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China's Air force puts on a show
China's People's Liberation Army has put on a show of force for the world's media as part of its anniversary celebrations, as Huey Fern Tay reports.

Every year for the past six years, China's Peoples Liberation Army has put on a show of force for the world's media as part of its anniversary celebrations.

The PLA has turned 86, and it's given the foreign media rare access to one of its air defence brigades on the outskirts of Xi'an in central China, where they demonstrated one of their anti-aircraft artillery.

China correspondent Huey Fern Tay reports.
(Footage of trucks arriving at military compound is shown)

HUEY FERN TAY, REPORTER: Convoy after convoy of trucks roll into a Chinese military compound here in the outskirts of Xi'an city in central China, behind them anti-aircraft artillery.

It's a home grown force proudly on parade. Never before has the People's Liberation Army or PLA opened its 47th Air Defence Brigade to the foreign media.

During this week during the anniversary of the founding of the PLA China's military made a show of transparency.

FENG ZHENGZHONG, 47TH AIR DEFENCE BRIGADE (translation): We want to give the foreign media a chance to visit us in an open and transparent way so that the world can have a better understanding of the People's Liberation Army.

(Footage of soldiers demonstrating equipment is shown)

HUEY FERN TAY: These young Chinese soldiers have been practising the use of this equipment for a year. They help make up the 850,000 soldiers who form China's army.

The size of China's force was only revealed for the first time earlier this year in a Defence white paper released under the new Chinese leadership.

In times of conflict it's these men who are defending China's north-west.

XU HONG, PLA SOLDIER (translation): This is locally made and we're looking forward to having more modern equipment. But if there is a war it's not just about your weapons, it also depends on the integration between soldiers and their weapons.

UNIDENTIFIED MILITARY OFFICER (subtitled): You can ask questions about the military equipment…please everyone feel free to wander around.

HUEY FERN TAY: Why this brigade from this particular military region was on display isn't explained to us despite repeated questioning. And officials deflected other questions too about the PLA's readiness to go to war and the Japanese defence white paper which flagged a lack of transparency in the Chinese military.

GENG YANSHENG, CHINESE MINISTRY OF DEFENCE SPOKESPERSON (translation): It's the first time this sort of brigade has been open to the media. We've never done it in the past.

UNIDENTIFIED MILITARY OFFICER (off camera, subtitled): Please mingle with the other officers and soldiers.

HUEY FERN TAY: China's military is modernising rapidly, but this is a military that hasn't been tested in decades and the PLA has consistently played down any worries about its budget and increasing assertiveness.

(Excerpt from PLA promotional video is played)

VOICEOVER (subtitled): The brigade was born in 1956 as the Anti-aircraft artillery battalion cadre regiment 47th Corps. It is a unit with a glorious history…

HUEY FERN TAY: China has also expanded its peacekeeping role in the region. But some countries are not convinced about the benign nature of China's military development.

Regional countries like Japan and the Philippines have reacted with alarm. Their long-running territorial disputes with China flared up again this year.

The man in charge here stressed that China has not been confrontational.

COMMANDER CHEN XILENG, 47TH AIR DEFENCE BRIGADE (translation): China does have some territorial disputes with neighbouring countries but both the government and the military are quite restrained in dealing with such disputes.

HUEY FERN TAY: China's military is attempting to show a level of openness. But it has its limits, and this show of strength may not convince China's neighbours that a peaceful coexistence is the country's ultimate strategy.
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