TAIPEI – Recently obtained documents confirm suspicions that Chinese President Xi Jinping himself is personally involved in ordering the military operations agitating Japan in the East China Sea.
China’s surging military activity in the East China Sea has caused deep anxiety for Japan, which administers the Senkaku Islands. The uninhabited isles near Taiwan are also claimed by China, which calls them Diaoyu, and Taiwan, which calls them Tiaoyutai.
According to the documents, recently obtained by Kyodo News, during a closed-door meeting with members of the Central Military Commission, which is in overall charge of the People’s Liberation Army, on Feb. 20 this year, Xi, supreme commander of the world’s largest military, said “some countries have conducted frequent maritime drills in the area seeking to provoke and pressure us.”
“Yet our military has regularized patrols in the air and on the sea with a series of military operations deep into the East China Sea and Diaoyu Islands to safeguard our interest in territorial sovereignty,” he added.
Such military operations have proven that “if our strategy is appropriate and our actions are pro-active, we could seize an opportunity and even turn a crisis into an opportunity,” he is quoted as saying.
Statistics show that China’s military exercises in the East China Sea are becoming increasingly routine and that their frequency and scale have grown.
In fiscal 2016 ended in March, Japan scrambled fighter jets 1,168 times to intercept approaching aircraft, breaking the Cold War record, according to the Defense Ministry.
Last year, Taiwan’s Defense Ministry began publicizing news, and sometimes photos, of scrambles executed by its air force to counter China’s increasing military activity.
Recognizing that “problems” have emerged under “new circumstances,” Xi said China is at a critical juncture of developing itself from being “big” to “strong.”
“We are now facing a historic opportunity that happens only once in a thousand years,” he said. “If we handle it well, we will prosper. But if we screw it up, there will be problems, big problems.”
While recognizing opportunities, Xi said that there are also “unprecedented risks and challenges.”
Shifting to economics, Xi said some politicians in the West have declared they are against globalization merely for political reasons, while pinning the blame for problems at home on China, which has been branded as the biggest beneficiary of globalization.
Some countries are likely to be driven by their economic woes to “make a reckless move in desperation” or “flex their muscle overseas as domestic pressure heightens,” he said.
On international strategy, Xi said some Western countries have lost their long-standing dominance in international affairs and found their international status in real danger of slipping.
Yet at the same time, some emerging markets and developing countries are on an ascending path, especially China, whose overall national strength is rising, he said.
“The international community increasingly thinks highly of us and wants to hear what China has to say and see what China wants to do,” he said.
As for development models, Xi criticized Western democracy, saying many Western countries promote “democratic expansion” and see themselves as the “world savior,” while their institution creates not only societal divisions, but also infighting among parties and endless political scandals.
“It’s like the real-life version of the House of Cards,” he said, referring to the now-canceled hit U.S. political drama. “People are gravely disappointed in the Western ruling apparatus.”
By comparison, Xi said the leadership of the Communist Party of China is supported by a majority of the people and socialism with Chinese characteristics is “full of vigor and vitality.”
“Many leaders of developing countries I’ve talked to told me that they are doubtful about the political system of the West and expressed hope to learn about how China has developed itself,” Xi said. “It’s a trend to ‘look east.’ “
In short, Xi said China’s military must beef up its efforts to resolutely safeguard state sovereignty, security and the national interest to realize the dream of “two 100 years” and rejuvenation of the “great Chinese nation.”