Postcard from... Beijing


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The Independent Online

Not many years ago, foreign reporters in China trying to call the country’s secretive military couldn’t even get a connection because phone numbers assigned to the journalists were barred from reaching the defence ministry.

Yesterday, they were finally permitted to attend the ministry’s monthly news briefing, marking a small milestone in the increasingly confident military’s efforts to project a more transparent image. However, restrictions still apply and there is no sign of an improvement in the generally paltry amount and poor quality of information released by the People’s Liberation Army.

“We hope this will help convey a better and more objective understanding of the Chinese military to the rest of the world,” chief spokesman Geng Yansheng said.

China has chafed under accusations of opacity from the US, Japan and others, and now publishes limited status reports on force size, weaponry and missions. It’s also been taking part in more joint drills.

Questions at yesterday’s briefing touched on prosecutions of senior generals accused of corruption, recruitment strategies and ongoing military exercises in southern China blamed for causing widespread flight delays and cancellations.