Chinese leader Xi Jinping on Tuesday told marines stationed at a coastal military base in eastern China that they should “focus on preparing to go to war.”
“[You should] focus your minds and energy on preparing to go to war, and stay highly vigilant,” Xi told the marines, according to state broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV).
Xi is both General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and Chairman of China’s Central Military Commission.
He told the marines that they should aim to be a “multifunctional, rapid response, all-weather and region” fighting force.
“Marines have many different missions and the demands on you will vary,” Xi said.
“As such [you] should base your training on [the need to] go into battle … and raise [your] training standards and combat ability,” he instructed.
The Chinese leader spoke at a military base near the city of Shantou, located in eastern Guangdong province. Shantou is located on China’s southeastern coast, roughly 250 miles from the island of Taiwan.
Xi told marines near Shantou on Tuesday that “they should shoulder the ‘important responsibility’ of safeguarding Chinese territory and sovereignty, the country’s maritime interests and its interests overseas — veiled references to Beijing’s claims to Taiwan and the South China Sea,” according to the South China Morning Post (SCMP).
Tensions between China and Taiwan have mounted in recent weeks. While Taiwan operates as a sovereign state with its own military and democratic government, China regards the island as a renegade province. Beijing has vowed to reunify Taiwan with China by force, if necessary, and has ramped up its efforts to intimidate the island with relentless military flyovers this year. China’s air force has ordered thousands of incursions into Taiwan’s air space over the past several months, in what Reuters described late last month as an “undeclared war of attrition.”
China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) on October 10 staged large-scale military drills simulating an island invasion in Guangdong and neighboring Fujian province, located just 81 miles from Taiwan at the narrowest stretch of the Taiwan Strait, which separates China and Taiwan.
The PLA on October 10 said it planned to hold “another live-fire exercise in the Taiwan Strait, starting on Tuesday [October 12] and lasting for four days,” the SCMP reported at the time.
“The drill will be held off the Gulei Peninsula in Fujian province, according to a notice from the local maritime authorities — a location on the opposite side of the Taiwan Strait to Kaohsiung city,” the report stated.
Taiwan’s Kaohsiung city is located directly across the strait from the Chinese city of Shantou, the site of Xi’s visit on Tuesday.
Xi’s visit to Shantou was part of a greater tour of Guangdong this week promoting the CCP’s plan for “national rejuvenation” in response to the nation’s economic struggle this year under the weight of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. The Chinese leader’s Guangdong tour was scheduled two weeks ahead of “an important Communist Party plenum during which the next five-year economic and social development plan is expected to be approved,” according to the report.