China's troop cut 'won't ease tensions'

Neighbours sceptical about Xi Jinping's message of peace

China's troop cut is unlikely to de-escalate tensions in the South China Sea, the Philippines has said.

At the same time, Indian analysts saw China's military parade on Thursday to mark its victory over Japan at the end of World War II as a show of Chinese might, and have urged their government to quicken the pace of its military modernisation. Also, Japanese commentators have accused the Chinese government of harping on the past and fanning anti-Japanese sentiments to distract from its own unpopularity .

Mr Charles Jose, spokesman for the Philippine Foreign Ministry, said on Thursday that China must "walk the talk".

President Xi Jinping had said at the parade in Beijing that China was cutting its 2.3 million-strong People's Liberation Army (PLA) by 300,000 troops. "The experience of war makes people value peace even more. Regardless of the progress of events, China will never seek hegemony," said Mr Xi.

Mr Jose remarked: "We want to see the gap between China's pronouncements and the actual conditions on the ground abridged."

PERCEPTION V REALITY

We want to see the gap between China's pronouncements and the actual conditions on the ground abridged.

MR CHARLES JOSE, spokesman for the Philippine Foreign Ministry, on how China has to "walk the talk".

China has become more assertive in its overlapping territorial claims with some Asean states in the South China Sea, reclaiming large tracts of land on disputed reefs and installing military assets on them.

Defence analyst Richard Javad Heydarian said the PLA, in cutting the number of troops, is just shifting "from continental to maritime, and there it needs fewer men but a leaner and meaner navy and air force". He said the focus on the South China Sea will even be sharper now.

In India, which has a festering border dispute with its northern neighbour, China's show of might was felt keenly."China flexes muscle with WWII victory parade'' was the headline in The Asian Age newspaper, and a commentary in The Indian Express was headlined: "WWII military parade: Ambitious China, divided Asia, uncertain India.''

Strategic affairs analyst C. Uday Bhaskar said: "China is projecting itself as a major hub of indigenous military production... The lesson for India: You have to get your act together on indigenous defence capabilities.''

A commentary in Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun said "holding an anti-Japanese event in commemoration of the Chinese people's resistance against wartime Japan" must be a "tonic" that revives nationalism which comes in handy when the administration is unpopular.

(This was China's first military parade to mark the anniversary.)

The Japan News, the English daily of the conservative Yomiuri Shimbun, in an analysis said the actions and comments of the Chinese "are far from a 'future-minded' stance in terms of Japan-China relations".

Taiwan, which China considers a breakaway province, reacted with scepticism over the troop cut. Noting China's lack of transparency in its military development, its Ministry of National Defence said "it is necessary to closely monitor follow-up developments", reported Taiwan's Central News Agency.

A ruling Kuomintang lawmaker, Mr Lin Yu-fang, said the move could make China an even greater threat to Taiwan and the Asia-Pacific as it could redirect its resources towards strengthening its air force, navy and strategic missile forces.

  • Additional reporting by Nirmala Ganapathy
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 05, 2015, with the headline 'China's troop cut 'won't ease tensions''. Print Edition | Subscribe