'Facing real threats': China preparing for 'worst case scenario' amid rising tensions

Tom Flanagan
News Reporter

China President Xi Jinping says his armed forces need to step up preparation and training for war as he defended an increase in military spending, while a Chinese defence spokesperson warned the nation was “facing some real threats” overseas.

On Wednesday (local time), Xi praised the army’s contribution in helping combat the coronavirus pandemic but called for armed forces to ramp up military training.

“It is necessary to explore ways of training and preparing for war because epidemic control efforts have been normalised,” he said on the sidelines of the annual meeting of the National People’s Congress, as quoted by the state-run Xinhua news agency.

“It is necessary to step up preparations for armed combat, to flexibly carry out actual combat military training, and to improve our military’s ability to perform military missions.”

Chinese soldiers march next to the entrance to the Forbidden City during the opening ceremony of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) in Beijing. Source: AFP via Getty

Xi ordered the military to think about “worst-case scenarios” as relations between China and the US, as well as Australia, continue to deteriorate.

While China has lashed out at nations for interference over its proposals to implement national security legislation in Hong Kong, China’s defence spokesperson said on Wednesday it was Taiwan’s reliance on “foreign forces” to further its secession from China that posed the biggest threat to national security.

“China's homeland security and overseas interests are also facing some real threats,” Wu Qian said.

“China must have a clear mind when it comes to national defence and be prepared for danger in peace time.”

China will ‘not allow’ foreign attempts to separate Taiwan

He singled out the Democratic Progressive Party in Taiwan and warned attempts to separate the island from China’s control will “bring destruction on themselves”.

In a similar message issued for Hong Kong, Wu warned that Taiwan is an “inalienable part of China” and the matter is an internal one which China will not accept any foreign interference.

Xi Jinping has told the army to prepare for military combat after praising their contribution during the coronavirus pandemic. Source: AFP via Getty

“China will not allow anyone, any organisation or any political party to separate any part of Chinese territory from the nation at any time in any way,” he said.

“[The Chinese army] has firm will, full confidence and enough capability to thwart any kind of secessionist attempt by foreign forces, and will take any necessary measures to safeguard national sovereignty and territorial integrity and maintain peace and stability across the Taiwan Straits.”

Wu’s warning was likely aimed at the US, with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo recently congratulating Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen on her inauguration for a second term in office, while approving the sale of US$180 million worth of submarine-launched torpedoes to Taiwan.

Tsai in recent years has purchased billions of dollars worth of US arms, which Wu labelled “extremely wrong”, the South China Morning Post reported.

China insecure over foreign threat, expert says

In recent years China has been actively seeking to expand its military capacity, and last week announced a 6.6 per cent increase to its defence budget. Its budget of US$178.2 billion ($268 billion) has roughly doubled over the last 10 years.

Yoram Evron, an expert on China’s military at the University of Haifa’s department of Asian studies, told the South China Morning Post such expenditure regardless of the current economic climate due to COVID-19 revealed Beijing’s fears of the consequences of global tensions.

Thousands of Chinese soldiers at a military rally in 2018. Source: CCTV

“China doesn’t feel safe enough – externally but maybe also internally – to slow down its military build-up, no matter what the economic circumstances are,” he said.

Relations between the US and China continue to rapidly deteriorate with an ugly back-and-forth between some of the nations key politicians showing no signs of slowing down.

In recent weeks China and its state media has criticised Australia’s stance on matters pushed by the US, with China taking particular offence to Australia’s calls for an independent investigation into the origins of the coronavirus outbreak.

On Monday, Chinese state publication The China Daily shared a cartoon that mocked Australia as a yes-man to the US.

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