Chinese President Xi Jinping has relayed a clear message to the world – infringing on Chinese sovereignty is a red line and will evoke a response from the military.
The statement is significant as it comes during a military stand-off between India and China.
In June 2017, a skirmish broke out between Indian and Chinese troops at the Doklam plateau. Indian soldiers had intervened the construction work being conducted by China in the region. The area is a disputed territory between Bhutan (an Indian ally) and China. Indian officials have said that there are about 300 soldiers on either side of the plateau.
China had called on India to immediately withdraw the troops but the latter did not acquiesce. India, for its part, has said that Chinese actions in the plateau is a direct security concern. India’s External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj announced that India will engage in dialogue once both sides withdraw troops simultaneously.
Recently, Chinese Defense ministry spokesman Col. Wu Qian sent a dire warning to India stating, “I wish to remind India, do not push your luck and cling to any fantasies.”
India and China have engaged in three major military conflicts between 1960 and 1987.
President Xi Jinping made his statements during an event marking the 90 years since the founding of the People's Liberation Army. He said, “The Chinese people love peace. We will never seek aggression or expansion, but we have the confidence to defeat all invasions. We will never allow any people, organization or political party to split any part of Chinese territory out of the country at any time, in any form. No one should expect us to swallow the bitter fruit that is harmful to our sovereignty, security or development interests."
India isn’t the only nation with whom China is currently having territorial disputes. China is competing with five other nations over the strategically important South China Sea. Both US and China have been aggressive in exercising control over the region. China has also challenged Japan over East China Sea islands. Domestically, it has threatened to use military force if Taiwan doesn’t toe the line.
In 2017, China hiked its military spending by 7% to $152 billion. This is three times what India spends on its own defense budget. It has also taken efforts to modernize its military as its economy continues expanding.
Our assessment is that President Xi Jinping has to demonstrate to the Chinese people and the PLA that he is a very strong leader. He has decided to use hard power to project China to the world. Such veiled threats are directed to most countries in the Asian region including India.