Chinese defence forces,shedding reticent style of functioning,are highlighting their military activities since the change of leadership,a move analysts say is intended to send a strong message to China’s neighbours.
Besides state-run CCTV,official organs of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy,PLA Daily and state-run news agency Xinhua have been highlighting the navy’s activities in the South China Sea and East China Sea,where China is locked in disputes with neighbouring nations.
The official media specially highlighted the open-ocean training mission led by the amphibious landing ship Jinggangshan in the South China Sea,close to the coast of Malaysia and Brunei,who along with Vietnam and the Philippines contests China’s claims over the South China Sea.
The fully equipped PLA amphibious naval task force created flutter conducting exercises near James Shoal or Zengmu Reef some 80-km from Malaysia,less than 200 kilometres from Brunei and 1,800 kilometres from the mainland coast.
The PLA navy website posted high-profile oath-taking ceremony performed by the crews of a fully equipped four-ship fleet,near the outer limits of the country’s controversial “nine-dash line”.
The line,the basis for China’s claim to virtually all of the South China Sea,encompasses territory also claimed by the Philippines,Vietnam,Malaysia and Brunei.
The pictures showed marines and sailors pledging to “defend the South China Sea,maintain national sovereignty and strive towards the dream of a strong China”.
“The intended message by the PLA Daily and other official reports was to tell the world that,no matter what speculation was made by neighbouring counties involved in territorial disputes with us in the South China Sea,our navy will still conduct patrol and training missions there. It’s a move to show our determination to defend our ocean territory,” Li Jie,a Chinese naval expert told Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post.
Shanghai-based naval expert Professor Ni Lexiong said the navy had also sent more ships to the disputed Diaoyu Islands,also claimed by Japan,which calls them the Senkakus,since Xi Jinping became chairman of the Central Military Commission in November.
New Chinese President Xi’s “call to make China a maritime power,and the dream of a strong China,told us that he wants to make some difference from his predecessors Hu Jintao and premier Wen Jiabao,who were criticised by the public as being too soft and weak when dealing with territorial disputes,” Ni said.
“As someone from a princeling background,Xi is more assertive than Hu and will certainly take a tougher stance on the issues over the East and South China seas.”