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PLA committed to economy

By Francesco Sisci, The Straits Times, 21 October 2000

BEIJING -- China's military yesterday stressed its new strategic commitment to economic development, saying the country's latest five-year economic blueprint is a necessary tool to protect national sovereignty and Chinese independence.

China faces serious challenges in the international arena at the turn of the century and its most radical and stronger countermeasure to these challenges is to accelerate its pace of development and increase its national strength, said a commentary in the People's Liberation Army Daily.

Only in this way can one really resist the pressure of hegemonism and power politics, and protect national sovereignty and independence, it said.

China has on many occasions accused the United States of hegemony and conducting international politics based on sheer power.

Furthermore, in a reference to Taiwan, the PLA paper wrote: The basic method to achieve the great political task of reunifying the motherland is to accelerate development.

The commentary did not make any reference to the use of force for reunification with Taiwan.

Last week's report of the Communist Party plenum and the release last Monday of the White Paper on National Defence had already indicated the doctrinaire shift from the strategic predominance of the military towards the economy.

Yesterday, the PLA Daily was the only major Chinese newspaper to carry a commentary on Premier Zhu Rongji's explanations on the draft of the five-year plan released on Wednesday.

The plan, a legacy of Soviet-style planned economy, will be tabled for approval at the National People's Congress in March next year and will take China on to the year 2005, when the country will have acceded to all regulations of the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

China is expected to join the WTO later this year or early next year and it has been granted a five-year grace period to implement its commitments fully to lift trade barriers and cut tariffs.

By 2005, China should be a full market economy and could possibly do without new five-year plans.

In his explanation on the latest five-year plan, Mr Zhu called for a new defence industry system compatible with the requirements of national defence and a market economy.

Foreign diplomats said China is trying to create synergies between civil and military industries, modelled on the US system.

Moreover they believe that the modern world economy is a strategic force in itself.

On the PLA commentary, the diplomats said it shows the full support of the military, the traditional king-makers of China, for the new economic and political course.