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Countries Increasingly Send Officers to China for Military Training


FILE - Foreign naval officers group up for a photo on the naval training ship Qi Jiguang before a celebration to remember the 70th anniversary of the founding of China's PLA Navy April 23, 2019. (Photo by Mark Schiefelbein / POOL / AFP)
Countries Increasingly Send Officers to China for Military Training
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China is aiming to make its foreign military training schools a more popular choice among military officials from developing countries.

That information comes from a report by a British research organization. It found that a record number of officers from African Commonwealth countries are training in China. Commonwealth countries are those formerly governed by Britain.

Since the 1950s, the British army’s well-known Sandhurst has often been the first choice for developing countries to send their best military officers for training. But China is making gains.

Spreading influence

Researchers Radomir Tylecote and Henri Rossano are writers of the report “China’s Military Education and Commonwealth Countries.” They are with the London-based policy research group Civitas. The researchers say China’s military training programs are part of its effort to gain influence over developing countries.

The researchers wrote that “China increasingly uses its military training for foreigners as a method of promoting its models of governance…” They said during the training, China promotes its “Party-Army model.” This is where the army serves the ruling party. They noted that such a system goes against multi-party democratic systems.

Civitas said that China has trained thousands of officers at middle and top levels from over 100 countries in recent years. The numbers are rising, with a large amount from African Commonwealth countries.

FILE - Students of the National Defense University listen as US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel gives a speech at the university in Beijing on April 8, 2014. (Alex Wong/Pool/AFP)
FILE - Students of the National Defense University listen as US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel gives a speech at the university in Beijing on April 8, 2014. (Alex Wong/Pool/AFP)

Belt and road initiative

Many countries joining the foreign military training programs are also receiving loans and financial support from China’s Belt and Road Initiative, or BRI. Both the United States and the European Union have criticized the BRI. They say it is used for economic coercion and that the loans are used to force China’s political purposes.

China has denied the accusations.

Tobias Ellwood is chairman of the British parliament’s defense committee. He told Britain’s The Times newspaper last week China has trapped many countries into long-term economic programs. He said these countries cannot pay for the programs and China is using that to reshape the international system. He said it is no surprise to learn China’s increasing influence now includes military training schools.

The Global Times, a newspaper of the Chinese Communist Party, has said the military training programs help to change foreign officers’ false ideas about China.

Political effects

Some Western politicians and researchers are warning there is evidence that the relationships China is creating with foreign military officers may have political effects. This includes changing the political systems of some developing countries.

They used Zimbabwe as an example. It was once a member of the Commonwealth. Zimbabwe’s former leader, Robert Mugabe, was a student at China’s International College of Defense Studies. He identified as a Marxist for much of his rule.

Other Commonwealth countries receiving Chinese military training include Cameroon, Rwanda, Guyana, Kenya, and Uganda. China is supporting politico-military schools in Ghana, Tanzania, and Uganda. China is also supporting a school in Namibia and developing training programs for the Sri Lankan military.

I’m Gregory Stachel.

Jamie Dettmer reported this story for Voice of America. Gregory Stachel adapted it for VOA Learning English. Ashley Thompson was the editor.

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Words in This Story

promote v. to help (something) happen, develop, or increase

coerce – v. to make (someone) do something by using force or threats

afford v. to be able to pay for (something)

Marxism – n. the political, economic, and social theories of Karl Marx including the belief that the struggle between social classes is a major force in history and that there should eventually be a society in which there are no classes

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