Xi Jinping tells troops to “focus on war preparedness” as China’s military drills continue

Xi Jinping tells troops to “focus on war preparedness” as China’s military drills continue
Source: Carlos Garcia Rawlins, Reuters
Xi emphasized the Chinese Communist Party’s “absolute leadership over the armed forces” and urged his soldiers to cultivate a spirit of “fearing neither hardship nor death" with the “vigor and vitality of the tiger.”

China conducted new naval drills on Wednesday, October 14, after the Chinese President Xi Jinping urged the military on Tuesday to “focus on war preparedness and combat capabilities” amid growing tensions in the South China Sea.

The day-long naval exercise took place in the Bohai Sea in China’s northeast, the Chinese state-backed Global Times newspaper reported. However, the details of the naval drill and the military hardware involved in the event remained unclear.

In September, Beijing held naval activities in the Bohai Sea on a much larger scale that included live-fire activities with all non-military ships prohibited from entering the waters where the drills were taking place.

On Tuesday, China’s state-affiliated news agency Xinhua reported that Xi told the troops to “put all (their) minds and energy on preparing for war" during his visit to a military base in the southern province of Guangdong on October 13.

Xinhua said that while inspecting the People’s Liberation Army Navy Marine Corps (PLANMC) base in Chaozhou City, Xi suggested the troops to “maintain a state of high alert" and demanded of them to be “absolutely loyal, absolutely pure, and absolutely reliable.”

Xi said that the marines must carry out the “important duty" of protecting China’s “sovereignty security, territorial integrity, maritime interests, and overseas interests,” making indirect references to Taiwan and the South China Sea.

Xi also called for improvement in China’s combat capabilities “to forge a powerful troop, with battlewise soldiers,” adding that the soldiers should be “swift in response, and capable of fighting under multi-dimensional conditions.”

During his speech, Xi noted that it was necessary to do extensive research on ways to build “the Marine Corps with Chinese characteristics.” He said that the preparations for the “14th Five-Year Plan” aimed at ensuring a consistent military buildup were “intensifying.”

Xi emphasized on the Chinese Communist Party’s “absolute leadership over the armed forces”  and stressed that attention must be given to the “strict management of the party and the army in an all-around way, and ensure that the troops are absolutely loyal, pure, and reliable.”

The Chinese President also spoke about promoting the “fine tradition" and “imparting the red gene” to inspire a military culture in the marine corps. He urged the soldiers to cultivate a spirit of “fearing neither hardship nor death" with the “vigor and vitality of the tiger.”

Xi was in Guangdong to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Shenzhen Special Economic Zone, a financial hub that was established in 1980 to attract foreign investment and played a vital role in giving a strong impetus to the Chinese economy that has become the second-largest in the world.

Chinese Military experts quoted in the Global Times said that Xi’s visit to the marine corps would “speed up its preparation for any potential military conflict in the water areas and islands in regions like the Taiwan Straits, South and East China Seas, as well as the regions of significant overseas interests,” adding that “the strategic pressure from foreign hostile forces against China is increasing.”

China’s growing discomfort due to the strengthening of US-Taiwan ties

Xi’s stepping up of the military rhetoric came following Taiwan’s National Day on October 10 that saw the Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen extending an olive branch to Beijing, expressing her willingness to have a “meaningful dialogue” on an equal basis.

However, two Chinese military aircraft reportedly violated Taiwanese airspace on October 9 by entering into its air defense identification zone (ADIZ). According to Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defence (MND), the alleged incident was the 15th of its kind in which Chinese forces violated the airspace or waters near Taiwan since September 16 when a Y-9 was claimed to be spotted in the area for the first time by the Taiwanese military.

On October 7, China issued a war threat against Taiwan after the island’s principal opposition party, the Kuomintang Party (KMT), called for the reestablishment of diplomatic ties with the United States. The KMT made an astonishing reversal from its long-held stance of favoring Beijing’s “One-China” policy by proposing two anti-China bills in Taiwan’s Legislative Yuan. The bills passed unopposed on October 6, in a rare show of bipartisanship in Taiwan’s electoral politics.

Beijing’s threat of military action against Taiwan came amid US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s Asia tour, aimed at garnering support against China.

Experts consider that China’s escalated aggression against Taiwan is a consequence of Taipei’s growing closeness with Washington. In the last two months, there have been unprecedented visits by senior United States diplomats to Taiwan.

US National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien warned Beijing on October 7 against any military action on Taiwan, although he added that it was difficult to predict how the US would respond in case of a Chinese attack on Taiwan.

“It’s not an easy task, and there’s also a lot of ambiguity about what the United States would do in response to an attack by China on Taiwan,” O’Brien told an event at the University of Nevada in Las Vegas.

Reuters reported on Monday that the White House had notified the US Congress about its plan to move forward with the sale of three advanced weapons systems to Taiwan, including the advanced High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS).

In response, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian asked Washington “immediately cancel any arms sales plans to Taiwan" and cut all “US-Taiwan military ties.”

On Wednesday, China accused the US of “gradually leaning towards Taiwan secession” and criticized Washington for trying to establish an Indo-Pacific alliance, which Beijing claims to be a threat to regional stability.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said on Tuesday that the US-led security partnership could “mark the beginning of a dangerous and slippery” slope in Asia-Pacific. Wang also cautioned against “external disruptions” and stated that the future of the region “should be determined by the people in the region”.

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