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China Voice: Disaster relief a military priority in peacetime

English.news.cn   2014-08-07 19:20:15

BEIJING, Aug. 7 (Xinhua) -- The military is not established solely for the purpose of conducting wars, at least not in China.

In a nation with frequent earthquakes and floods, disaster relief has become a major priority for the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA), the world's largest in terms of servicemen.

The latest military rally for such a mission was seen after a deadly earthquake hit southwest China's Yunnan on Sunday and killed nearly 600 people. The PLA and armed police have sent some 10,000 troops and 10 helicopters to aid in rescue work.

It's become commonplace for China to mobilize the armed forces when the country faces natural disasters. Back in 1998, more than 300,000 troops participated in the relief work for unprecedented floods that swept over half of the country. In 2008, 220,000 troops devoted efforts to rescue after a devastating quake shook Sichuan.

Past experience is crucial and the country's emergency response in the latest disaster relief proved more swift and efficient.

Minutes after Sunday's earthquake struck, a 115-staff rescue team from the PLA Chengdu Military Area Command was already en route to the impacted areas. An hour Later, tents, quilts, folding beds and cotton-padded clothes were pouring into the affected region.

The improved reaction time is also a result of regular military simulations and increased spending on special emergency rescue forces nationwide.

Currently 50,000 relief personnel compose nine national teams with 45,000 personnel in provincial teams, all standing ready to handle floods, earthquakes, a nuclear crisis or epidemics. These are listed among the military's top priorities, along with safeguarding national sovereignty and winning regional wars, according to a Ministry of National Defense white paper released last year which was illustrating the diverse use of military forces.

China is set to raise its defense budget by 12.2 percent in 2014, bringing the total expenditure to 132 billion U.S. dollars, according to a budget report in March. The report specified one aim of the spending hike is to improve capabilities for military operations other than war, including terrorism crackdown and disaster relief.

While readiness for war has been repeatedly stressed by military authorities, in a time of peace, preparation for disasters has become regarded as necessary and practical.

In Yunnan, thousands of soldiers are risking their lives to clear roads and excavate the debris. In the latest disaster, one soldier was swept away by torrential waters in a barrier lake and is still missing.

Scenes of soldiers gobbling instant noodles cooked in muddy water moved the nation and local residents immediately offered clean water and volunteered to cook for them.

As Chinese leaders try to improve the relations between the nation's army and its people, no other occasion can bring the military and the people closer.

Editor: Mengjie
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