Chinese President Xi Xinping has ordered the People’s Liberation Army to enhance its combat readiness as the country prepares to celebrate its New Year, and as tensions remain high between Beijing and independent Taiwan. Chinese J-20 stealth fighter jets during a military parade at the Zhurihe training base in China’s northern Inner Mongolia region on July 30, 2017.
Xi visited a division of the PLA Air Force late last week, according to a report from the state-run Xinhua News Agency published on Saturday. Xi inspected the readiness of the division in Southwest China’s Guizhou Province.
The state-owned nationalistic Global Times newspaper said the president “said that PLA troops should enhance their combat readiness” ahead of the seven-day national holiday marking New Year which will begin on Thursday.
Global Times also said “other militaries should not have the illusion that they can make provocative moves during the holidays without meeting PLA’s countermeasures.”
China is continuing military exercises in the area surrounding Taiwan, asserting its long held belief that the island represents a wayward province to eventually be brought back under Beijing’s control. Chinese officials have consistently warned they will resort to force to do so if diplomatic efforts fail.
China routinely conducts military exercises close to the democratic island, with Taiwanese forces likewise running drills to simulate a Chinese invasion. American forces also maintain a regular presence near the island and in the Taiwan strait which separates the island from China.
Though the U.S. does not officially recognize Taiwan, it does provide diplomatic and military support to Taipei, much to Beijing’s annoyance. This support was expanded under former President Donald Trump’s administration, as part of its effort to contain Chinese influence.
Beijing has maintained its pressure into President Joe Biden’s term. Indeed, just days after Biden’s inauguration it was revealed that Chinese forces held a drill simulating missile attacks on an American aircraft carrier during an incursion into Taiwanese airspace.
The Chinese Communist Party fears that Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen and her Democratic Progressive Party want to move the island towards full independence, buoyed by last year’s landslide election victory and increased U.S. support.
Last week, China warned the Taiwanese government that “independence means war.” Chinese Defence Ministry spokesman Wu Qian told reporters: “The military activities carried out by the Chinese People’s Liberation Army in the Taiwan Strait are necessary actions to address the current security situation in the Taiwan Strait and to safeguard national sovereignty and security.”
“They are a solemn response to external interference and provocations by ‘Taiwan independence’ forces,” Wu said of PLA activity near Taiwan. He added that only a “handful” of people in Taiwan actually wanted the island to move towards official independence.