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China Puts on Air Show for Foreign Military Attaches

  • Stephanie Ho

A Chinese airman stands at attention during an Air Force show at Yangcun Air Base.

A Chinese airman stands at attention during an Air Force show at Yangcun Air Base.

China has responded to calls for greater military transparency by inviting foreign military attaches and journalists to an air show at a military base near Beijing.

Pilots from the People's Liberation Army (PLA) Air Force's August 1st (Ba Yi) air demonstration team fly Chinese-made J-10 acrobatic fighter jets. More than 50 foreign military attaches were in the audience at China's Yangcun Air Force Base Tuesday.

After the show, the foreign defense officials were invited to inspect the planes up close.

Afterward, the August First team leader, Yan Feng, introduced his air division. He ended his presentation by emphasizing its efforts to increase friendly exchanges with foreigners.

He responds firmly to a question implying that Chinese aircraft are inferior to U.S. planes. He names no specific enemy, but says China will be able to defeat any unfriendly forces, no matter how strong they are.

Yan had a friendlier answer for U.S. Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Jeffrey Louie, who asked whether China plans to take its air show to other countries. 'If I had the opportunity, I'd especially like to go to have an air show in the United States, together with the Thunderbirds," he said.

Over the past several years, China has significantly increased its defense budget to modernize its military. However, it has received criticism from its neighbors and the United States for what many governments consider a lack of transparency about its defense plans. This show was a new attempt at openness.

Israeli defense attaché Yossef Engler-Sher was pleased with the demonstration. "The capabilities of the J-10, I think that was the thing that impressed most of us, I think. Good capabilities of the J-10, good demonstration, and very open during the discussion. He (Yan) answered some good answers, it was very open," he said.

This was the first time the PLA organized an air demonstration for foreign defense attaches and foreign media. But Chinese military officials indicated that they are planning to hold more similar events, so that the international community can learn more about China's armed forces.