China flexing its military muscle

Army veterans salute the Chinese national flag at the top of a 2000m peak in Funiu mountains yesterday in honour of the 90th anniversary of the founding of the People's Liberation Army in Luoyang, Henan province of China. / VCG / Getty Images
Army veterans salute the Chinese national flag at the top of a 2000m peak in Funiu mountains yesterday in honour of the 90th anniversary of the founding of the People's Liberation Army in Luoyang, Henan province of China. / VCG / Getty Images

China will fiercely protect its sovereignty against "any people, organisation or political party".

President Xi Jinping made this warning yesterday as the country celebrated the 90th anniversary of its military.

The message comes as the ruling Communist Party (CCP) faces political resistance in semi-autonomous Hong Kong, where many locals fear Beijing is tightening its grip, and in self-ruled Taiwan, which China views as a rebel province awaiting reunification.

The Asian giant is also mired in several bitter border disputes with its neighbours, including an ongoing stand-off with India over territory on China's border with Bhutan.

"We will never allow any people, organisation or political party to split any part of Chinese territory out of the country at any time, in any form," Xi told an audience of CCP and People's Liberation Army (PLA) officials gathered at Beijing's Great Hall of the People, who broke out into applause. "No one should expect us to swallow the bitter fruit that is harmful to our sovereignty, security or development interests," he said.

While China formerly followed a strategy of "hide your strength", it has begun to indulge in more frequent, pointed demonstrations of its power.

On Sunday it held a rare military parade in Inner Mongolia in which Xi stressed the need to build a world-class army loyal to the CCP, and capable of "defeating all invading enemies". In Hong Kong in June, Xi helmed the largest military parade there in decades to mark the 20th anniversary of the former British colony's handover to China.

The country in December also sailed its first aircraft carrier near Taiwan, where the ruling political party has angered Beijing by refusing to acknowledge that both sides are part of "one China".

Since coming to power in 2012, Xi has trumpeted the need to build a stronger combat-ready military, while leading efforts to centralise the Communist Party's control over it. China has for some time been engaged in a modernisation of its once-backward armed forces, seeking military clout commensurate with its economic might.

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