China's armed forces play important role in disaster relief: white paper

In the past two years, the People's Liberation Army (PLA) and the People's Armed Police Force (PAPF) have engaged a total of 1.845 million troop deployments in disaster relief operations, says a white paper on national defense on Thursday.

They have rescued or evacuated a total of 1.742 million people, rush-transported 303,000 tonnes of goods, dredged 3,742 km of waterways, dug 4,443 wells, and fortified 728 km of dikes and dams, says the white paper, issued by the Information Office of the State Council.

As stipulated by China's Constitution and laws, an important task for the country's armed forces is to take part in national construction, emergency rescue, and disaster relief, the white paper says.

According to the white paper, in January 2009, with the armed forces as the mainstay, China formed eight state-level emergency-response professional units, boasting a total of 50,000 personnel, specializing in flood control and emergency rescue, earthquake rescue, nuclear, biological and chemical emergency rescue, urgent air transportation, rapid road repair, maritime emergency search and rescue, emergency mobile communication support, and medical aid and epidemic prevention.

Also, in July 2009, China integrated the 31,000-strong PAPF protecting water and electricity supplies and communications into the national emergency rescue system, the white paper says.

The PLA and PAPF have actively participated in and supported national construction work, of which a key component is the large-scale development of the western region, the white paper says.

In the past two years, they have participated in construction of more than 600 major infrastructure projects relating to transportation, hydropower, communications and energy, it says.

They have set up more than 3,500 contact points for rural poverty alleviation, and provided assistance to over 8,000 small public initiatives, such as water-saving irrigation projects, drinking water projects, road construction projects, and hydropower projects, it says.

PLA medical and health units have provided assistance to 130 county-level hospitals in poverty-stricken western areas, sent there 351 medical teams, the white paper says.