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China's vow of military openness likely to disappoint: analysts

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China's vow to be more open about its military reflects its growing confidence, but is unlikely to satisfy foreign demands for more transparency about the world's largest army, analysts said on Tuesday.

China said on Sunday that it would begin reporting its armed forces budget as well as its holdings and sales of conventional arms, in accordance with United Nations conventions.

It called the moves a "significant step" toward greater military transparency.

The announcement comes amid a dramatic Chinese military build-up in recent years, which has triggered alarms bells in the United States, Asia and elsewhere.

But the non-binding nature of the relevant UN conventions leaves wide latitude for China to withhold key information, analysts said.

"China customarily places heavy secrecy on everything involving the military. They have a long tradition in this and this is difficult to change," said Arthur Ding, an expert on China's military with Singapore's Nanyang Technology University.

"So the usefulness of any new information they give depends on how far they want to go. It could just be a public relations show."

Increasingly prosperous thanks to three decades of economic growth, China has been investing heavily to build a modern, high-tech military.

China announced in March that it would spend 45 billion dollars this year, an increase of 17.8 percent, on the People's Liberation Army, which includes the navy and air force.

The PLA is already the world's largest military with 2.3 million men and women in uniform.

The offer of more transparency indicates China now feels strong enough to show some of its cards, said Shen Dingli, a professor at Shanghai's Fudan University and one-time strategy advisor to former UN chief Kofi Annan.

But it also shows Beijing's growing realisation that transparency can foster national security by defusing anti-China voices abroad, he said.

"We are moving from a country that keeps its secrets in the interests of security, to one that shares them in the interests of security. This is a sign of confidence," Shen said.

But China is unlikely to provide a true accounting of its military build-up because that could actually fan foreign fears amid the widespread belief that Beijing dramatically under-reports its military spending, experts said.

"Chinese leaders are likely concerned with sparking a new round of 'China threat' arguments if a real figure is disclosed, because that real figure could be twice or three times the announced budget," said Ding.

Besides promising a more detailed military budget, China said it would resume providing data under the United Nations Register of Conventional Arms, which aims to track transfers of arms worldwide.

China pulled out of the convention in 1996, reportedly amid anger over the United States giving information about Chinese arms sales to Taiwan, Beijing's long-time rival.

China has been blamed for fuelling violence in countries such as Sudan, Myanmar and elsewhere through its arms sales to those governments.

Robert Karniol, a Bangkok-based independent military analyst, said the fact that China was even talking about military transparency was welcome.

But he remained skeptical, noting that China in recent years began publishing a regular defence white paper touted as a sign of openness, but which has divulged little useful information.

"It remains to be seen whether they are just going through the motions or really moving in the direction of transparency."





  新加坡南洋理工大学的中国军事问题专家阿瑟·丁(Arthur Ding)表示,“中国在涉及军事的一切事情上通常严守秘密。他们长期有这样的传统,这点很难改变。”“因此他们给出的任何新信息的有用性取决于他们想走多远。这可能仅仅是一次公关表演。”


  曾担任前联合国秘书长安南的战略顾问的上海复旦大学教授沈丁立(Shen Dingli)认为,中国提出加大透明度,这显示中国如今感到足够强壮,可以露一些牌了。




  曼谷独立军事分析家柯尼尔(Robert Karniol)表示,中国谈及军事透明度的事实是受欢迎的。但他仍然有所怀疑,他指出中国在近年来开始公布常规的国防白皮书,自诩为公开的迹象,但当中没有泄漏多少有用的信息。“他们到底是走过场还是真的朝透明度方向前进尚有待观察。”(原题:中国的军事公开承诺可能令人失望)

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