China's ominous move towards 'military operations other than war'

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China's leader Xi Jinping has paved the way for the Asian superpower to conduct military operations in overseas countries in an ominous step that mirrors Vladimir Putin's so-called "special operation" in Ukraine.

While details are scarce, Chinese state media has reported the Communist Party leader has signed a new order that expands the legal basis for the Chinese military to conduct "armed forces operations" in other territories.

According to China's Xinhua news agency, Xi signed 59 articles which "serve as a legal base for [foreign] military operations other than war".

Such operations could "aim to protect people's lives and property, safeguard national sovereignty, security and development interest, and safeguard world peace and regional stability," it said.

The order comes into effect today, June 15.

China is projecting power further and further into Australia's region. Source: Getty
China is projecting power further and further into Australia's region. Source: Getty

Chinese state mouthpiece The Global Times provided some more details about the apparent expansion of China's military remit.

"These operations can prevent spillover effects of regional instabilities from affecting China, secure vital transport routes for strategic materials like oil, and safeguard China’s overseas investments and personnel," it outlined late on Monday.

"...Like disaster relief, humanitarian aid, escort, and peacekeeping, and safeguard China’s national sovereignty, security and development interests."

US-based analyst and China watcher Jennifer Zeng offered a potentially less flattering interpretation of what the powers are designed for, suggesting the "set of trial outlines" could be used as cover for China's stated plan to annex Taiwan.

"Another possibility is, just like Russia's 'special operation' against Ukraine️, the CCP is getting ready to attack Taiwan without declaring war," she tweeted.

Others seem to agree.

"I think it's definitely a copy of Putin's 'special operation' language," Eugene Kuo Yujen, an analyst with Taiwan's Institute for National Policy Research," told the ABC.

"And after what happened in Ukraine, it sends a very threatening signal to Taiwan, Japan and the surrounding countries in the South China Sea."

He believes Xi Jinping is seeking to expand China's "grey-zone" operations which harm other states but don't meet the definition of war, such as the use of large fishing boats, often armed, to harass and intimidate perceived enemies.

On the weekend, China's senior military general Wei Fenghe told a defence forum in Singapore that China would "fight to the end" to take control of Taiwan, long considered a potential flashpoint for major conflict.

The new order reportedly inked by Xi Jinping comes just weeks after China signed a controversial security agreement with the Solomon Islands, just 2000 kms from Australia's shore.

China has also embarked on a charm tour of Pacific island nations in a bid to strike similar agreements in the region.

A Taiwanese soldier stands on guard during military drills in 2019. Source: Getty
A Taiwanese soldier stands on guard during military drills in 2019. Source: Getty

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