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Chinese military becomes more transparent with regular news briefings

The Chinese Defense Ministry held its first-ever regular press conference in Beijing Wednesday afternoon in a bid to showcase the Chinese military's transparency.

The press conference ran for half an hour, during which Ministry spokesman Geng Yansheng answered questions on topics ranging from Internet security and the test-flight of China's new J-20 stealth fighter jet to China's relations with the United States, Japan and India.

"Our press conference aims to spread important information about China's national defense and military building in a timely manner, and to help the world better understand China's armed forces," Geng said in his opening remarks.

The press conference, which takes place on the last Wednesday afternoon of each month, will be hosted by either Geng Yansheng or Yang Yujun, deputy director of the Information Affairs Office of the ministry.

Analysts say that with China's rising national strength and modernizing military, some countries are worried or skeptical about China's military development. Some countries call China a "threat" and play up China's military strategy, spending and weapon development, according to analysts.

"Defusing skepticism and excessive interpretation" is also one of the intentions behind the monthly briefing, analysts said.

In regard to the J-20 stealth fighter jet, Geng said he hopes the world can take an objective and rational attitude toward Chinese military tests.

As for Japan's concerns about China's increasing naval capabilities, Geng said China and Japan still have "severe hurdles" to clear in defense exchanges, adding that China disagrees with remarks indicating that the Chinese military might pose a threat.

"The regular press conference will be an occasion to bring the Chinese military to the outside world, and avoid and react to their concerns about China's military development," said Yao Yunzhu, a researcher with the People's Liberation Army (PLA) Academy of Military Science.

Zhou Qingan, a Tsinghua University professor, said the Chinese military will showcase an increasingly multi-faceted image as it continues to modernize and trigger speculation from outsiders. '

"The Chinese military has entered a stage of presenting itself in an all-around way," Zhou said, citing the press conference as "an important step."

The ministry's first spokesman, Hu Changming, made his debut in May 2008, briefing Chinese and foreign reporters about the Chinese military's involvement in the relief efforts after a devastating quake jolted southwest China's Wenchuan County.

Since then, the ministry's four successive spokespersons have responded frequently to issues including U.S. arms sales to Taiwan, China's naval training program and joint military exercises.

Yao, a researcher with the Academy of Military Science, said that the conferences will "inform the Chinese public of developments concerning national defense".

The ministry's move reflects the country's efforts to increase transparency, she said.

There are now over 90 spokespeople in 70 departments of the State Council, and 13 departments of the CPC Central Committee have created similar posts. The Foreign Ministry, Ministry of Commerce and Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council also conduct regular press briefings.

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