China Says Booming Economy Fueling Military Might

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    Feb 16, 2009
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    BEIJING - China's booming economy will underpin the modernization of its military - a process Beijing wants to carry out without foreign help, the country's defense minister said in reports on Dec. 29.

    "In the coming five years, our military will push forward preparations for military conflict in every strategic direction," Liang Guanglie said in an interview carried by several state newspapers.

    "We may be living in peaceful times, but we can never forget war, never send the horses south or put the bayonets and guns away."

    Liang said China's military would continue to advance its capability to fight and win high-tech wars, while also boosting its conventional arsenal.

    But the defense minister - who in 10 days will receive U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates for talks in Beijing - said the 2.3-million-strong People's Liberation Army would not look abroad to improve its weaponry.

    "We will stand on our own feet to solve the problem and develop our equipment. The modernization of the Chinese military cannot depend on others, and cannot be bought," Liang said.

    China's massive annual military spending has aroused concern among its neighbors. Japan this month labeled its rival's military build-up a global "concern", citing its increased assertiveness in the East and South China Seas.

    U.S. military officials and strategists meanwhile see Beijing as a potential threat to Washington's once unrivaled dominance of the Pacific.

    China has repeatedly insisted its military growth does not pose any threat.

    Liang said China was currently beefing up its navy, air force and strategic missile forces, while decreasing its ground forces.

    "In the next five years, our economy and society will develop faster, boosting comprehensive national power," Liang said.

    "We will take the opportunity and speed up modernization of the military."

    Gates will come to Beijing from January 9-12 amid a spike in tensions in Northeast Asia, after North Korea's deadly shelling of a South Korean island in November.

    The South has staged a series of military exercises, including one with the United States, since the shelling that killed four people, including two civilians, on the island in the Yellow Sea.

    Gates' visit to China - North Korea's main ally - will come a year after Beijing ended military relations with Washington in protest against a multibillion-dollar U.S. arms package for rival Taiwan.

    The two nations have since resumed low-level military contacts at a technical level. Gates' visit comes at the invitation of Liang.

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