China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA), the world’s largest military, on Monday celebrated the 95th anniversary, flexing its muscles to deter US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s purported plan to visit Taiwan that has fuelled tension with Beijing.
Pelosi confirmed on Sunday she will lead a congressional delegation to Singapore, Malaysia, South Korea and Japan but was conspicuously silent about a possible stopover at Taiwan, the self-governing island that China claims as part of its mainland.
The proposed visit drew a fiery warning from President Xi Jinping in his last Thursday’s phone conversation with his US counterpart Joe Biden, asserting that ”those who play with fire will perish by it.” Beijing sees official American contact with Taiwan as encouragement to make its decades-old de facto independence permanent.
Coinciding with its 95th Army Day celebrations on Monday, the two-million-strong PLA highlighted some of its latest achievements in weaponry and equipment development and realistic combat preparations to warn ”Taiwan independence” secessionist and external interfering forces.
The PLA revealed new progress has been made in its advanced weaponry and equipment, including its hypersonic missile, amphibious assault ship, aerial tanker and large destroyers, all of which are described by military analysts as having important roles to play if a conflict breaks out in the Taiwan Straits, state-run Global Times reported on Monday.
State broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV) on Saturday released a video titled ”The capabilities of the Chinese troops shown in 81 seconds” showing the launch of a DF-17 hypersonic missile from a transporter erector launcher on a highway in a desert.
The missile can hit stationary and moving targets in the South China Sea, the Taiwan Straits and Northeast Asia, including aircraft carriers, Global Times report said.
While Pelosi’s visit overshadowed PLA’s anniversary, observers say the Chinese military is steadily gaining ascendency in the ruling Communist Party of China (CPC) especially under the leadership of Xi, who besides being the President and head of the CPC is also Chairman of the all-powerful Central Military Commission (CMC), the overall high-command of the PLA.
Xi, 68, who is widely expected to get an unprecedented third five-year term in power or perhaps for life at the key CPC Congress to be held in the next few months unlike his predecessors is the lone civilian in the CMC dominated by the top brass of the PLA.
While Xi, since he took over power in 2012, has been insisting that the PLA should mandatorily function under the CPC, which he said holds the gun, the military which remained his power base is gaining its influence in the 92-million-member Communist Party.
Observers say that the military functioned as a bloc in various key party bodies. Studies showed that PLA has two members out of 25 politburo members while in the Central Committee, the other influential body, the PLA accounts for around 20 per cent of the 205 permanent and 171 alternate members.
Speaking at a study session last Thursday, Xi said the Chinese military should be led by ”reliable people” loyal to the ruling Communist Party to ensure its ”absolute leadership” over the world’s largest armed forces.
”We must lay emphasis on political integrity when cultivating, evaluating and appointing personnel so that the party’s absolute leadership over the military is implemented in the whole process of personnel work,” Xi said.
Xi emphasised that the armed forces must always be led by reliable people who are loyal to the party.
Noting that the starting point and ultimate goal of personnel work is to build armed forces that are able to fight and win, Xi called for efforts to enhance the supply of personnel with strong combat readiness in close step with developments in the forms of war. At a reception to celebrate the 95th founding anniversary of the PLA held here on Sunday, Defence Minister General Wei Fenghe said the PLA has made indelible achievements in realising national independence, liberating the Chinese people, and making the country prosperous and strong.
At the event, attended by President Xi and other top leaders, Gen. Wei also underscored China’s efforts to build a solid national defence and powerful armed forces, commensurate with the country’s international standing and meeting the needs of its security and development interests.
These efforts, he said, will provide the strategic support for realising the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.