Chinese leader Xi Jinping has commanded the regime’s military to focus on “preparing for war,” as Beijing looks to make a splash in 2021—the year marking the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
In the first order of the year, Xi instructed the forces to ratchet up military training. As chairman of the regime’s Central Military Commission (CMC), Xi is head of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), the CCP’s armed forces.
He ordered the PLA to “focus on preparing for war, deepen the transformation of military training, build a new type of military training system, and comprehensively improve the level of combat training and ability to win,” according to Chinese state media Xinhua.
The order follows the CCP’s escalation of military confrontations in several areas last year, including on the India-China border, the Taiwan Strait, and the South China Sea.
Xi also emphasized the role of technology in military training and combat, describing science and technology as a “core idea in combat effectiveness.”
The Chinese regime has embarked on an aggressive military modernization plan in a bid to challenge the dominance of the U.S. armed forces. It’s increased military spending by around tenfold in the past 20 years.
In 2020, Beijing’s stated defense budget was $178 billion, roughly a quarter of U.S. defense spending that year, although experts estimate that the amount was much higher. According to a March 2020 report, the CCP’s military spending is 87 percent that of the United States’ defense budget.
The CCP also uses a “civil-military fusion” strategy to harness technological developments from the private sector to fuel its military modernization. The U.S. administration has blocked visas for graduate-level Chinese students tied to institutions that support this strategy in a bid to guard against the transfer of American technology to Beijing. President Donald Trump also banned U.S. investments in a range of Chinese companies that support their military, due to take effect later this month, blocking U.S. capital from funding the CCP’s military development.
Xi concluded that the PLA must “resolutely implement” the instructions from the top decision-making body within the CMC, and “carry forward the spirit of fighting without fear of hardship or death.”
In October 2020, Xi told the country’s marines to focus “all [their] minds and energy into preparing for war.” Later, the CCP’s top decision-making body met and discussed “preparing for war by integrating political work into all links [chain of command] of combat effectiveness.”
Li Linyi, a U.S.-based China commentator, said at the time that the remarks were more rhetoric than anything else.
“The purpose of the high-profile war propaganda is to put some pressure on Taiwan and the United States. That’s it. At the same time, it [CCP] must satisfy the domestic nationalistic sentiments,” he said.
Last year, the Chinese regime sharply escalated pressure on Taiwan by ramping up military activity across the Taiwan Strait. The CCP considers the self-ruled island as part of its territory and has never ruled out using force to bring it under the party’s control.
The United States, meanwhile, has increased its cooperation with Taiwan. Last year, it approved several large arms sales to Taiwan and deepened diplomatic engagements with the island.