In an address to Chinese military officers at the annual meeting of the National People’s Congress (NPC), Communist China’s rubber-stamp legislature, dictator Xi Jinping said it was important to “step up preparations for armed combat” against various threats, specifically mentioning “Taiwan independence forces.”
Defense Ministry spokesman Wu Qian confirmed that Taiwan is viewed as a possible military target by the Chinese government.
“The Democratic Progressive Party authorities in Taipei are relying on external forces and going further down the path of separatism. The situation against separatism is getting grimmer,” said Wu, referring to the political party of Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen.
Wu defended China’s 6.6-percent increase in defense spending, even as the Chinese economy reels from the impact of the Wuhan coronavirus pandemic, as a response to growing “unilateralism” from “some countries,” by which of course he meant the United States.
Conversely, he condemned U.S. arms sales to Taiwan, which will make it much harder for China to attack the island, as “extremely wrong and very dangerous.”
“We have to make economic calculations but above that we have to make security calculations when we consider military spending,” he said.
Taiwan News noted that Xi’s remarks at the National People’s Congress included a “subtle warning” to India as well. The Chinese military is currently engaged in a tense standoff with Indian troops along the disputed Ladakh border, which Chinese troops have crossed several times. Fistfights and rock-throwing battles have broken out between the opposing forces.
Xi told the plenary session that China should have a “bottom-line mentality” toward its territorial claims against India and should “comprehensively strengthen the training and preparation of troops” to enforce that bottom line.
India Today worried that Xi’s threats of military aggression were more directed at India than Taiwan, even though Xi seemed more interested in Taiwan as a near-term military target.
As India Today explained at length, China has numerous small border disputes and political intrigues brewing against India, which is a far more important regional threat to Chinese ambitions than Taiwan, and Xi might see military incursions as a way of relentlessly pushing its borders outward while India hesitates to respond in a manner that could lead to full-blown warfare. China is also concerned that India will make common cause with Taiwan, having recently complained about two Indian members of parliament sending congratulatory messages to Taiwanese President Tsai on her second inauguration.
In his address to People’s Liberation Army (PLA) officers, Xi praised them for their efforts at controlling the pandemic, which he said has changed the global economic and security environment profoundly in a matter of months.
China’s state-run Xinhua news network left out Xi’s most belligerent comments in its summary of his speech, making it seem like he merely laid out a plan for recovering from the coronavirus and modernizing a peaceable military in the most efficient manner possible:
He ordered the military to think about worst-case scenarios, scale up training and battle preparedness, promptly and effectively deal with all sorts of complex situations and resolutely safeguard national sovereignty, security and development interests.
Xi demanded reform and innovation to address new situations and problems exposed in the epidemic and ordered accelerating the research and development on COVID-19 drugs and vaccines by tapping the advantages of military medical research.
He also stressed scientific innovation on national defense and training of high-caliber professional military personnel.
Noting that this year marks the end of the 13th five-year plan for military development, Xi said extraordinary measures must be taken to overcome the impact of the epidemic to ensure major tasks on the military building are achieved.
He demanded good planning on the next five-year plan. On defense expenditure, Xi said every penny must be well spent to produce maximum results.
He also asked the military to support the economic and social development, poverty relief and others.
Australia’s ABC News noted that China’s defense increase is actually the “slowest rise in defense spending in three decades,” despite Xi’s talk of preparing for combat and remaking the PLA into a more effective high-tech fighting machine with sweeping reforms.