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Harsh rhetoric from top Chinese military thinkers has widespread public support. Here, a flotilla of Chinese fishing boats steams toward the East China Sea and a group of uninhabited islands that Japan and China both claim. But as he neared the end of his speech, he went on the offensive.
Visibly displeased at the dig, the senior Japanese officer present, army Lieutenant General Yoshiaki Nakagawa, left with his fellow officers as soon as the speeches concluded, people in the audience said.
At issue these days are the disputed islands known as the Diaoyu in China or Senkaku in Japan and a string of islets in the South China that China is contesting with various Southeast Asian nations.
But the combative streak speaks to profound shifts in Chinese politics and foreign policy that transcend the heat of the moment. Others urge Beijing to "strike first", "prepare for conflict" or "kill a chicken to scare the monkeys".
In a political system where civilian officials hew to tightly scripted public positions, these uniformed pundits, both serving and retired, appear free to go well beyond the official line.
Almost all of the most-outspoken generals are military academics or theorists. Foreign military analysts are uncertain if the hawks represent a majority opinion in the 2. It is also unclear if operational commanders share the views of these so-called "activist officers.
The PLA now has something to talk about. That money has paid for the warships, strike aircraft and missiles allowing the PLA to plan for distant conflict. For the first time in its modern history, China has the firepower to contest control of disputed territory far from its coastal waters.
Over the same period, China has emerged from decades of isolation to become a powerful trading nation with a complex global web of commercial and diplomatic ties. That means military planners are increasingly concerned with security of sea lanes - particularly in the South China Sea - that carry manufactured exports and imports of vital energy and raw materials.
For anxious neighbors, though, the tough talk backed up with firepower delivered over a three-decade military buildup, is sending an unnerving signal that a rising China may be ready to use force.
It also conflicts with repeated assurances of a "peaceful rise" from the civilian leadership in Beijing. The degree of military influence on foreign policy decisions could possibly be changing, the paper said, adding: Xi, the "princeling" son of late party leader, military commander and economic reformer Xi Zhongxun, has clearly signaled he will be a strong nationalist.
His first speeches after taking power in November had a strong patriotic flavor, with appeals for a "renaissance" of the Chinese nation.
There appears to be a discord between this peaceful rise language and the comments from senior PLA officers. One of his jobs after graduation from university was personal secretary to Geng Biao, a revolutionary military commander who became Defense minister after the Cultural Revolution.
Xi is close to two influential and outspoken officers who like him are themselves princelingsor offspring of senior leaders: The two are not related. Xi can even be said to be married to the military. His wife, celebrity folk singer Peng Liyuan, is a civilian member of the PLA, holding a rank equivalent to major general.
When Chinese President Hu Jintao visited the United States in earlyit was important to Beijing that the high profile visit go smoothly and Hu receive state honors in Washington. Hawkish talk among the officer pundits died down in the run-up to that trip.
Paramilitary police blocked protesters in Shanghai last September after anti-Japan protests swept China. Their commentary is in demand as part of the extensive coverage devoted to the new warships, tanks, missiles and strike aircraft now entering service with the PLA.
The impact of these new weapons is endlessly analyzed, particularly in scenarios where China is at war with the United States and its regional allies.
For retired officers on modest PLA pensions, this market for commentary and analysis provides extra income and the gratification of a high profile in the media, Chinese military experts say. And, serving officers can advance their careers if their views strike a chord with the military hierarchy.
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