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A leap forward

world Updated: Aug 21, 2009 00:49 IST
Reshma Patil

It is normal to spot soldiers on the streets of Beijing and the border towns, but rare to read about China’s secretive military on an official English website.

Thirty years after China began economic reforms to open-up, and less than two months before the Republic’s sixtieth anniversary and biggest-ever military parade on October 1, you can finally Enter the defense ministry.

China has the world’s biggest 2.3 million strong military, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), funded with a budget that grew 15 per cent this year.

On Thursday, the Ministry of National Defense launched trial operations of its first official bilingual website with a Great Wall logo. Chinese analysts call it a ‘leap forward’ for the world’s number three economy.

The website is part of the defense ministry’s efforts to seemingly give in a bit to calls from the US and even India, for more transparency in its double-digit funding. The Central Military Commission said that the website will release ‘authoritative information of China’s national defense and army building’ and ‘let the outside world have a better perception of China’s national defense policy’.

There is more basic data than in-depth policy online. But India’s defense officials will eye the briefings and videos of the PLA on its biggest cross-country tactical mobilisation exercise launched this month, soon after the thirteenth round of border talks ended in New Delhi. Given the current aggressive stance against India in sections of the official Chinese media, the website’s opinion pieces will be a space to read between the lines of the border talks.

It was only last year that the defense ministry appointed its first spokesperson. Last month, the media was invited for a rare tour of military barracks.

The first ‘press officers’ of the force underwent a unique camp this year. The topic was public relations.