why are they continuing to strengthen the modernization drive?
The answer, to begin with, is out of the need to safeguard sovereignty and national interests. China has yet to achieve national reunification.
In view of the severe challenges to world peace brought about by hegemonism and power politics, the country faces the arduous task of safeguarding sovereignty, security, and territorial integrity. At the same time, it must address security threats such as terrorism, separatism, extremism, and natural disasters.
Second, China needs to fulfill its international obligations as a major global power. Chinese traditional culture emphasizes that friends and neighbors should help each other.
Recent years have seen China participate in UN peacekeeping and maritime rescue operations. China's global military presence is not an attempt to gain a sphere of influence, interfere with the internal affairs of other countries, invade foreign territories or disrupt regional order, but to assume more international responsibilities and obligations according to its capabilities and play a more significant role in maintaining regional stability and world peace.
Third, China needs to catch up with new military trends. Major powers have achieved progress in the field of advanced military technology. You cannot demand one stick to old-fashioned flip phones when everyone has switched to smartphones.
China has made some progress in military modernization, but it lags Western countries. As military modernization continues, defense power does not determine whether or not a country is a threat.
China has reiterated it will remain on the path of peaceful development and pursue a defensive national defense policy. China will never seek hegemony, nor will it engage in military expansion. China is a country that keeps its promises.
Finally, I want to tell the story of a young, highly educated Chinese solider who belongs to the generation born after the 1990s. This man has served in the Chinese Navy for three years. It only took him one minute to decide he would join the Navy, but he has congratulated himself throughout his three years of service.
While in the Navy, this man has done two things. One, fighting pirates in the Gulf of Aden while safeguarding the international sea passage. Two, patrolling the South China Sea for the safety of the motherland. This man only wishes to safeguard national security and contribute to world peace like all Chinese soldiers.
The article is an abstract of a speech by Yang Yujun, dean of the Academy of Media and Public Affairs, Communication University of China, at the 2019 China Development Forum recently held in Beijing.