On Thursday, Chinese President Xi Jinping (who is also the chairman of China’s Central Military Commission) said that China will place a greater emphasis on military diplomacy as a part of its overall foreign policy strategy. Xi made the comments at a meeting of military attaches and other military officials in charge of diplomatic work. Officers in attendance included Fan Changlong, vice chairman of the Central Military Commission; Xu Qiliang, another vice chairman as well as the head of China’s air force; Minister of Defense Chang Wanquan; Chief of PLA General Staff Fang Fenghui; and Wu Shengli, China’s naval chief.
Xi exhorted the military officers in attendance to “start a new phase of military diplomacy.” Xi noted that the CCP has always viewed military diplomacy as an important tool for advancing China’s overall diplomatic goals, safeguarding national security, and promoting the construction of China’s military. Today, military diplomacy is even more prominent in China’s national diplomacy and security strategy, Xi said.
China’s emphasis on military diplomacy was evidenced last year, as China stepped up military exchanges, visits, and joint drills. A spokesman from the Defense Ministry recapped China’s 2014 military diplomacy in the final press conference of the year. According to the spokesman, Yang Yujun, China participated in 31 bilateral or multilateral joint exercises. Notably, Yang said, the focus of the exercises “expanded from non-traditional security to traditional security.” Exercises in 2014 were “more real combat oriented” than in the past, Yang added.
Last year China was also extremely active in sending military officials overseas or hosting their foreign counterparts. As The Diplomat reported, in the space of two weeks in July 2014, Chinese military officials held meetings with officers from the U.S., Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, and Indonesia. China is already off to an active start when it comes to military exchanges, as a group of PLA Navy ships is making the rounds in Europe.