Monday, August 3, 2009

Chinese military to launch website, open itself up to more media by Jeff Ramsay

source: Republic of Botswana (1/8/09): TAUTONA TIMES no 19 of 2009
The Electronic Press Circular of the Office of the President
"Democracy, Development, Dignity and Discipline"

E6) 26/7/09: Chinese military to launch website, open itself up to more media by Jeff Ramsay

(Shanghai) - In an attempt to be more transparent and proactive in what it terms its "public diplomacy" the Chinese Ministry of National Defence has announced that it will launch an official website on the 1st of August.

According to a Ministry spokesperson, Colonel Huang Xueping, the website, which will initially be published on-line in English as well as Chinese, is part of a broader effort on the part of the military to open itself up to greater scrutiny by the media and general public.

The August 1st launch date will coincide with the 82nd anniversary of the founding of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) as the then revolutionary armed wing of the Communist Party of China.

Between 1927 and 1949 the PLA fought against rival Chinese nationalists and Japanese invaders in a protracted struggle which culminated in the establishment of the modern People's Republic under Communist Party leadership, an event whose 60th anniversary will be marked later this year.

In the past PLA media outreach has been limited to a handful of local state media organizations. It is anticipated that this will now change.

According to Col. Huang the Defence Ministry is now working to improve its press liaison through a network of information offices, which are being established at major military institutions across China. The first group of a new corps of press officers are reported to have graduated from a "boot camp on public relations" in March of this year.

It is expected that the Chinese military will also emulate the example of America and elsewhere by beginning to hold regular press briefings for both domestic and international media in the capital, Beijing, in a further effort to demystify the army's image.

On-line media analysts and local media suggest that the new Chinese Defence portal has been modelled on the US Pentagon's "Defence Link".

Within China, the PLA is held in high regard as a symbol of national unity, strength and common values. Its past and present achievements have long been a staple for the local film and television action drama's, of both a historical and fictional nature. But, until now the military had been relatively slow to embrace the challenges of new media, as well as the international press. However, in recent years it has eased up on its reluctance to release current information.

The Chinese defence establishment's greater openness coincides with an increase in its level of military-to-military exchanges with outside countries. In this respect, the Chinese navy is currently working closely with naval forces from twenty countries, notably including past rivals US and Japan, in countering pirate activities off the shores of Somalia. This is the first major Chinese naval exercise in African waters since 15th century expeditions of the Ming Dynasty era Admiral Zheng-He.

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