Chinese leader Xi Jinping is increasingly taking China down a disastrous path of scientific decoupling and military buildup that leads to the country’s estrangement from the world, and risks war. On July 30, according to the South China Morning Post, Xi made a series of comments promoting China’s military power and economic independence, with the sole control of that economic and military power to be held by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Xi Jinping leads the CCP, and his call for more military power under the control of the CCP is typically self-serving, rather than in the interests of China.
Xi said, “On the path of completely building a modern socialist country and realizing the second centennial goal, national defense and the military must be placed in a more important position, and the consolidation of national defense and a strong military must be accelerated. We must persist in strengthening the overall planning of war and make preparations for military struggle.”
These comments are sure to stoke already-heightened concerns about China’s military, especially in the United States, Japan, Australia, India, and Taiwan. They were made two days prior to the People’s Liberation Army’s 94th anniversary, to a 25-member Politburo group study session, according to the Post article, written by Eduardo Baptista.
China’s state media, Xinhua, reported on the comments, and on an article that Xi reportedly wrote for the CCP’s leading journal, to be published on Aug. 1.
Xi specifically mentioned the need for scientific self-reliance during the study session. “It is necessary to promote high-level scientific and technological self-reliance, accelerate research on key core technologies, accelerate the development of strategic, cutting-edge, and disruptive technologies,” Xi said.
According to the Post, Xi “called on the ‘entire Party and entire country’ to work to realize the military’s long-term goals. The military’s needs would have to be considered when laying out plans for societal and economic development.”
He said, “It is necessary to … rigidly implement national defense requirements in the construction of major infrastructure and provide strong support to construction projects for combat readiness training.”
Brian Hart at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) previously noted that Xi has held more than two times the number of Politburo study sessions on military and security topics, compared to Hu Jintao, who was the former CCP leader. Hart wrote in Jamestown Foundation’s China Brief, “Observers of Chinese politics have long paid attention to Politburo group study sessions, as the meetings provide unique insights into the interests and priorities of the CCP’s elite.”
Hart’s article, published on July 2, continued, “When analyzed across time, they [the study sessions] offer a useful body of evidence for identifying significant changes in the party leadership’s priorities. A close analysis of study sessions reveals that, under Xi Jinping, the Politburo has more heavily focused on Party affairs, foreign affairs, and security and military affairs. This represents a dramatic departure from the Hu Jintao (胡锦涛) era, when Politburo study sessions were dominated by economic development and other domestic issues.”
According to the Post, Xi’s article, to be published in Qiushi, “ordered the army to be ‘absolutely loyal’ to the Party,” and “argued that the Party’s absolute leadership was one of the Chinese military’s advantages.”
Xinhua paraphrased Xi’s article as saying that, “Firmly following the Party’s leadership is the fundamental reason why the People’s Liberation Army triumphed over all kinds of trials and tribulations, and advanced from victory to victory. … The troops should be armed with the thought on socialism with Chinese characteristics for a new era and the Party’s strategy on strengthening military capabilities for the new era. … Under any circumstances and at any time, the Chinese armed forces must always remain loyal to the Party, socialism, the country, and the people. … Over a long period of practice, the Chinese armed forces have developed a complete set of fine traditions, which are the fundamental principles and contents of its political work … [there should be a] deepened understanding of the significance of the armed forces’ political work, conducting Party history education in light of actual conditions, thus guiding servicemen to stay true to the original aspiration and mission, and pass on the fine traditions forged by their forefathers.”
Xi’s public statements and writing, in which he calls on the Chinese people to prepare for war, in the context of China’s specific threats of war against, or territorial takings from, Taiwan, Japan, India, Bhutan, the Philippines, Myanmar (Burma), Australia, and the United States, are incredibly misguided, and contrary to the interests of the Chinese people, their scientific advancement, and their economy. Xi’s saber-rattling will only quicken other countries’ ongoing decoupling from China, increase their defense expenditures, strengthen their alliances, and reorient their militaries to defend against Beijing.
Xi’s comments on war can only be seen as rational from his own personal perspective of attempting to hold onto power. By manufacturing an enemy abroad, and a historical mission to take territory from China’s neighbors, Xi creates a justification for his own hold on increasingly centralized power structures in China. But he does this at the expense of what little international goodwill is left towards China, and at great risk to China’s economy, and peace in Asia and the world.
Anders Corr has a bachelor’s/master’s in political science from Yale University (2001) and a doctorate in government from Harvard University (2008). He’s a principal at Corr Analytics Inc., publisher of the Journal of Political Risk, and has conducted extensive research in North America, Europe, and Asia. He authored “The Concentration of Power” (forthcoming in 2021) and “No Trespassing,” and edited “Great Powers, Grand Strategies.”
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.