As the new year begins, the first order for the armed forces put forward by China’s President Xi Jinping was to emphasize the need for “full-time combat readiness” and the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) must be ready to “act at any second”. The country’s armed forces kicked off this year’s military training and exercise on Monday.
The president also chairs China’s Central Military Commission (CMC) and instructed the army to use ‘frontline military struggles’ to brush up the troop’s preparedness.
He also instructed the PLA to ‘substantially increase’ the incorporation of techonology in its exercises, and to stay up to date with the ever developing hi-tech knowledge. This includes mastering the use of computer simulations and online combat in drills.
“[The PLA must] increase the integration of new equipment, new forces and new combat realms into training and combat systems,” he said.
Ever since taking his place as President and head of CMC, Xi has motivated the PLA to be prepared for war.
A Beijing based military-commentator Song Zhongping said that the premier’s 2021 order takes all measures to ensure China’s prepardness for war and its capability of winning a war. “China is indeed facing a great risk of war, which has been seriously implied in this order,” he said.
Xi’s emphasis on being prepared to act any second stands in contrast to last year’s opening orders, which were to ‘manage crisis and deter war’.
He did not specify the ‘military struggles’ but 2020 saw the worst series of escalating tensions between China and other nations, the US and India in particular. The Indian and Chinese armed forces remain in a prolonged stand-off the freezing Himalayas. The two sides were locked in a severe conflict in the South Western border region, which led to the deaths of 20 Indians and the number of Chinese casualties remains undisclosed.
China has constantly been under criticism from the West over its handling of the corona virus pandemic, the south China Sea and its authoritarian-like controlling of Hong Kong protests.
The monopoly of South China Sea
The USA has been constantly challenging China’s control of the South China Sea region by dispatching ships thorugh the region. The sudden shift in Xi’s intentions comes after the UK announced to deploy the HMS Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier in the region after becoming fully operational.
According to Kyodo News, the ship is expected to join the US and Japanese naval forces near the Japan’s Ryukyu Islands “as soon as early (in 2021).”
After being asked about the possible deployment of the ship Chinese defence ministry spokesman Tan Kefei said: “The Chinese side believes that the South China Sea should not become a sea of great power rivalry dominated by weapons and warships.”
He further added, “real source of militarisation in the South China Sea comes from countries outside this region sending their warships thousands of kilometres from home to flex muscles”.
“The Chinese military will take necessary measures to safeguard its sovereignty, security and development interest as well as peace and stability in the South China Sea,” he said.
Many South East Asian states, Malaysia, Taiwan, Brunei, Indonesia, Phillipines and Vietnam makes claims of having conrtol of parts of the South China Sea, while many others keen to gain access to the regions shipping routes.
The South China Sea holds great importance as has an abundance of oil and gas reserves, is home to rich marine life, and provides routes for over one thrid of the worlds maritime trades; that is an estimate of $3.4trillion.