August 2, 2017
Beijing — As tensions continue to rise — and accelerate— over North Korea and its missile program, China’s President Xi Jinping gave his highly anticipated speech at the 90th-anniversary celebration of the founding of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) on Tuesday.
In his speech, presented at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, Xi outlined strategies to continue China’s societal advancement, emphasized loyalty to the governing Communist Party of China (CPC), and praised the modernization of the country’s military.
But it was Xi’s other remarks on China’s military that held the most significance for other players in the region. Xi made it clear Tuesday that while China seeks only to peacefully develop its own national interests, the armed forces stand ready, willing, and able to beat back any attempt to thwart China’s ambitions.
“The Chinese people love peace. We will never seek aggression or expansion, but we have the confidence to defeat all invasions,” Xi said.
This goes for internal factions as well, Xi noted, referencing both sovereignty disagreements with Hong Kong and Taiwan and political opponents to the CPC.
“We will never allow any people, organization or political party to split any part of Chinese territory out of the country at any time, in any form,” he said. “No one should expect us to swallow the bitter fruit that is harmful to our sovereignty, security or development interests.”
Xi also stated that only through loyalty to the CPC can China’s military continue to grow:
“To build a strong military, [we] must unswervingly adhere to the Party’s absolute leadership over the armed forces, and make sure that the people’s army always follow the Party.”
Xi pointed to history in asserting China’s core principle of civilian control over the military, as Reuters reported Tuesday:
“Quoting Chairman Mao Zedong, the founder of modern China, Xi said: ‘Our principle is that the party commands the guns, and the guns must never be allowed to command the party.’”
With party loyalty as a basis, President Xi directed the military — which he heads — to be prepared for a military engagement at any time. From the South China Morning Post:
“Xi also asked the military to focus on preparations for war, and urged its leaders to improve capabilities in modern warfare and combat readiness. The military should be ready to win a war whenever needed, he said.
“As commander-in-chief of China’s military, Xi said that with the unprecedented changes happening around the world, China’s armed forces are the bottom line guarantee for defending peace and security.”
Though he did not point to any situations specifically that would require China’s military to be at a default state of readiness for war, it’s difficult to imagine that Xi wasn’t referring chiefly to heightening tensions over North Korea.
As Anti-Media reported Monday, the U.S. flew two B-1 bombers, accompanied by fighter jets from Japan and South Korea, over the Korean Peninsula over the weekend. It was a show of force following North Korea’s latest firing of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) on Friday.
President Donald Trump didn’t help matters when he tweeted, once again, about how “highly disappointed” he was with China for continuing to fail to do more to rein in Kim Jong-un. China wasted little time in pointedly responding through both official statements and the media, as highlighted in a July 30 Reuters piece called “China hits back at Trump criticism over North Korea.”
Things were complicated further still when Secretary of State Rex Tillerson roped Russia into the situation, saying in a statement that “China and Russia bear unique and special responsibility for this growing threat” posed by North Korea as they are the “principal economic enablers” of the country.
Like China, Russia didn’t take Tillerson’s comments lying down, calling U.S. criticisms baseless in a statement released by the country’s foreign ministry:
“We view as groundless attempts undertaken by the U.S. and a number of other countries to shift responsibility to Russia and China, almost blaming Moscow and Beijing for indulging the missile and nuclear ambitions of the DPRK (North Korea).”
All this comes as China officially opened its first overseas military base on Tuesday in Djibouti, a small but strategically positioned country on the northwestern edge of the Indian Ocean. It’s no coincidence that the opening coincided with the 90th-anniversary celebration, as the base’s operation represents the kind of Chinese development and advancement President Xi highlighted in his speech.