Defensive arm now needs to be extended

Updated: 2015-05-13 07:41

(China Daily)

  Comments() Print Mail Large Medium  Small 分享按钮 0

Defensive arm now needs to be extended

Officers and soldiers see off the supply ship Qiandaohu at the departure of a Chinese navy civil-ship-escorting fleet at a military port in Zhoushan, east China's Zhejiang Province, April 3, 2015.[Photo/Xinhua]

When asked about reports that China is in talks with the Republic of Djibouti to have a military base in that country, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs neither confirmed nor denied it.

Citing traditional friendship, present practical cooperation and shared commitments, a Foreign Ministry spokesperson merely said China is willing and obliged to contribute more to regional peace and stability. She stopped short of clarifying in what manner.

Intended or not, this has been interpreted as tacit acknowledgement.

For decades, people had been accustomed to China highlighting its peaceful development path by pointing out that it does not have a single soldier stationed overseas. But that argument has turned out to be intrinsically flawed and self-constraining.

Moreover, China has an outstanding and growing need to protect its expanding overseas interests. Gone are the days when self-sufficiency commanded center stage in the Chinese economy. While contributing tremendously to global economic growth, we now depend heavily on such imports as oil, grain and minerals. Our economic arteries extend far beyond the reach of our capability to defend them.

Had we had proper facilities nearby, our naval vessels on anti-piracy missions in the Gulf of Aden would not have had to suspend regular patrols only to withdraw Chinese nationals from war-torn Yemen.

No matter if a military base is being negotiated with Djibouti, this country has a pressing need to significantly upgrade its capabilities to properly take care of its interests overseas.

On the other hand, whether a country's military constitutes a threat to peace is not determined by what it can do or where it is.

The latest Pentagon report on the Chinese military claims that China now has dozens of nuclear-capable missiles that can target almost any city in the US. Even if that is true, it is hardly problematic, because China is not targeting any country.

China has been a regular presence in recent United Nations peacekeeping missions, including anti-piracy naval patrols in the Gulf of Aden. These are strictly intended to maintain peace.

One day when this country does open a military base overseas, the hullabaloo over a "China threat" will no doubt reach a crescendo. But that should not prevent us from safeguarding our rightful interests within the framework of international law.

Then our military will have an additional opportunity to demonstrate its dedication to peace and show that its capabilities are combined with goodwill.