Strong navy needed to steer rise of China in uncertain world
In the wake of the biggest show of sea power and upcoming live-fire exercises, President Xi Jinping has made it clear the nation must be protected and threats confronted
China needs a strong military to protect its national sovereignty and interests. The biggest ever show of naval power and the announcement of upcoming live-fire drills in the Taiwan Strait are necessary parts of the evolutionary process.
President Xi Jinping, reviewing the massive parade in the South China Sea off Hainan province, understandably spoke of the urgency of building “a mighty people’s navy”. He is right to want haste; the nation’s rise requires sturdy protection, while it needs to resolutely confront threats.
Much has been said of China’s maritime developments, but not before have the achievements been put on show so forcefully. The 48 ships, including the nation’s only aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, and submarines, 76 aircraft and more than 10,000 personnel, were reviewed by Xi from the deck of a destroyer. He called for the creation of a first-class navy and asked the troops to be vigilant, resolutely defend national interests and strive to uphold the peace and stability of the region and world. The drills off Taiwan, to take place on Wednesday, were announced soon afterwards.
Drills are vital to testing equipment, acquiring skills and instilling pride and discipline. The review was preceded by back-to-back exercises in the seas off Hainan, which earlier this week hosted the influential Boao Forum for Asia.
One of those drills was watched by American ships with a strike group accompanying the aircraft carrier the USS Theodore Roosevelt, which was on its way to the Philippines. Such sailings, usually in the name of “freedom of navigation”, are one reason for naval alertness, but so too has been US President Donald Trump’s naming in a national strategy document last December of China, along with Russia, as the biggest threat to his country’s interests.
Trump’s trade action, like the sailing of warships through disputed waters of the South China Sea, is part of that strategy. But he has furthered the provocations by improving ties with Taiwan. An American commitment not to put in place formal exchanges was ignored with the passage of a US law enabling high-level contacts with the island and anger has been heightened by an agreement to provide submarine manufacturing technology. Coupled with Taiwanese leader Tsai Ing-wen’s secessionist tendencies, the live-fire drills are understandable.
Tsai greeted announcement of the drills by watching Taiwanese naval exercises simulating an invasion of the island. Beijing has made clear it seeks peaceful reunification, but where sovereignty is concerned, it is willing to go to war. China needs a strong navy and drills are routine and normal; they are necessary for protection, deterrence and defence of interests.