On Monday, Chinese leader Xi Jinping ordered China’s military to mobilize in 2021 for “full-time combat readiness,” stressing a need to be ready for war at “any time.”
A readout of Xi’s order, posted on China’s Central Military Command (CMC) website, urged the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and People’s Armed Police Force (PAPF) to focus on preparing for combat. The South China Morning Post reported the 2021 mobilization order is a departure from last year’s mobilization order, in which Xi instructed China’s armed forces to “manage crises and deter war.”
The CMC readout of the 2021 mobilization order states, “Training under real combat conditions must be deepened and all military training should be war-centered and conducive to improving combat effectiveness, and the research on warfare and combat-related issues should be enhanced.”
The order also asks China’s armed forces to train for confrontation under real war scenarios, to “hone the troops in the frontline of military struggle, and promote the in-depth combination and integration of military training and operations, ensuring combat readiness all the time and operational capability at any time.”
The order does not specify the frontline military struggle Chinese troops faced. While China is not formally in a state of war or armed conflict with other nations, Chinese troops were involved in a brawl with Indian troops along a disputed border region in 2020. The fighting resulted in the deaths of 20 Indian troops and an undisclosed number of Chinese casualties.
Xi’s new mobilization order further emphasized the need for joint training between different military commands, “Stressing that the military should highlight multi-domain joint training involving multiple services and arms and military-civil joint training, and develop a joint training system with the Chinese military’s characteristics.”
The 2021 mobilization effort comes as China has increasingly prepared to control the contested South China Sea region, despite the U.S. rejecting China’s territorial claims in the region. China has also alluded to conflict with the U.S., in one instance releasing a military recruitment ad depicting Chinese bombers dropping bombs on the U.S. territory of Guam.
Xi has directed China’s military to become a modern fighting force. A September Pentagon report said China is working to modernize its military theory by 2035 and to fully transform China’s military units into “world-class” forces by 2049. Increasing joint operations between Chinese military commands would serve to train its forces for modern military fights across different domains.
The new order also calls for China’s armed forces to increasingly integrate new technology.
“The idea of science and technology being a core combat capability should be consolidated, and training with new armaments and new forces in new domains be strengthened and incorporated in training of operational systems,” the readout states.
Xi’s order concludes by calling on Chinese troops to “carry forward the fighting spirit of fearlessness to hardships and death, strengthen their willpower, improve their skills, and accomplish the missions and tasks entrusted by the [Chinese Communist Party] and the people in the new era.”