The People’s Liberation Army must be “on full-time standby” for a war in the Taiwan Strait, senior officers said recently. After President Xi Jinping called on the PLA to “fully enhance training and preparation for war” in the report he delivered at last month’s Communist Party congress , military leaders provided some interpretation in a book published this week. ‘A strong country must have a strong army’: Xi’s key lesson from USSR’s collapse “We must be fully prepared to respond to external interference and major incidents relating to Taiwan independence through non-peaceful means and other necessary measures, always maintain a high state of readiness, and be ready for war at all times,” the head of the Central Military Commission’s research bureau, Major General Liu Yantong, wrote in the book of official commentaries on the party congress report. In another commentary in the book, General Xu Qiliang , formerly the party CMC’s top-ranked vice-chairman, urged the PLA to be “resolute” in crushing attempts at Taiwanese independence and foreign interference and prepare for a rapid transformation from peace to wartime. “Always maintain a high-readiness posture, like arrows on a pulled string ready to go, to ensure that the troops are prepared to fight at all times,” he wrote. Xi ‘sworn brother’ Zhang Youxia, 72, set for bigger PLA command role Xu also said China must make good use of the fundamental “ballast” in great power competition – the strategic deterrence provided by its nuclear weapons. In his party congress report, Xi set a goal for the PLA to “build a strong strategic deterrent system”. Xu said the PLA should carry on with its “asymmetric countermeasures” approach, and “stick to the tactic of focusing on developing whatever the adversary fears the most”. He said China’s national security faces growing instability, uncertainty and great challenges in a turbulent and changing world, and strengthening its strategic capabilities could effectively deter an enemy. China has long pledged “no first use” of its nuclear weapons and its “minimum nuclear deterrence” strategy means it only possesses an asymmetric counterstrike capability. The US Department of Defence estimated in 2020 that China had an operational nuclear warhead stockpile in the “low-200s”, in contrast to the thousands held by Russia and the United States. But in the past few years Beijing has reportedly been building up its nuclear arsenal. In its latest Nuclear Posture Review , issued last week, the Pentagon questioned the scope and pace, and lack of transparency, of Chinese nuclear expansion, as it said it would design a “tailored nuclear deterrence strategy” against it. China criticised the move as “stimulating a nuclear arms race”. The report delivered by Xi at the party congress also called for an increase in the proportion of “combat forces of new domains and forms” in the PLA and the acceleration of the development of unmanned and intelligent combat forces. PLA practises cross-strait force projection with eye to cross-strait action In his commentary, Xu wrote that the use of new technologies in recent wars around the world had shown they had become the key variable in changing the rules of the game, and that meant the PLA needed to plan systematically and speed up the development of technologies that are “strategic, cutting-edge and revolutionary”.