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China's army to prepare for 'military struggle'

Military delegates on their way to the NPC in Beijing
Military delegates on their way to the NPC in Beijing  

Willy Wo-Lap Lam
Senior China Analyst

(CNN) -- Chinese President Jiang Zemin has asked the armed forces to make "solid preparation for military struggle" in order to attain national reunification.

While addressing military delegates to the National People's Congress, Jiang said: "to solve the issue of Taiwan and realize complete reunification of the motherland is one of the three major tasks for the Party and the nation in the new century."

However, Jiang, who is also Chairman of the policy-setting Central Military Commission (CMC), did not lay down specific tactics or a definite time-frame for taking back Taiwan.

Sources close to the People's Liberation Army (PLA) said Jiang was using harsher than usual rhetoric on Taiwan partly in response to recent events between Taiwan and the United States.

Beijing boosts military prowess 
China's National People's Congress 

They included the on-going visit to the U.S. by Taiwan Defense Minister Tang Yao-ming and American arms sale to the island.

"Jiang is facing more pressure particularly from mid-ranking PLA officers to be tougher with Taiwan and the U.S.," said an army source.

"Jiang's response is that the nation must focus on economic development. He is, however, willing to satisfy the generals' demand for bigger budgets."

In his speech to the PLA delegates, Jiang stressed the importance of a hi-tech army -- and the need to take advantage of China's entry to the World Trade Organization to learn more about the armies of Western countries.

The president, however, underscored the imperative of the party's strict control of the PLA.

Heir apparent

Analysts say Jiang has doubts whether his heir-apparent, Vice-President Hu Jintao, may be able to fully control the top brass once he becomes party general secretary, and later, CMC chairman.

A 17.6 percent increase in military spending was announced at the NPC
A 17.6 percent increase in military spending was announced at the NPC  

At the session, the president also called upon the PLA to assume more responsibilities in fighting anti-terrorist activities, primarily in regions with concentrations of ethnic minorities -- and underground separatist groups.

"The army should help local governments in combating all forms of terrorist activities," the Liberation Army Daily on Wednesday quoted Jiang as saying.

Analysts say the bulk of anti-terrorist tasks are being handled by the quasi-military People's Armed Police.

They say the fact that Jiang is calling on the army to join in the campaign means Beijing is anxious to achieve early results in containing separatist movements in Xinjiang and Tibet.




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