Chinese dictator Xi Jinping paid a visit to the headquarters of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Eastern Theater Command in Nanjing on Thursday, encouraging his troops to keep up military pressure on Taiwan even as U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen was arriving in Beijing for an official visit.
The symbolism of Xi delivering such a belligerent speech while the Biden administration’s latest envoy was toddling through the tedious rituals of polite diplomacy was hard to miss. Xi told his PLA audience to increase their combat readiness and continue “safeguarding China’s sovereignty” by harassing America’s good friends in Taipei, as reported by the South China Morning Post (SCMP):
“It is imperative for us to deepen planning on war and combat, upgrade the joint system of theater commands, focus on actual combat training, and improve our ability to win any war,” Xi said during an inspection tour of the command headquarters in Nanjing on Thursday.
He also praised the command’s “significant contributions” in safeguarding China’s territorial sovereignty, maritime rights and interests, and national unity, state news agency Xinhua reported.
“The world has entered a new period of turmoil and change, and our country’s security situation has become increasingly unstable and uncertain. It is necessary to keep in mind our mission and tasks at all times, stay focused in solving problems, enhance the sense of urgency, and go all out in fulfilling the main combat functions of the theater,” Xi was quoted as saying.
China’s security situation is only “unstable and uncertain” because the Chinese keep claiming land that does not belong to them and provoking violent confrontations along their borders, from the Himalayas to the South China Sea, and most especially in the Strait of Taiwan, which would not be militarized as much if the Taiwanese did not have very good reasons to suspect Xi plans to invade them.
The SCMP pointed out that the PLA’s Eastern Theater Command “has played a central role in multiple rounds of live-fire drills encircling Taiwan since August, launched in reaction to Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen’s meetings with senior U.S. officials.”
Chinese state media reports on Xi’s speech strove to make him sound less belligerent and avoided mentioning Taiwan at all, as though he were congratulating his troops for doing a great job of keeping Japan and South Korea from getting rowdy.
China’s Xinhua news service quoted Xi praising the PLA for “safeguarding China’s territorial sovereignty, maritime rights and interests, as well as national unity.”
Xinhua also quoted Xi musing that “military issues must be considered and handled from a political perspective” and demanding a stronger Communist Party presence on military bases. He wanted to make Communist Party leadership “more capable of leading combat readiness,” an imperative that would include himself since he is chairman of the Party Central Military Commission.
Taiwan News was keenly aware that Xi was addressing the military group that would “shoulder much of the task of invading Taiwan, were Xi to give the order.” India’s WION News recalled that Xi made similar remarks in April, after inspecting the PLA Southern Theater Command, which covers the many disputed islands of the South China Sea.
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