The BBC reports that President Hu Jintao has told China’s navy that it should speed up its development and prepare for warfare.
He told military personnel they should “make extended preparations for warfare”.
As discussed by me here, China is locked in territorial disputes with several other nations in the South China Sea. Political tension is also growing with the US, which is seeking to boost its presence in the region.
The BBC continues:
Mr Hu told a meeting of military officials that the navy should “accelerate its transformation and modernisation in a sturdy way, and make extended preparations for warfare in order to make greater contributions to safeguard national security”.
The word “warfare” was used in official media, but other translations used “military combat” and “military struggle”.
Analysts say Mr Hu’s comments are unusually blunt, and are likely to be aimed at the US and Beijing’s rivals in the South China Sea.
As far as I can tell, this report is not carried in any of the Chinese news outlets. The story may therefore be overestimated in its importance. The small value of oil and gas deposits in the South China Sea makes any Chinese aggression pointless: they would be able to secure far more resources through bilateral agreements with for example African countries.
The sabre-rattling – if indeed is what this is – is probably more about the domestic agenda. There are clearly those within the Beijing Government who are annoyed at America re-stating its case to be an Asian power, and this may be an attempt to assuage the anger of the hawks.
In other related news, the Chinese Government paper the Global Times carried an article calling for closer Sino-Indian ties. The main thrust of the report is that India should create a close relationship with its fellow Asian nation rather than the US or the West.
From a strategic point of view it makes perfect sense for Beijing to enhance its relations with India. The last thing it needs is for a major Western ally – and nuclear armed at that – on its borders.
India will know this. Do not be surprised if New Delhi uses the situation to seek more support from the US in its push for more regional power.