Senior Colonel Wu Qian, 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 January 28, 2021. (mod.gov.cn/Photo by Li Xiaowei)
(The following English text of the press conference is for reference. In case of any divergence of interpretation, the Chinese text shall prevail.)
Senior Colonel Wu Qian: I have an announcement to make at the beginning. Recently, the 3rd Chinese peacekeeping helicopter unit to Sudan’s Darfur has begun withdrawing after finishing the missions of the United Nations - African Union Hybrid Operation in Darfur(UNAMID). Some troops of the unit returned to China by a PLA Air Force’s transport plane on January 27.
Since August 2017, the Chinese peacekeeping helicopter unit has carried out flying missions in more than 20 mission points, including Khartoum, Zalingei and Nyala. It has accomplished a raft of arduous, emergent and dangerous tasks, including humanitarian relief, medical evacuation of patients, and delivery of supplies for peacekeepers, bringing peace and stability to local people. The unit has been praised as a standard unit of peacekeeping by the UNAMID. All the members of the unit have been awarded the UN Peace Medals.
The pursuit of peace is in the DNA of the Chinese nation. Upholding the vision of building a community with a shared future for mankind, the Chinese military will continue to make contributions to world peace.
Question: At the beginning of the new year, President Xi Jinping signed the Central Military Commission (CMC) Order No.1 in 2021 to launch annual military training. What specific measures have the armed forces taken to implement President Xi’s order?
Answer: President Xi Jinping, also General Secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee and Chairman of the CMC, signed the CMC Order No.1 in 2021 on January 4 to launch annual military training. Following the order, troops across the military took immediate and active actions to strengthen realistic training and joint training, improve training with a scientific approach, and manage training in accordance with the law, setting off an upsurge in military training in the new year.
First, leaders took the lead. From the theater commands to the various services and arms, the armed police force and the CMC organs, the principals took the lead in training and set an example for troops.
Second, strict real-combat training was highlighted. The theater commands organized skills training in joint operations command and special joint training. The services and arms carried out real-combat training on snowy plateaus and Gobi deserts, in mountains and forests, and in far seas, just in a bid to hone the troops in harsh environments. The intensity of the military’s winter training remained unchanged.
Third, the training was carefully planned with clear priorities. Overall plans were made to arrange major exercises and training tasks of the whole military, with focuses putting on force-on-force training based on operational plans, training in joint operations command, training in new equipment, new forces and new domains, and their integration into the joint operations system, so as to promote the transformation of military training and form a new type of military training system.
Strengthening combat-readiness is just to keep China away from war. Chinese service members will resolutely implement the decisions and instructions of the CPC Central Committee, the CMC and President Xi, comprehensively enhance real-combat training and war-winning capabilities, resolutely fulfill the missions and tasks entrusted by the Party and the people in the new era, so as to welcome the CPC centenary with outstanding achievements.
In order to better introduce the training of the military, we made a video clip named "2021-Military Training Kicks Off".
Question: President Elect Joe Biden was sworn in as President of the United States on January 20. What’s China’s view on the China-US mil-to-mil relationship during the Trump administration? What’s China's expectation for the future relationship between the two militaries?
Answer: During the Trump administration, the China-US relations encountered serious difficulties, and the mil-to-mil relationship also faced a lot of risks and challenges. Facts have proved that containing China is an impossible mission. The troublemaker will only get himself in trouble.
The relations between China and the US and between their militaries have come to a new historical starting point. We hope the new US administration will work with the Chinese side, in the spirit of non-conflict, non-confrontation, mutual respect and win-win cooperation, to strengthen dialogue, focus on cooperation, and manage differences for healthy and steady development of bilateral ties.
At the beginning of this year, the Chinese and American militaries have had some pragmatic exchanges. In January 26 and 27, the two militaries held video meetings on cooperation for searching the remains of American POW/MIA(Prisoner of War/Missing in Action) in China. The two sides discussed several cases and detailed cooperation. This fully reflected that China attaches importance to the US side’s concerns in the humanitarian field.
We hope the US side will work with China towards the same goal with the same professionalism, properly address China’s concerns in the mil-to-mil relationship, strengthen communication, manage risks, avoid crisis, and push the China-US mil-to-mil relationship forward along the right track.
Question: The reform of officer system has established a rank-based system involving three aspects – military rank, position grade, and payment and welfare level. Please brief us on the setting of military ranks in the new officer system and the detailed designs and considerations regarding these three aspects.
Answer: The new officer system has a substantial change in the hierarchy of officers. The old grade-based system has been reshuffled into a rank-based one. The new military rank system consists of ten ranks at three levels. Ranks for general officers include general, lieutenant general and major general; ranks for field officers include senior colonel, colonel, lieutenant colonel and major; and ranks for company officers include captain, first lieutenant and second lieutenant. The military ranks vary among different services and will be prefaced with name of the service in the title. The military ranks for commanding and administrative officers are identified differently from those for specialized and technical officers.
The new hierarchy system is mainly composed of three elements – military rank, position grade and payment and welfare level.
First, the basic order in managing the hierarchy of officers is determined by the military rank. In addition to its functions of distinguishing the hierarchy of officers, and pronouncing officer identification and honor, the military rank is further endowed with the functions of representing officers’ capabilities and contributions. Moreover, the role of military rank in adjusting officer’s career development and management, such as education and training, assessment and evaluation, promotion and appointment, demobilization and placement, has also been highlighted. Military rank now plays a dominant role with its intrinsic nature.
Second, the position grade plays an auxiliary role in regulating the promotion and appointment order and commanding relations of officers. The position grade is established in accordance with the grade of military units and officers. Position grades are correlated with military ranks. There are 15 position grades for commanding and administrative officers from vice chairman of the CMC to platoon commander, and four position grades for specialized and technical officers namely senior professional title, associate senior professional title, intermediate professional title and junior professional title. Such a design replaces some functions of the old grade system with position grades. The position grade plays an auxiliary role in officer management. It can further straightens out the order of officer promotion and appointment, clarifies the leading and commanding relations, aligns the hierarchy of officers with the organizational structure of troops, and facilitates a smooth transition from the old system to the new one.
Third, the payment and welfare level determines the basic living benefits of officers. A separate payment and welfare level is established to determine officers’ basic living benefits, including salary, housing, medical care, and insurances. Based on military ranks, there are 19 payment and welfare levels from Level-1 to Level-19. Each military rank corresponds to a specific range of payment and welfare levels. The payment and welfare level and military rank are correlated to some extent but not strictly bound, which can guarantee that even if officers are not promoted in military ranks, they can also be entitled to better benefits with good performance. This mechanism will guide officers to have long-term military service.
Question: In the reform of officer system, an officer position management system is established with classification of officer positions. Please elaborate on the new classification of officer positions.
Answer: The classification of officer positions is a necessary step to build a professionalized officer system. With operational command as the pivot, the officer system reform classifies officer positions into two major categories – commanding and administrative positions, and specialized and technical positions – with further specifications in each category based on different dimensions and levels.
In terms of work contents, commanding and administrative positions are divided into military positions and political positions. This arrangement is in line with the fundamental nature and purpose of the Chinese armed forces and the dual leadership system. It fully implements and reflects the fundamental principle that the CPC has absolute leadership over the military. In terms of duties, commanding and administrative positions can also be divided into commanding positions and staff positions. It is based on the different roles played by the positions in combat operations and force development. In terms of military specialties, they can be divided into services/arms-specific positions and positions not specific to services (arms). It is based on what professional expertise and experience are needed by the position.
Specialized and technical positions are divided into teaching positions, scientific research positions, engineering positions, health service positions, and specialized positions based on different duties. Such a design is consistent with the national classification of specialized and technical talent and can facilitate the attraction, cultivation and utilization of talent on a broader base.
Efforts will be made to deepen the classified management and development of officer positions in accordance with real situations to gradually put in place a multi-dimensional and multi-tiered position classification system for officers.
Question: According to reports, Taiwan's Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) authorities recently stated that they would deepen ties between the US and Taiwan. At the same time, Taiwan's defense agency keeps mentioning the so-called entry of mainland military aircraft into Taiwan's “southwest air defense identification zone”. What's your comment, please?
Answer: Taiwan is an inalienable part of China. The Taiwan question is China's internal affair, which allows no foreign interference. The military activities carried out by the PLA in the Taiwan Strait are necessary actions in response to the current security situation across the Taiwan Strait and the need to maintain national sovereignty and security. It is also a solemn response to the interference of external forces and the provocations by the "Taiwan independence" forces.
The rejuvenation and reunification of the Chinese nation is an unstoppable trend. It is where the greater national interest lies, and what the people desire. In the long history of the Chinese nation, the actions taken by a small number of "Taiwan independence" separatists for “independence” are just like a bubble, which will not make any wave. We seriously warn those "Taiwan independence" forces that those who play with fire will set themselves on fire. "Taiwan independence" means war. The PLA will take all necessary measures to resolutely defeat any attempt by the "Taiwan independence" separatists, and firmly defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Question: Recently, there have been many local outbreaks and sporadic cases of COVID-19 in China. Under such circumstance, how does the Chinese military do its pandemic prevention and control work? Will the military support the local fight against the pandemic? At present, the pandemic situation overseas is still challenging. Could you please brief us on the Chinese military's international cooperation in the fight against the pandemic?
Answer: Recently, sporadic and clustered cases of COVID-19 appeared in many places across China. The Chinese military, with its joint prevention and control mechanism, responded quickly and adopted a series of measures to conduct pandemic prevention strictly.
First, the military organized relevant units to improve contingency plans, reinforce emergency duty, and strengthen coordination and response. Second, we have strengthened pandemic prevention and control work and the management over troops during the Spring Festival in accordance with the relevant arrangements of the Joint Prevention and Control Mechanism of the State Council. Third, we carried out special inspections to enhance standardized management in key places such as fever clinics, quarantine areas and canteens. Fourth, we directed military units to strictly implement various pandemic prevention and control measures required by the local governments where the troops are stationed, and strictly prevent COVID-19 from entering barracks. Fifth, we deployed active-service troops, civilian personnel and militias to support local pandemic prevention tasks, such as quarantine and nucleic acid tests.
In response to the current situation of pandemic prevention and control, the Chinese military will continue to do a good job in tasks of pandemic prevention and control and medical treatment in barracks and thoroughly implement the relevant measures in accordance with national arrangements and the decisions made by the CMC. At the same time, the military will continue to support local pandemic prevention and control by providing more emergency response units and epidemiological experts.
In terms of Chinese military’s international cooperation in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, I would like to share a story about a Syrian military doctor, Major Tareq Muhammad. Dr. Tareq was admitted to the PLA Army Medical University to study clinical medicine in 2018. He graduated in 2020 and returned to Syria to work as the deputy director of the Department of Immunology and Rheumatology at a military hospital in Damascus.
After the COVID-19 outbreak, his department was mainly responsible for the diagnosis and quarantine of Covid patients. Dr. Tareq translated relevant knowledge on pandemic prevention and control he learned in China into Arabic to help improve his hospital’s diagnosis and treatment mechanism. He used Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) in treatment shared TCM prevention knowledge through social media. Dr. Tareq’s story was covered by local media in Syria and widely acclaimed by the netizens.
Dr. Tareq's story is a epitome of the Chinese military's international cooperation in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. China will continue to shoulder its responsibilities as a major country with concrete actions and actively contribute to the building of a community with a shared future for mankind.
Tariq at work.
Question: We have noticed in President Xi's order for military training, he stressed that the military should conduct training aiming at real combat and promote combat capabilities through training. What are the priorities of the Chinese military’s training this year?
Answer: In 2021, the Chinese military will resolutely uphold Xi Jinping Thought on Strengthening the Military in its training work, stick to the military strategic guideline for a new era and implement the spirit of the military training meeting of the CMC. In accordance with the requests in the mobilization order by President Xi, the Chinese military will focus on the following five aspects:
First, focus on combat readiness training. The military will implement the requirements of full-time combat readiness and being ready to fight at any time, and strengthen training for emergencies and combat in response to real security threats. It will organize drills on combat readiness without advance notification, and explore the training-to-combat transition mode with no personnel, equipment or material supplement and with no change of combat readiness level conversion.
Second, focus on systematic training. Based on the laws in generating joint operations capabilities, the military will strengthen the leading role of strategic training, give full play to the pivotal role of joint training in theater commands, and promote the tactical and technical training through strategic and campaign training.
Third, focus on force-on-force training. The military will increase the proportion of force-on-force training at all levels and in all fields, expand live force-on-force training in fields of commanding and joint operations, and highlight force-on-force training in complex battlefield environments.
Fourth, focus on command capabilities training. The military will pay close attention to the command capabilities training for commanders at all levels, explore and establish training files for commanders, and exert all-out efforts to improve the commanders’ capabilities to lead troops and win wars.
Fifth, focus on using science and technology in training. The military will deepen the exploration of the training mode featuring “science and technology plus” and “network plus” to solve the training problems, vigorously develop simulation-, information- and intelligence-based training methods, and accelerate the exploration of training in new areas.
Question: According to media reports, the MND conscription office released promotion videos at the beginning of the year for the first time, encouraging young people to join the military and serve the nation. Please brief us on the conscription work this year. Besides, will there be biannual conscription this year under the influence of COVID-19?
Answer: The biannual conscription policy will be implemented from 2021 with the approval of the State Council and the CMC. The first round of conscription will start on February 20 and end on March 31, and the second will start on August 15 and end on September 30. The applicants can log on to the National Conscription Website (http://www.gfbzb.gov.cn) for more information about the registration time and specific requirements for male and female applicants. It should be noted that the female youth who graduated from full-time higher education in 2020 can apply in the first half of 2021, and their recruiting age is relaxed to 23.
This year, the recruitment of college students and graduates remains one of our priorities. We will recruit graduates from various universities and colleges at all levels, with priorities given to the students with science and engineering background and skilled talent needed for combat preparedness. Meanwhile, graduates from vocational colleges (including technical colleges) who have obtained the national certificates of occupational skill (vocational qualification certificates)at senior or above levels are also welcomed to join the military.
Joining the military and serving the country is an obligation, an honor, and also a responsibility. In this turbulent era, a broader stage is ahead of you, and a bright future is waiting for you!
Question: It is reported that this reform of the officer system has always incorporated the standard of combat effectiveness into specific policy designs, setting up a clear combat-oriented direction in all aspects of officer management. What are the specific manifestations of this in the rules?
Answer: Service members are born to win, and officers are expected to win in battles. The officer system reform has been adhering to the goal of emancipating and developing combat capabilities through the whole process. The reform takes the improvement of combat capabilities as the fundamental criterion in the design of all specific policies. Moreover, the reform aims to devise and strengthen the assessment standards as well as appointment and promotion qualifications for officers based on the needs of actual battles, plan and design their career development roadmaps aiming at generating and unleashing combat capabilities, and systematically carry out the education and training of officers in line with the needs of combat readiness.
For instance, a relatively stable service system is adopted to ensure officers have enough time to accumulate and unleash their combat capabilities. Officers are encouraged to constantly optimize their knowledge structure and hone their combat skills through the three-pronged training system. An objective and comprehensive evaluation system is established to test officers’ combat capabilities. Officers with excellent performance will have more opportunities for appointment and promotion, and those having strategic visions and strong capabilities can have more access to appropriate platforms to give full play to their talent. Dynamic and orderly officer exchanges are encouraged to strengthen rotation and flow and targeted allocation of capable officers. A more suitable payment and welfare system is established to ensure officers are dedicated to honing their combat capabilities.
Question: According to media reports, Kim Jong Un, top leader of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), said in his report to the eighth party congress of the Workers' Party of Korea(WPK) that the DPRK prioritizes the development of the special relationship with China, which has a long historical foundation, and the five meetings between the top leaders of the two countries provide a reliable guarantee for deepening bilateral ties. Could you please brief us on the current mil-to-mil relationship between China and the DPRK? In addition, Kim Jong Un also said that the DPRK will deal with the US in the principle of “responding to aggressiveness with aggressiveness, responding to kindness with kindness". Do you have any comment on that?
Answer: China and the DPRK are friendly neighbors connected by the same mountains and rivers. In recent years, the top leaders of the two parties and the two countries have maintained close communications and forged profound friendship, which has injected strong impetus into the development of bilateral relations and opened a new chapter of China-DPRK friendship.
On January 11, General Secretary of the CPC Central Committee Xi Jinping sent a message to Kim Jong Un, congratulating him on election as the general secretary of the WPK of the DPRK. Pr. Xi stressed that it is an unswerving policy of the CPC and the Chinese government to preserve, consolidate and develop China-DPRK relations.
China is willing to continue to write a new chapter of China-DPRK friendly cooperation in accordance with the important consensus reached by the two sides, push forward the socialist cause of the two countries and safeguard regional peace, stability, development and prosperity.
Mil-to-mil relationship is an important part of China-DPRK relations and has made positive contributions to the consolidation and development of bilateral relations. China will continue to resolutely implement the important consensus reached by the leaders of the two parties and countries, conduct friendly exchanges between the two militaries at all levels, and play a positive role in promoting the development of China-DPRK friendly relations and safeguarding regional peace.
As a close neighbor of the Korean Peninsula, China stands for pursuing a political settlement of the Korean Peninsula issue in accordance with the dual-track approach in a phased and synchronized manner. China is ready to work with all relevant parties to play a constructive role in realizing lasting peace on the Peninsula.
Question: The new officer system reshapes the officer selection and replacement and adjusts policies related to commissioned ranks and payment grades. It clarifies that the initial military rank for an officer is the rank of second lieutenant, and the commissioned rank for an officer cadet after his/her undergraduate education is also the rank of second lieutenant. What military ranks will be given to graduates with master degrees or doctoral degrees? What are the considerations behind such adjustments, please?
Answer: The officer system reform adjusts the initial military ranks for officers. The major changes include: officer cadets with a bachelor’s degree from a military school will be commissioned second lieutenant; those who directly continue graduate education will be commissioned second lieutenant after they finish their undergraduate programs, and after they get master and doctoral degrees, they will be promoted to first lieutenant and captain respectively; officers directly recruited from non-military schools will be commissioned corresponding military ranks based on their respective degrees and diploma; those recruited for their highly demanded skills will be commissioned corresponding ranks in consideration of their respective degrees and diploma, work experience, professional capabilities and positions while taking officers with the same or similar qualifications as the reference.
The adjustment of the commissioned rank is an important move aiming to build a rank-based officer system and optimize the structure and layout of officers. The adjustment is to address the lack of officers with second lieutenant ranks in the Chinese military. It can help young officers plan their career development roadmaps from the rank of second lieutenant and give them more time to hone their capabilities at lower ranks and build a solid foundation for future career. In addition, it is fair for officer cadets who graduate in the same year to be commissioned the same rank so they will start from the same point in their career development under a unified standard. At the same time, the payment and welfare level for graduates with a bachelor’s degree from military schools is set at the Level-18, equal to that of deputy company commanders in the past and remains generally unchanged. Similar policies were designed for military school graduates with other educational levels.
Question: January 11 of this year marked the 10th anniversary of the J-20’s maiden flight. Have the J-20 fighters been equipped to troops on a large scale and formed combat capability yet?
Answer: The research and development of a complicated aviation platform must follow its objective laws, which requires a process from maiden flight to forming combat capability. It has been a decade since the J-20 fighter of the PLA Air Force completed its maiden flight on January 11, 2011. The J-20’s combat capability has been gradually tested, and it has begun to be equipped to troops.
The Chinese Spring Festival of the Ox Year will come in two weeks. In traditional Chinese culture, the ox not only represents the spirit of dedication to “serve the next generation while being head-bowed, like a willing ox,” but also symbolizes the fighting spirit to “gallop forward like a self-propelled ox.”
Arriving along with the Year of the Ox is the new hope that stems from our faith and strength. As an old saying goes, “To seek the truth, I would rather go heads-up against millions of others.” Wish all of you a happy, lucky Year of the Ox.