China hosts cadets from military academies around the world, boosting ties and mutual understanding

By Guo Yuandan Source:Global Times Published: 2018/11/28 18:56:13

A total of 104 cadets from military academies in 12 countries attended a week-long exchange program in China

Young cadets, most of whom are reserve military officers in their countries, took the chance to communicate with each other

Both Chinese and foreign cadets understood each other better after the program, which might influence future bilateral relations and military relations

A cadet from Pakistan practices gun shooting at the 6th International Cadets Week (ICW), which was held in Nanjing, East China's Jiangsu Province from October 28 to November 5. Photo: Courtesy of Duan Wei

"Compared with my first time attending International Cadets Week (ICW), cadets for this year's ICW were more confident and performed better," Bie Lin, a military advisor for the 6th ICW, told the Global Times.

Bie, an open-minded military instructor of the People's Liberation Army (PLA), joined the military academy despite opposition from his family and attended the third ICW 10 years ago when he was 19 years old. He joined this year's ICW as an officer from the PLA Army Engineering University and saw these young cadets as a younger version of himself, but with surprisingly good performance.

Cadets from different countries talk at the 6th ICW. Photo: Courtesy of Huang Ji

Young and willing

The PLA Army Engineering University hosted the 6th ICW from October 28 to November 5 in Nanjing, East China's Jiangsu Province.

A total of 31 cadets from military academies in 11 countries - Brazil, Canada, Egypt, France, Japan, the Netherlands, Pakistan, India, South Africa, Thailand and Turkey - attended this year's event together with 73 Chinese cadets from 11 Chinese PLA academies.

"The ICW aims to provide a platform for cadets to have more exchanges and to learn and improve from each other," read a release from China's Defense Ministry.

ICW aimed to enhance understanding, to learn from each other, to cooperate and to create a shared future. The purpose has never changed. The world needs to know China and its military; and the Chinese military also needs to go on the international stage.

These cadets live and undergo military exercises under the command of the PLA. Their training courses included gun shooting, indoor obstacle courses, field training, stimulation training of actions of the UN Peacekeeping Force and courses on Chinese traditional culture.

Most of the foreign cadets came to China for the first time and their initial impressions of China differed widely.

Liu Jinrui, a Chinese cadet born in 1996, told the Global Times, "Before coming to China, a cadet from Thailand thought that China is a closed country with no internet, no medical treatment and no freedom."

Aside from knowing more about China, cadets from different countries used the event to communicate with each other.

Cadets from India and Pakistan talked with each other happily, and cadets from France, the Netherlands and other countries usually got together to share opinions.

Patrick from the Military School of Saint-Cyr in France said that his purpose to attend the ICW in Nanjing was to know more about China's advanced weaponry and how they use it to meet demands of military actions in modern times. What interested him most is the Chinese soldiers - how they learn and do exercises.

The Military School of Saint-Cyr, known as Saint-Cyr, is a famous French national military academy at Coëtquidan, and was founded in Fontainebleau in 1803 by Napoleon.

Patrick is a German and was sent to study in Saint-Cyr under the EU exchange rules. He now studies international relations at Peking University.

Bie said that they arranged a parade for all the cadets from different countries to let them know that "the world is fantastic due to its differences."

"Some foreign military officers said that they had not expected the PLA would be so open that they could take pictures of everything displayed to them," Bie said, noting that displaying an open image of the Chinese military is very important.

The PLA was founded on August 1, 1927. That makes it much younger than the British Army, founded in 1701, and the US Army, founded in 1775.

Cadets from the PLA who attended the ICW are mostly in their 20s. They went through rigid exercises in the 2nd and 3rd year of their military academies and are physically agile and disciplined.

These cadets, although calm when attending the ICW could not hide their youthful passion.

The Chinese cadets who attended the ICW, also had a chance to learn other countries' strengths and their development paths.

Li Minrui, born in 1998, looks like a high school student. He usually carries an iPad in his backpack and wears Xiaomi's fitness tracker.

Li told the Global Times that he respects the late Chairman Mao Zedong and likes reading the book Misery and Glory written by Major General Jin Yinan, who is a professor from the PLA's National Defense University.

"Talking about understanding each other is easy, but actually doing it is hard. Our communications with foreign cadets over the seven days were limited, but it is better than nothing," Li said.

"We usually know about other countries through media reports, but through this event [ICW] we contacted each other and got to know soldiers from different countries. We can feel the differences between each other.  Details showed the differences in our way of thinking, the military exercises and the leadership abilities. We could learn from these differences, sometimes to avoid disputes and sometimes for future reference," Li said.

Zhu Yunliang, a Chinese cadet for the ICW, said that he was impressed by Patrick's knowledge of China.

"He knows a lot about China and even about my home province, Hebei. He can talk about some interesting stories of some Chinese celebrities and often reads The Art of War, a book on ancient Chinese military tactics," Zhu said.

In Zhu's eyes, Patrick has good professionalism. "Although he could not understand everything he encountered in China, he obeyed commands every time. He would execute an order and put forward his opinions afterward," Zhu said.

Liu said that a soldier's confidence mainly comes from the development of his country. He talked about his experience of attending a forum on national security held in South Korea.

"One discussion topic was drones. Chinese cadets who attended the forum actively expressed our opinions, since we have related courses in our academies. However, some cadets from certain countries remained silent. And I learned from them after the discussion that they have no access to drones at all," Liu said.

Cadets play games together at the 6th ICW. Photo: Courtesy of Wang Rui

Military exchanges

The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) filmed the 5th ICW in 2013 in its feature program, China's Model Army, saying those cadets might become military officials of their own countries one day.

Bie was studying in the RMAS in 2013. He felt uncomfortable with some of the content in the program.

"With the BBC's reporting agenda, the report did not reflect the open and cooperative characteristics of the ICW.

"The report criticized Chinese cadets for their lack of practical experience and leadership, which actually resulted from language barriers and military cultural differences of countries," Bie said.

This year, Bie came back to become an instructor and work for the ICW as a military advisor.

Canada and the Netherlands sent five military instructors to the ICW. They told Bie that "Chinese cadets' good communicative skills were better than they expected."

Bie also found that Chinese cadets actively talked to foreign cadets, sometimes using gestures.

"I was not confident enough to communicate with foreign cadets when I took part in the ICW the first time," Bie said.

He recalled that the most impressive cadets in 2009 he had met were those from the West Point. "Their stateliness, confidence and courtesy gave a strong aura," Bie said.

After the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, the Chinese military strenuously promoted practical training with great efforts, and changed the curriculum in military schools.

A shooting exercise at the ICW required teammates to cooperate and practice shooting together. Each team was given 150 bullets and asked to shoot 110 targets, which appeared suddenly on all sides.

"This task has a realistic basis because in actual combat, enemy targets may not appear in the expected direction. It might be a random direction and random target," Bie said.

Zhu told the Global Times that many foreign cadets were curious about this, since they usually shot at fixed targets.

Bie said this course was difficult. Even for the cadets from Saint-Cyr, which emphasizes actual combat training, the course was extraordinary.

The activities were not competition oriented. The Chinese team mostly performed well, according to Bie, who also noted that the Chinese cadets were more familiar with the weapons.

Bie said Chinese cadets' progress is due to China's growing national strength and military development over the past 10 years.

The confidence comes from a mentality that Chinese cadets can face their weaknesses calmly and acknowledge others' advantages.

This Global Times reporter found Japanese cadets left a great impression on Chinese cadets due to their bravery.

In many Chinese cadets' eyes, Japanese cadets are punctual, careful, tough and persevering. The bed sheets of Japanese cadets were always clean and tidy, even after they left the ICW.

As the only country which took part in the ICW for six years, Japan has never lost an opportunity to learn more about the country across the sea and the PLA. What's more, China knows about and understands Japan and Japanese soldiers better through this opportunity.

Future Chinese brass

Fifteen to 20 years later, these young cadets might be officers at a brigade or regimental level. Twenty-five or 30 years later, some of them might become top military officials. The bilateral relations and military relations among the participating countries will be influenced by the ICW after 20 years.

Before these cadets start their military career officially, it's a good chance for them to have contact with their international peers, and learn about foreign military systems and the world firsthand.

Soldiers are born to be prepared for a battle but they don't expect war. Bie loves to read anything related to the Gulf War and loves a sentence from Benjamin Franklin: "There never was a good war or a bad peace." He said what today's Chinese cadets need to show is the ability to stop and contain a war and keep peace.

Chinese cadets live in an era in which China appears more and more on the international arena. It is significant for them to note differences during the exchanges and not to hold a limited outlook.

As the BBC reported, China and its new army are bound to take a more important role in the global affairs.



Newspaper headline: Open to the world

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