As tension between China and Taiwan escalates, Chinese President Xi Jinping has called on his country’s troops to start preparing for war, according to a report by Xinhua, the state news agency.
“(You should) focus your mind and energy on preparing for war and remain very vigilant,” Xi said in a report published in the China Morning Post, a Hong Kong newspaper.
Xi made the remarks during a Marine Corps inspection visit to a military base in Guangdong province. The purpose of his visit to the region was to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Shenzhen Special Economic Zone.
But his remarks come at a time when China’s relations with the world – including with Canada and the United States – are increasingly strained.
Later this month, a Royal Canadian Navy frigate will join the Japanese Self-Defense Force and the United States Army for training in Japan.
A particular point of contention for the Chinese president is Taiwan. For decades, China has claimed jurisdiction over Taiwan, an island democracy off the country’s southeast coast. In recent months, the stalemate has intensified: Chinese fighter jets and navy ships have been spotted in the Taiwan Strait.
Margaret McCuaig-Johnston, a senior researcher at the University of Ottawa’s Institute of Science, Society and Policy, said that over the past half-decade, China has been increasingly belligerent towards its neighbors, notably India and Bhutan.
“The fact that Taiwan is a separate, democratically elected country, they should see Taiwan as a neighbor and not as a point of conquest,” said McCuaig-Johnston.
Gordon Houlden, director of the China Institute at the University of Alberta, said Xi was ruling China at a time when he needed to satisfy burgeoning nationalist sentiment.
“Taiwan is a special case. No Chinese president, in my opinion, would survive a week if he… abandoned the goal of reunification, ”Houlden said. “And China has never ruled out the use of force.”
On Saturday, Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen attempted to extend peaceful overtures to China, calling for “reconciliation between the straits and peaceful dialogue.”
“I think regional tensions can certainly be resolved,” she said.
In response, Chinese state television released a video of military exercises on the Chinese coast, featuring amphibious landing craft, attack helicopters and missile systems, and warning China could attack if Tsai did not recognize. not Taiwan as part of China, The Washington Post reported.
Taiwan’s growing relationship with the United States is not helping matters. Reuters, citing multiple sources, reported this week that the United States is considering an arms deal with Taipei, which would include the sale and export of drones and an anti-coastal ship cruise missile system. Other arms transactions are already underway. Reuters reported in September that seven “major weapon systems” were being exported to equip Taiwan with advanced weapons.
In response to this week’s Reuters report, Lijian Zhao, a spokesperson for China’s Foreign Ministry, said China would respond if necessary. “The United States should immediately cancel planned arms sales to Taiwan, end all arms deals and sever military ties,” Zhao said this week.
Canada has been drawn into another point of tension between the United States and China: the detention of Meng Wanzhou, the chief financial officer of Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei, goes through an extradition hearing in Canada at the request of the states -Unis, which she faces. charges of violating the US embargo on trade with Iran. China is widely considered to have kidnapped Canadians Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig in retaliation.
It is not known whether the sound of the saber over Taiwan will amount to anything.
“The biggest risk for China is US intervention,” Houlden said. “The language is always alarming and you shouldn’t ignore it, but I don’t think there should be panic about it… it’s not the first time and it shouldn’t be surprising.
“But also, it may be a warning to the international community and to Taiwan that this (unification) is still a Chinese goal, which they still take seriously, and which they intend to achieve,” he said.