Chinese president Xi Jinping warned the US that China did not fear war in a fiercely nationalistic and pointed speech marking the 70th anniversary of China’s entry into the Korean war against American forces, amid ever-escalating tensions between the major powers.
Speaking from the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Friday, Xi touted the war to “resist US aggression and aid Korea” from 1950 to 1953 – the only military conflict between China and the United States – as a demonstration of China’s military might against American imperialists.
“Seventy years ago, the imperialist invaders fired upon the doorstep of a new China,” he said. “The Chinese people understood that you must use the language that invaders can understand – to fight war with war and to stop an invasion with force, earning peace and respect through victory. The Chinese people will not create trouble but nor are we afraid of them, and no matter the difficulties or challenges we face, our legs will not shake and our backs will not bend.”
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Xi stressed that “any country and any army, no matter how powerful they used to be” – a clear jab at the US – would see their actions “battered” if they stood against the international community. He added that China needed to accelerate its military modernisation to build a world-class military, and to ensure that the ruling Chinese Communist Partymaintained “absolute leadership” over the military.
“In today’s world, any unilateralism, protectionism, and ideology of extreme self-interest are totally unworkable, and any blackmailing, blockades and extreme pressure are totally unworkable,” he said. “Any actions that focus only on oneself and any efforts to engage in hegemony and bullying will simply not work – not only will it not work, but it will be a dead end.”
The Chinese leader’s remarks, made less than two weeks ahead of the US election, coincided with a fiery debate between US president Donald Trump and former vice-president Joe Biden, in which the two sounded off over who would better tackle the challenges of a rising China.
Xi’s speech, the latest in a series of heavily promoted events on the Korean war in the midst of flaring US-China tensions, also came ahead of next week’s Fifth Plenum, the party’s key meeting that will chart out the country’s political, economic and social development over the next five years.
Earlier in the week, Xi – during a visit to the Korean war exhibition in Beijing – urged the Chinese people to “keep faith in their ultimate victory” and to “prevail over all enemies”, in what was also seen as a clear signal to the US.
Xie Maosong, a political scientist at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said Xi’s speech carried a clear message of China’s readiness to fight back, ahead of Sunday’s anniversary of the first engagement between Chinese and US forces during the Korean war.
Remembered as the Battle of Onjong, the People’s Volunteer Army (PVA) 40th Corps on 25 October 1950 conducted a series of ambushes against Republic of Korea (ROK) troops, destroying the right flank of the US Eighth Army while stopping their northward advance towards the China-Korea border.
“His previous speech was more subtle,” Xie said. “Xi’s speech today – ahead of the anniversary of Chinese PVA troops firing their first shot and having the first win – is clearly aimed to send a ‘we will fight and we will win again’ message to the Chinese people, as China is facing growing pressure from the US now.”
The strategic rivalry between China and the US has intensified over trade, technology, the coronavirus pandemic, battling ideologies as well as Beijing’s actions in the South China Sea, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Xinjiang and Tibet. Analysts have warned that the risk of war has grown, even as a full-blown military conflict remains against the interests of both sides.
*story by South China Morning Post