China’s ever-increasing belligerence reflected by its expansionist policy has created turbulence in the South China Sea as well as in the mountainous region of Eastern Ladakh where it shares a border with India.
While Beijing has been embroiled in a five-month-long stand-off with New Delhi at the Line of Actual Control (LAC), China also perturbed military partnership between the US and Taiwan, a ‘regenerate province’ which China has vowed to merge with the mainland.
And according to the latest developments, President Xi Jinping has issued instructions to its military to prepare for a two-footed war against India and Taiwan.
Xi, who is set to hold talks to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi via video calling on the sidelines of BRICS meet next month, was visiting People’s Liberation Army Navy-Marine Corps (PLANMC) base in the southern province of Guangdong for inspection when he spoke to the Chinese marines.
Hinting at a possibility of a war brewing between his homeland and neighbours India, Xi said – “(You) must focus your minds and energy on preparing for war and maintain a high state of alert.”
The statement more than cements the possibility of a major conflict between the two sides whose militaries have deployed additional units, tanks while stocking up huge rations, clothes and defence equipment in the Ladakh region as they are set to remain in the plateau for the long-winter haul.
Xi’s comments arrive after the Monday’s (October 12) seventh round of military talks between the two countries, which despite being ‘positive’ had no breakthrough in the speedy disengagement of troops.
While Beijing is said to be wary of the recent infrastructure build-up by India involving the opening of 44 bridges connected to Ladakh, it has one eye zeroed in on a nation it considers a “renegade province” – Taiwan or Republic of China.
In what were undisguised references to Taiwan and the South China Sea, Xi stressed on the Chinese Marines to cultivate a fighting spirit of “fearing neither hardship nor death” to shoulder the “important duty” of safeguarding China with the “vigour and vitality of the tiger”.
“(The marines must shoulder the) important duty (of safeguarding China’s) sovereignty security, territorial integrity, maritime interests, and overseas interests,”
The communist regimes under the helm of Xi, have continued to ramp up military posturing in the Taiwan Strait by conducting daily incursions into the island nation’s air defense identification zone (ADIZ) since the middle of last month.
Moreover, it was also said to carry out live-fire drills off the coast of Zhejiang Province in the East China Sea and off the coast of Liaoning Province in the Bohai Sea.
Originally established in 1953, the PLANMC, also known as the People’s Liberation Army Marine Corps (PLAMC) is one of the five branches of the PLA Navy (PLAN), consisting of two 6,000-man brigades.
As per reports from the U.S. Naval Institute, the current strength of the PLAN Marine Corps is set to grow from 20,000 marines to more than 100,000.
Defence Writer Caleb Larson, writing for the National Interest says,
“Estimates of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Marine Corps size are hard to determine and vary, though estimates generally range from 12,000 to 30,000 strong. The PLAMC may even eventually balloon to 100,000 strong. Despite being one of the smallest of the People’s Liberation Army’s branches, they are well-equipped for fighting from ship to shore in the South China Sea.”
According to Song Zhongping, China is enhancing its efforts to improve the capability of its Marine Corps in a bid to win the battle against Taiwan. While speaking to Global Times, a daily newspaper under the auspices of Chinese Communist Party (CCP), Song said,
“The PLA Navy-Marine Corps is an important force of conducting amphibious operations against islands, and enhancing the combat capability of PLA Navy-Marine Corps and modernization of its equipment and weapons will help it play a bigger role when it comes to dealing with the Taiwan question in the future,”
Improving the capability of the Marine Corps to win the battle is also an important task if it needs to use military means to solve the Taiwan question.”
Li Jie, a Beijing-based naval expert emphasized the growing role of the PLA Navy of becoming an elite combat force to safeguard China.
“One of the missions of the Marine Corps is conducting amphibious operations in solving Taiwan question by non-peaceful mean when necessary, but with the fast development of China and the expanding overseas interests, the Marine Corps also eyes on multiple missions in the new era, including protecting China’s overseas interests, conducting UN anti-piracy mission or other humanitarian assistance missions around the world,”
“Xi’s inspection suggests that the Marine Corps is no longer an ordinary branch of the armed forces, but has always been an irreplaceable elite combat force to safeguard China’s maritime interests.
As various military services hasten their joint powers, China will become more powerful in safeguarding the islands, reefs and maritime rights and interests,” Li told the Global Times.