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China Reform Monitor - No. 717
Chinese forces testing India at disputed border;
China's army chief outlines military modernization plan
Edited by Joshua Eisenman
October 2, 2008
Indian sources quoted in the Times of India report that China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) forces have "transgressed" into the Indian side of the 4,057-km Line of Actual Control (LAC) at the strategically located Pangong Tso Lake and Trig Heights in eastern Ladakh. On September 2nd, Indian authorities spotted boat and vehicle-mounted People's Liberation Army (PLA) on the north bank of Pangong Tso and a day later a vehicle-mounted PLA patrol crossed into Trig Heights. “The PLA has really stepped up incursions into our side in eastern Ladakh region this year, with well over 100 transgressions being recorded there since January," an Indian source was quoted as saying. The PLA patrols follow similar Chinese moves in Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim in recent months. According to Indian figures, there have been over 80 incursions across the 206-kilometer Sikkim-Tibet border since January.
[Editor’s Note: PLA incursions have accompanied a hardening of both sides’ positions in the never-ending border talks to delineate the LAC. Indian defense planners are particularly concerned about the build-up of PLA military infrastructure along the border. Pangong Tso and Trig Heights became contentious after the 1999 Kargil conflict, with China even constructing a "track" right up to the lake's southern bank.]
Visiting Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi has told Sri Lanka’s President, Mahinda Rajapaksa, that China supports the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Sri Lanka and has provided a grant of 50 million RMB for “economic and technical cooperation.” Mr. Rajapaksa thanked Yang for China’s investments, which include the Hambantota Port, Norochcholai Power Plant, and the Performing Art Center. Mr. Rajapaksa agreed to set aside a separate zone specifically for Chinese investment, The Hindu reports.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry has given its full support to the national unity agreement between Zimbabwean strong-man Robert Mugabe and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai. In comments carried by the official Xinhua News Agency a Foreign Ministry spokesperson said: “South African President Thabo Mbeki as the mediator, has played a leading and constructive role in promoting a political solution to the Zimbabwe issue and China appreciates and supports this.” Mr. Mbeki has come under increasing criticism for favoring Mr. Mugabe in both Western and South African press outlets.
While on a trip to Serbia (the first for China’s head of military in 25 years) General Chen Bingde, the chief of the general staff of the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA), made pointed comments about the direction of China’s military modernization and espionage activities in an interview with the nation’s newspaper Politika. General Chen divided Beijing’s military modernization into three stages. First, in 2010, the PLA “will lay a firm foundation for the modernization of defense and the army” which will include “downsizing the army, perfecting the defense mobilization mechanism, accelerating personnel training, obtaining modern armament and equipment, raising our deterrent capability against any kind of threat, and raising the capability of the Chinese defense system for going to war in conditions of the information revolution and in conditions of an information war.”
Second, the General continued, “around 2020, when we will make major progress in... improving the quality of the army, developing a dedicated intensification of efforts in high-tech combat systems, development and modernization of the existing systems of armament and equipment.”
“The third step,” he added, “will have been taken by mid 21st century, when we will have attained our strategic target of equipping the army with information technologies and winning victories in the information war.” When asked about Chinese espionage activities in Western countries, Chen replied that “the West has accused China more than once of engaging in espionage activities abroad. Facts show, however, that these accusations are unsubstantiated and without foundation.”