Beijing: The scene looked like Beijing’s version of Mumbai’s Nariman House siege last November. Chinese counter-terrorism commandoes stormed a three-storey building while explosions covered the white structure in smoke. After a brief battle the ‘terrorists’ were silenced.
The battle was staged this week for foreign journalists invited inside barracks of a division of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). The PLA, which has grown from its origins as a peasant army in 1927 to becoming a sophisticated 2.3 million-strong military force, is the world`s biggest army.
The PLA, feared because of its secrecy and double-digit budget, is now experimenting with an open image.
On the PLA’s 82nd anniversary on August 1, the defence ministry will launch its first official website — Chinese analysts call it a ‘leap forward’.
“We will speed up our opening process,’’ senior colonel Leng Jiesong of the Third Guard Division told the media.
“China is more open to the outside world and so is the PLA.’’
On the October 1, 60th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic, the PLA will march down Beijing’s main east-west avenue in its first military parade since 1999.
The government-run Chinese media has said that the parade will be the biggest-ever and include ‘new weapons.’
But as the US, India, Japan and self-ruled Taiwan worry about China’s military modernisation and plans to build an aircraft carrier, the PLA’s image-makeover is focussed on counter-terror operations.
The rare media visit included a stroll through spartan dormitories with bunk beds, a dining-hall where dumplings were placed beside cupcakes and front-row seats as soldiers blasted targets on a mountainside.