Chinese state-owned media recently showcased the importance of its newly delivered Zubr-class air-cushioned landing craft. The world's largest hovercraft was built and sold to China by Ukraine.
Col. Gen Yansheng, spokesman for the Chinese Ministry of National Defense, confirmed May 30 that the first Zubr [aurochs or European Bison] had arrived in China.
"Zubr's joining the Chinese navy will push China's amphibious capability upward to a new height," the official Global Times newspaper said.
"It will give us the capability for the fast delivery of troops and weapons to the shores of enemy territory, excellent for the [army's] surprise amphibious assault and landing operations."
When fully loaded, the Zubr has a 555-ton displacement — enough to carry 500 troops or an array of weapons systems, including three main battle tanks, 10 armored vehicles or eight amphibious tanks.
The most valuable feature of the Zubr is its speed and range. The craft can reach an impressive 63 knots — more than 70 mph — with a range of 300 miles, crucial for minimizing casualties from enemy coastal defense fire.
The new addition makes a total of nine Zubrs currently in operation — two from Russia, two from Ukraine, four from Greece and one made in China.
CHINA SEEKS RECRUITS IN COLLEGES
The Chinese army is in the midst of a rapid expansion and is already the world's largest armed forces with 2.2 million personnel. Now the military is rigorously recruiting college students to join the increasingly high-tech army that remains controlled tightly by the Communist Party.
On June 17, the military's recruitment campaign among college students began with a grand ceremony in Beijing where more than 1,000 representatives from more than 30 Chinese universities were joined by military leaders and recruiters who demonstrated various policies, incentives and requirements for joining the army.
Pressure to lure more educated young people into the army is growing stronger this year. For decades, China's recruitment season did not start until October, but that tradition was changed this year. Recruitment efforts begin Aug. 1 with the goal of specifically attracting more college students to join, as China's academic year ends in July. China did not start recruiting college graduates for the military until 2001.
PARTY REITERATES STAND ON RELIGION
The Chinese Communist Party must resolutely maintain its cardinal principle that members are not allowed to practice any form of religion, declared Zhu Weiqun, director of the national ethnic and religion commission of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference.
Mr. Zhu has been China's point man in dealing with representatives of the exiled Dalai Lama for nearly two decades. He has been particularly hostile to Tibetan Buddhism, and especially bellicose toward the Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of the Tibetan Buddhists.
The Communist Party's charter asserts that communist ideology demands its members adhere to atheism, which is said to be based upon the writings of Karl Marx.
In Marxist orthodoxy, this theory is considered "science" and the fundamental political philosophy of the communist state is known as "scientific socialism."
In contrast, religions of all kinds are "idealist superstition," popularly characterized by Marx as "the opiate of the masses."
The current supreme leader of China, Party General Secretary Xi Jinping, has a doctoral degree in "scientific socialism" from Tsinghua University in Beijing.
"If we allow two world views within our party," Mr. Zhu stated, referring to communism and any one of the religions, "it will necessarily lead to the wavering, disappearance of the dominant position of Marxism, to the schism and collapse of the unity of thoughts and theoretical foundation of our party."
"And if we allow our party members to practice religion, it is tantamount to letting our members be under the command of the party as well as various religious leaders," Mr. Zhu explained.
"And that means, in Tibet, for example, to allow our Communist Party members to accept the religious influence of the Dalai Lama, thus rendering legitimacy to the Dalai's status as supreme master of Buddhism."
China has 23 million Muslims, 6.5 million Catholics and 23 million Protestants, according to official statistics. Real numbers of Christians in China are certain to be much higher as many churches are underground and unreported because of government persecution. Buddhist and Daoist adherents are difficult to calculate but generally they number close to 100 million.
Mr. Zhu's main concern also is related to what he regards as an international conspiracy to overthrow the Chinese government through religious infiltration.
"Some major international forces are using the Christian religion to infiltrate China. They illegally proselytize, even try to make Christianity a political force against China's socialist system and to divide the nation," Mr. Zhu declared.
• Miles Yu's column appears Fridays. He can be reached at email@example.com and @Yu_miles.