While inspecting a People’s Liberation Army installation in Chaozhou on Tuesday, Chinese President Xi Jinping told the troops to focus their minds and activities on preparing for war. Xi also pushed them to remain “absolutely loyal, absolutely pure, and absolutely reliable.” Xi’s comments appear to be a message to Taiwan and Washington that the People’s Republic is dissatisfied with the close-ties being forged between the United States and Taiwan. The Chinese leaders remarks came the day after the Trump administration said it will sell Taiwan three advanced weapons systems, ignoring angry demands by the Chinese government to void the sale. The arms package will include the HIMARS rocket artillery system, AGM-84H SLAM-ER precision guided missiles, and sensor pods for Taiwan’s F-16 fighters. This package comes only weeks after a deal was reached to sell Taiwan 66 new-model F-16s.
China’s patience has been wearing thin lately, however, it is difficult to determine how far Beijing is willing to go to keep Taiwan in check. During Taiwan’s National holiday on Saturday, Chinese forces conducted a large-scale island invasion exercise. China’s state-run media covered the exercise, and reported on it extensively. Ironically enough, Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen has called for ‘equal dialogue’ with China as peers.
It’s difficult to envision that China would undertake military action against Taiwan, or in another area such as India or the South China Sea with the US presidential election right around the corner. Doing so would be inherently risky from a geopolitical perspective. Having said that, however, China’s timeline and considerations are starkly different from the rest of the world.
A conflict involving China and the United States might not be coming in the near future, but the war clouds are definitely on the horizon. Sooner or later it will come to blows.
The People’s Republic of China will celebrate National Day on 1 October, marking the seventieth year since the establishment of the PRC and its government. With less than two days remaining until the holiday, demonstrators in Hong Kong have commenced the 17th straight week of pro-democracy protests and rallies. Sunday’s protests turned into running battles between demonstrators and police, resulting in destruction, and street fires in parts of the city. The violence was a marked contrast Saturday’s peaceful demonstrations honoring the fifth anniversary of the Umbrella Movement, a pro-democracy campaign that has served as an inspiration to the massive street demonstrations that have gripped Hong Kong since early summer.
With National Day coming, the protesters are obviously hoping their activities will overshadow Beijing’s official events and celebrations commemorating the holiday. A sense of disconnect from the PRC remains for most of the millennial-aged protesters. For example, when one protester was asked over the weekend what National Day meant to him, he answered with, “Nothing, because we lack the sense of belonging to China.”
For months, Hong Kong’s demonstrations have centered around the perceived erosion of the city’s freedoms by Beijing. Some of the demands made by the protesters include direct democratic elections, and investigations into alleged brutality by Hong Kong’s police department. Neither the city government, or the central government in Beijing have signaled a willingness to move on these demands.
Of course, the present turmoil was set in motion by an extradition bill which would’ve allowed suspects in Hong Kong to be sent to the mainland in order to stand trial. This bill was eventually shelved, yet it did not satisfy the protesters. If anything, it motivated them to expand their demands, and the scope of their demonstrations, essentially daring the PRC government to stop them in a manner similar to Tiananmen Square in 1989.