A multinational navy event was held in the port city of Qingdao, east China's Shandong Province, on April 23 to commemorate the 70th founding anniversary of the People's Liberation Army Navy.
As China's engagement with the world gets broader and deeper, the remit for the PLA Navy is no longer limited to defending China's maritime areas, but also includes protecting its sea routes and interests overseas, as well as conducting anti-piracy operations.
At this special moment, the team of CGTN's Dialogue program along with Commandant Xu Hui from National Defense University of the PLA, and Senior Captain Zhang Junshe from the Naval Research Academy came together in Qingdao.
They got on board historical warship No.105 Vessel "Jinan" of the PLA Navy, the first destroyer manufactured by China, looking at the development and achievements of the Chinese Navy and its journey ahead.
Commandant Xu believes there are several crucial reasons behind choosing Qingdao for this special occasion.
"It's not only the headquarters of the North Fleet but also a witness to the development of our navy, like the first destroyer flotilla, the first navy navigation school, the first submarine school, and the first search and rescue flotilla, they were all established here," he explained.
Senior Captain Zhang divided the tasks and development history of the Chinese navy into three stages: "coastal defense" from 1949 to 1980s, "off-shore defense" during mid-1980s, and "both off-shore defense and far-sea protection" from the beginning of the 21st century until now. In Zhang's view the Chinese navy is "not a blue water navy yet," but he believes that "we're trying to enter that stage."
He mentioned the bitter history of China: "During the modern history of China, between 1840 to 1949, when People's Republic of China was founded; during the 100 years, China was invaded by Western countries, including Japan, from the sea for more than 470 times." Zhang emphasized that the main function of the Chinese navy at that time was "national defense."
Zhang also said that now the Chinese navy, in its transformation to a maritime power from a continental power, seeks not only to protect overseas interests but also conduct counter-piracy missions worldwide.
As to the topic of the PLA Navy reforms, both experts drew a much bigger picture of China's military reform.
Xu pointed out that China's military reform has entered its "third stage," primarily focusing on policies of personnel and logistics. "The determining element of the reform is human resources," he said.
"Within this round of reform, one of the focuses is education. The reconstruction of the education system."
In addition, the rapid military buildup has led to the expansion of overseas presence of the PLA, and also caused alleged concerns to some other nations. Is a fast-growing Chinese navy a threat?
Commandant Xu mentioned that "as the second-largest economy and one of the five permanent members of the United Nations, the world has high expectations from China. "They expect China to play a more constructive role in maintaining peace."
"We will not follow 'the gun boat policy' from history to invade or intervene other countries, even to protect our own national interests abroad we should work together with our partners in a cooperative way," Xu said.
"If we want to cooperate with other stakeholders, we should have our capabilities. The blue water navy is the right choice. But it will be developed step by step according to our national strategy."
Zhang rejected the "Anti-access/Area denial (A2/AD) theory" of the Pentagon, saying "the Chinese military never uses that terminology in its military dictionary."
He said "the A2/AD means that China will block countries like the United States by using the coastal area near China, but this is not true. China just strengthens maritime defenses along its coast for defense, and not drive away other countries from this area."
"We should judge a country from its strategy and also its national defense policy," he added.
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