China may not have plans to go to war but it definitely is not scared of one and has made sure that the world knows it. As the Asian superpower remains engaged in conflict with different countries, its President Xi Jinping had recently sent the enemy countries into a tizzy with his clarion call for the preparation of war.
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During a visit to Marine Corps base in Guangdong Province last week, Xi called on troops to “put all (their) minds and energy on preparing for war”. He told the soldiers to “maintain a state of high alert” and called on them to be “absolutely loyal, absolutely pure, and absolutely reliable.”
Reiterating similar sentiments, editor of state-owned Global Times Hu Xijin wrote on Twitter: “Today marks the 70th anniversary of Chinese People’s Volunteers entering DPRK to fight the Korean War. The largest spiritual legacy of that war to Chinese people is: We could defeat the US when we were very poor, is there any reason for us to be afraid of it today?”
The US has heightened activity in the South China Sea as its intrusions have increased this year with 35 reconnaissance missions in May, 49 in June and 67 in July. Analysts believe that it may only take a clash of naval ships or attack of fighter jets during a training mission.
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Recently former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd of Australia raised the matter of an accidental war, wherein US and China may stumble into conflict due to an unintentional collision between ships or planes in the South China Sea leading to crisis, escalation and war.
China claims nine-tenths of the South China Sea and about $4trillion (£3.06trillion) of trade passes through the disputed water each year.
Just last week, US Navy carrier last week conducted drills in the South China Sea. Led by the USS Ronald Reagan, strike group entered the disputed water via Malacca straits. Flight operations with fixed and rotary-wing aircraft were part of the training as the group also undertook maritime strike exercises and coordinated tactical training.
Condemning the US actions, Beijing said the United States was seriously undermining peace and stability with their military exercises and deployments. Furthermore, US alignment with Taiwan seems to infuriate Beijing further.
China’s state-owned media Global Times has speculated in its report that Taiwan and the US may be inching towards a military alliance. China claims Taiwan as part of mainland China and warns that it may use force if needed to reunite the province.
Beijing has reiterated that it will resolutely defend the country’s territorial integrity and maintain peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait.
The US has been extending complete support to Taiwan, where the authorities of Taiwan’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party are trying to lobby Washington to adopt a “Taiwan independence” policy.
Last week, the White House has told Congress that it plans to sell more advanced weapons to Taiwan such as High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, the Standoff Land Attack Missile-Expanded Response, and external sensor pods for the F-16 fighter.
As the tensions mount and Taiwan becomes vocal about its independent status, there is a fear of a Chinese invasion to recapture the renegade province, as per a Reuters report.
The White House national security adviser Robert O’Brien has said on Monday that the island should be prepared to deter so-called “grey zone operations” (that is, aggressive economic and political actions) by China, as well a direct “amphibious landing” by Chinese forces.
Last week, Taiwan’s economic and cultural representative in Washington (effectively Taiwan’s ambassador to the US) Hsiao Bi-khim, has asked the Trump administration to provide “some degree of clarity” on whether the US would come to its aid in case of Chinese invasion.
Xi’s call for war prep can be seen in another way. James Holmes, J. C. Wylie Chair of Maritime Strategy at the U.S. Naval War College, believes Xi was simply asking Marines to do their job and not announcing war. In his piece in the National Interest, he takes Taiwan as an example for Xi’s statement’s target.
Experts say there are three ways to win martial strife – one combatant can overcome the other in action and dictate terms; an armed clash charts the most direct route to victory in war or a competitor tries to convince rival that the rival cannot win, or at least that its prospects are doubtful.