China looks for new weapons
March 29, 2002

By Willy Wo-Lap Lam
CNN Senior China Analyst

(CNN) -- The Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) has launched a big propaganda exercise on the importance of modernizing its vast weapons stock.
The campaign, based on President Jiang Zemin's remarks at the launch of China's unmanned spacecraft on Monday, is believed to be the PLA's response to perceived threats from the United States.
The official Liberation Army Daily on Friday quoted the Head of the General Armaments Department, Cao Gangchuan as saying the PLA must "ceaselessly win new triumphs in military high technology and in the construction of weapons and equipment."

Cao said the forces must heed Jiang's instructions on the importance of developing high technology as a means to boost China's comprehensive strength and its military prowess.
"We must ceaselessly raise the ability to rely on ourselves in seeking breakthroughs [in technology]," Cao said.

China's state media has given extensive coverage to Monday's launch of the Shenzhen III unmanned spacecraft at the Jiuquan Satellite Center in northwest China.

At the center, Jiang called upon civilian and military units nationwide to follow the strategy of "using science and education to make the country prosperous and strengthening the army through science and technology."
Various units of the PLA and the People's Armed Police have held ideological classes to study Jiang's exhortations, who is also Chairman of the Central Military Commission.

Firm grip on Taiwan

Western military analysts say that for the past month the PLA has conducted special sessions to discuss the U.S.'s latest breakthrough in missile-defense research, as well as reports the Pentagon might target nuclear weapons at China.

The analysts said the generals had asked the Jiang leadership for more research and development funds -- and to take a tougher line on policies toward the United States and Taiwan.

The latest issue of the Communist party's theoretical journal Qiushi carried an article by the new Commander of the Beijing Military Region, Zhu Qi, in which he espoused an aggressive line on Taiwan.

"The situation in the Taiwan Strait has become more complicated," Zhu wrote.

"We must take a firm grip on preparations for an armed struggle against Taiwan -- and undertake the preparations with the posture of virtual warfare."

Cao and Zhu are considered Jiang proteges who will receive promotions at the upcoming 16th congress of the Communist party.

The PLA was earlier this month awarded a 17.6% increase in its budget, even though Western experts say most funds for weapons development come from "hidden" civilian budgets.

Areas where the military forces will be spending most of their funds include submarines, electronics gear, and missiles, including missiles with multiple warheads.

It is believed that the PLA has revised its 10th Five-Year Plan (2001-2005) in light of recent developments such as the anti-terrorism crusade and the U.S.'s advancement in missile defense technology.
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