Chinese President Xi Jinping visited the 78th Army Battalion amid tensions with Taiwan in the Indo-Pacific. In a statement that again raised alarm in the West, Xi Jinping called on China’s military to improve combat readiness of its troops.
Xi, also general secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China and chairman of the Central Military Commission, made the remarks as he inspected the 78th battalion of the military.
In his statement, he called for efforts to improve the level of combat readiness, strengthen the training of key personnel and create new combat capabilities.
He also underlined “the importance of strengthening party construction, maintaining a high level of integrity and unity of the armed forces and ensuring that the armed forces remain stable and secure”.
Zhang Youxia and other senior military commanders were present during the inspection.
The demands for more preparedness are alarming given the rising tensions in the Indo-Pacific. It’s that Xi Jinping’s regime has demonstrated for months that they want to take control of Taiwan, a self-ruled island that – they say – is part of their territory. Over time these expressions of desire became stronger and more frequent.
Concerns about Chinese military expansion are high. This year, the Chinese regime announced the largest increases in its military budget since 2019. Modernization plans should be in place by 2035 and aim to transform the military into a ‘world class’ force that will rival that of the US and other Western powers by 2050.
To date, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) counts more than two million men and women undergoing active-duty training, according to the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), making it the largest armed force in the world.
The ground troops form the largest part of the army, with 965,000 soldiers, while the navy has 260,000 members and the air force 395,000. It also has a strategic missile force of 120,000 and a paramilitary arm of 500,000 soldiers.
The changes come at the expense of greater concentration of power: Xi Jinping has tightened his grip on the military since he abolished term limits in 2018, allowing him to stay in power indefinitely.
In 2021, the National Defense Law was amended to give the Central Military Commission (CMC) headed by Xi the full responsibility for defense mobility. This means that the Council of State no longer has a say in decisions related to military employment.
China also has a large missile arsenal, along with stealth aircraft and bombers capable of carrying nuclear weapons, as well as submarines.
Beijing has about 350 nuclear weapons, far fewer than the 5,428 the United States has or the 5,977 Russia has, according to data from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).
China’s nuclear arsenal is expected to increase to about 1,500 warheads by 2035, the Pentagon said last year.