China's military marks 95th anniversary as US Speaker's potential Taiwan visit looms

A front-page article about US Speaker Nancy Pelosi's Asia tour in China's Global Times newspaper on Aug 1, 2022. PHOTO: REUTERS

BEIJING - China's military on Monday (Aug 1) marked the 95th anniversary of its founding as tensions rise over a potential visit to Taiwan by US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, with Beijing warning that the military will not "sit idly by" if it takes place.

The visit, which has not been officially confirmed by the United States or Taiwan, could be part of the current tour of the Indo-Pacific by Mrs Pelosi, the third highest-ranking politician in the US.

There are concerns that the brinkmanship exhibited by Washington and Beijing could spill over into a full-on conflict.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said on Monday that it would be a "gross interference in China's internal affairs" if Mrs Pelosi visits Taiwan, warning of "very serious developments and consequences".

"We would like to tell the United States once again that China is standing by, the Chinese People's Liberation Army will never sit idly by, and China will take resolute responses and strong countermeasures to defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity," he said during a regular press briefing.

As to what exactly the measures will be, the world should "wait and see", he added.

Over the weekend, various nationalistic commentators had alluded to supporting a military response.

Mr Hu Xijin, retired editor-in-chief of the nationalist Global Times tabloid, said last Saturday that he deleted a tweet warning of military retaliation should American fighter jets escort Mrs Pelosi on a Taiwan visit, after Twitter blocked his account.

A comment by a PLA unit on the Weibo microblogging platform last Friday posted "Prepare for war!" and received nearly 1.9 million "likes".

To mark its anniversary, the Chinese military held live-firing drills last Saturday in the waters off Fujian province, over 100km away from Taiwan, according to the local authorities.

The coast guard was also holding an exercise in the South China Sea off Guangdong province, said the Maritime Safety Administration.

In an editorial on Monday, the official People's Daily lauded the efforts of military modernisation in the past decade, calling a "strong army" a part of being a great nation, which can also ensure national security.

"Standing at the new historical starting point, we feel more deeply that the Chinese nation's relief from suffering and the liberation of the Chinese people depend on a heroic people's army," the editorial said.

The full text of a speech delivered by President Xi Jinping at the PLA's 90th anniversary in 2017 was also released in public for the first time.

Children attending a military summer camp ahead of the 95th founding anniversary of the Chinese People's Liberation Army in China on July 29, 2022. PHOTO: REUTERS

In it, he called for the military to always be battle-ready and to be victorious when at war, emphasising the Communist Party of China's absolute leadership over the PLA.

These themes have increasingly come to the fore in recent days after it was rumoured that Mrs Pelosi could visit Taiwan this week.

Along with a delegation of other Democratic Party lawmakers, she began her tour in Singapore on Monday, before heading to Malaysia, South Korea and Japan.

Official statements about the trip have made no mention of Taiwan.

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Beijing regards the self-ruling island as a renegade province to be retaken by force if necessary, and has in recent weeks issued increasingly stern warnings of retaliatory actions should the senior politician visit.

China views such a visit as sending an encouraging signal to the pro-independence camp on the island.

During his call with US President Joe Biden last week, Mr Xi had also voiced his objection, calling on Washington to abide by the "one-China policy", adding that "those who play with fire shall perish by it".

While Washington does not have official diplomatic ties with Taipei, it is obligated, under America’s Taiwan Relations Act, to provide Taiwan with the means to defend itself.

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