Chinese state media is reporting that President Xi Jinping is calling on his country to strengthen its armed forces and military preparedness amid the coronavirus pandemic, as tensions between the United States and China continue to escalate during the coronavirus pandemic.
According to the state media report, Xi stated that the Chinese military’s role in battling COVID-19 proves that they “have once again proven themselves to be heroic forces that can be fully trusted by the Party and the people.”
More significantly, Xi reportedly “ordered the military to think about worst-case scenarios, scale up training and battle preparedness, promptly and effectively deal with all sorts of complex situations and resolutely safeguard national sovereignty, security and development interests.”
Jinping’s remarks come as China is facing international scrutiny for its handling of the coronavirus outbreak and its actions in curtailing freedom in Hong Kong.
China faces increased calls for an independent multinational inquiry into the origins of the coronavirus, and also into whether the Chinese government played a role in covering up the existence of the virus in the early stages of the outbreak, or allowed it to spread throughout the global community.
The Chinese government claims to welcome such an inquiry, but with the United States threatening “severe” action (including sanctions or worse) in retaliation for China’s actions in the early stages of the coronavirus outbreak, Xi’s remarks can easily be interpreted as saber rattling directed toward Washington, D.C.
Additionally, China faces increasing domestic unrest at home, as its anti-democratic crackdown on Hong Kong threatens to cause another wave of violent protests to erupt in the key city. Also, President Donald Trump has threatened sanctions against China for its actions against Hong Kong.
Multiple outlets have reported that China plans to engage in large-scale military exercises in the South China Sea later this summer, which could further escalate tensions with the United States as such exercises are seen as threats toward the independence of Taiwan, which China still claims as a rogue province.