This article was originally published by Radio Free Asia and is reprinted with permission.
Ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) leader Xi Jinping has told the country’s military and armed police force to get ‘combat ready’ to defend national sovereignty and security, amid fears that Beijing may be planning an invasion of democratic Taiwan in the next few years.
“The entire army needs to strengthen its performance so as to do a good job of ensuring a good start to the 14th Five-Year Plan, and of celebrating the 100th anniversary of the founding of the party,” Xi told People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and People’s Armed Police (PAP) leaders, according to a Mar. 10 report in the official CCP newspaper, the People’s Daily.
Xi, who as head of the CCP’s Central Military Commission (CMC), is commander-in-chief of all military forces, said the PLA had, during the course of 2020, “strengthened military training and preparations for war … and basically met its targets for national defense and military development for 2020.”
He added: “We should persist in using combat to guide our work; step up preparations for war … as well as developing a top-level strategic deterrent and joint forces combat system.”
Wu Qiang, a former politics lecturer at Beijing’s Tsinghua University, said Xi is likely planning to make a definite move to annex, or, in the CCP’s terminology, “unify with,” the democratic island of Taiwan in the next five years.
“Beijing is looking at speeding up a resolution of the Taiwan issue during Xi’s third term as president,” Wu said. “This means that, over the next few years, the Taiwan issue will become the most important story in the Western Pacific.”
“It is a focal issue that will trigger changes in Sino-U.S. relations sooner rather than later, and will be a flashpoint for Sino-U.S. conflict,” he said.
Xi has also warned that “China’s security situation is highly unstable and uncertain, and the whole army must be prepared to deal with a complicated situation at any time.”
“Beijing is facing unprecedented military tensions in its backyard, a security situation that the CCP really didn’t want to see,” Wu said.
“Most of this revolves around Taiwan, which is the core goal of the national rejuvenation program by 2035,” he said, adding that Xi is using the annual sessions of the National People’s Congress (NPC) in Beijing, which closes in Beijing this week, as a form of political mobilization towards this goal.
An independent scholar surnamed Zhuang from the northern city of Taiyuan said conflict between China and its neighbors has become more and more common in recent years.
“They are making a mess of our foreign relations, and there is constant friction with neighboring countries,” Zhuang said. “They are continuously increasing their military spending to prepare for external conflict, and they are eager to try [annexing] Taiwan.”
“He is deliberately projecting an attitude of belligerence, both for the general public in China and for an overseas audience,” he said.
America’s top commander in the region has warned that China could be preparing to bring forward plans to invade Taiwan as early as 2027.
Admiral Philip Davidson, commander of the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, told the Senate armed services committee that Beijing could launch an invasion within the next six years.
“I worry that they’re accelerating their ambitions to supplant the United States and our leadership in the rules-based international order, which they’ve long said they want to do by 2050,” he said in comments reported by The Times newspaper in London.
“I’m worried about them moving that target closer,” Davidson said.
China’s recent incursions
China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has flown multiple aircraft into Taiwan’s air defense identification zone (ADIZ) since the administration of U.S. President Joe Biden took office on Jan. 20.
The democratic island’s defense ministry said recent incursions have included bombers and fast-moving fighter jets usually used for offensive purposes, linking it to the reported presence of a U.S. aircraft carrier group in the vicinity.
In 2018, the Pentagon warned that the PLA is gradually preparing for a possible invasion of Taiwan, as the CCP “continued to develop and deploy increasingly advanced military capabilities intended to coerce Taiwan, signal Chinese resolve, and gradually improve capabilities for an invasion.”
Taiwan has never been ruled by Beijing nor formed part of the People’s Republic of China, but has been locked out of international diplomacy and agencies at the Chinese Communist Party (CCP)’s insistence.
Washington has said it will no longer seek to “appease” China on Taiwan, as the State Department announced an end to a ban on high-level official and diplomatic contact with Taiwanese officials on Jan. 9, at the tail end of the Trump administration.
Under CCP general secretary Xi Jinping, China has stepped up its rhetoric claiming the island as part of its territory, and has refused to rule out a military invasion.
But Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen has repeatedly said that the country’s 23 million people have no wish to give up their sovereignty or their democratic way of life.