A massive reorganization by the Chinese military has many wondering if President Xi Jinping has wider designs in the Asia-Pacific sphere.
According to Reuters, state media announced Tuesday that President Xi had ordered a restructure of the People’s Liberation Army “to transform it into a leaner fighting force with improved joint operations capability.”
That news, combined with previous Chinese commitments to strengthen its armed forces for potential amphibious invasions, is making a lot of China’s neighbors nervous.
Such preparations for operations abroad don’t augur well when it comes to totalitarian powers — particularly when you consider similar moves have happened in places like Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union.
“This has profound and significant meaning in building a world-class military,” Xi said during a speech to the commanders of the 84 new units of the Chinese military. (Hitler was building a “world-class military” in the 1930s, too.)
China’s state-run Xinhua news agency said President Xi called the reshuffle “important in building strong armed forces through reform” and that it would “also have a profound influence on meeting the targets of enhancing the military in a new situation and building world-class armed forces.”
The new People’s Liberation Army will have a greater emphasis on electronic warfare, including through cyberspace, Reuters reported.
While this move on its own might not necessarily be cause for warning, one ought to consider the context of this.
China has been busy constructing militarized islands in the South China Sea for the purpose of expanding its maritime territory. There have also been recent designs on Taiwan, indicating a new focus in Beijing on reclaiming what it considers to be its historic territories.
There’s also been an increasing bellicosity from Beijing — not in the least involving North Korea, where China demanded the United States stop military drills with South Korea. To be fair, the Trump administration has pushed back with some success, but that doesn’t erase the problematic nature of the first request.
While one hesitates to compare any government’s military policy to Germany of the 1930s — and the disastrous results that followed — there are several disturbing parallels between China and the totalitarian powers that have come before them.
This military consolidation means that the Trump administration will have to look at China that much more closely.
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