By Wang Xiaoxuan
Chinese President Xi Jinping, also chairman of the Central Military Commission, reviewed a navy parade in the waters off the Hainan province on Thursday, which involved more than 10,000 personnel. This military exercise in the South China Sea showed Chinese navy’s achievements since the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China. Xi reiterated China’s determination to build a world-class navy.
There is nothing strange about this, yet the Western media have hyped up this routine military exercise as “a show of force”.
Nevertheless, doubts over China’s determination to build up a strong navy should be cleared up.
The goal China has long strived for is to improve its ability to guarantee maritime security. To achieve this goal, the Chinese navy has to strengthen its comprehensive proficiencies with more advanced equipment and military drills.
Routine drills are essential for the navy to enhance its readiness, to safeguard national sovereignty and maritime interests. The parade, an important part of any military drill, is a review of a navy’s development.
China has held many military exercises in other areas, such as the East China Sea. And the drill and parade in the South China Sea is no different than any other in the waters under China’s jurisdiction. China has the right to hold drills in its own waters or high seas. And the drill, like many others, was called in response to the Central Military Commission’s order to carry out a routine military exercise in spring. Any speculation linking it to geographical regional competition is groundless.
Considering the struggles in China's modern history caused by a weak navy, a modernized navy is needed to safeguard its territory and people. Conflicts and threats of maritime security are rapidly increasing in today's world. Developing the Chinese navy also can contribute to world peace and stability on the sea. To be a world-class navy, the Chinese navy has the right to catch up.
However, it will take unremitting effort to achieve this goal. There is a considerable gap between the Chinese navy and navies in the developed world, both in technology to scale, despite recent progress.
It is critical for the Chinese navy to make breakthroughs in key technologies in order to keep pace with leading naval powers, who command the most advanced technologies. A first-class navy cannot be built without advanced technology as the driving force.
The Chinese navy should also maintain proper scale. A navy cannot safeguard national security and world peace without enough personnel. In addition, the problem of a relatively small aggregate tonnage of naval vessels must be resolved, in order to increase the navy’s capability to confront naval hegemonies in the world.
It should be never forgotten that no matter how powerful the Chinese navy grows, it will not pose threats to other countries — an ethos which has been fully displayed in its policies and actions.
China has adopted a defense policy which is defensive in nature and will never deviate from it. Moreover, the Chinese navy has never bullied any other country in the past, as some other powers have. The buildup of a strong naval force requires China to continuously carry out the defensive strategy and contribute to marine peace.
It should be noted some other countries’ actions have constituted a severe challenge to marine peace, threatening China's sovereignty and interests in waters near China in the name of "freedom of navigation".
The international community should realize a rising China with a strong navy will only better safeguard its own national security and regional peace.
The author is a Beijing-based military expert.