Chinese leaders espouse a doctrine of “non-interference” in other nations’ affairs and take every opportunity to reassure the watching world of its “peaceful rise”, notwithstanding its rapid military modernisation programmes.
However in the last 12 months China has crossed several significant milestones that analysts say mark a growing self-confidence that Chinese armed forces can now begin to match the country’s status as a rising economic super-power.
March 2011: China deploys one of its most advanced missile frigates, Xuzhou, off the coast of Libya to assist in the evacuation of its nationals caught up in the emerging civil war. China also deploys four Ilyushin Il-76 military planes to evacuate stranded citizens. Analysts point out that 20 years ago, in 1991, China had relied on the state-owned shipping company COSCO to evacuate citizens caught up in the implosion of Somalia.
March 2011: A Chinese missile frigate, Ma’Anshan, escorts a World Food Program ship along the pirate-infested coast of Somalia in another milestone for the Chinese military. The deployment is hailed as evidence of China’s growing willingness to shoulder international responsibilities.
September 2010: Chinese Air Force sends four H-6H bombers and two J-10 aircraft to take part a Shanghai Co-operation Organisation (SCO) exercise in Kazakhstan. The aircraft return to base in China, but the “simulated cross-border strikes” were the first by the Chinese Air Force, according to the official Xinhua news agency. China sends four helicopters to the Pakistan province of Sindh to assist flood victims, in what analysts say is the first active deployment of Chinese air forces helicopter assets overseas. The mission wins plaudits for its logistical accomplishment.
October 2010: China sends several Russian-origin Su-27 fighter-jets to participate in a joint military exercise with Turkey, refueling in Iran en route. This was first ever such exercise with a NATO ally. Turkish media reports US anger over the decision to invite China.