An armed conflict between Beijing and Washington could possibly ignite over Taiwan or the South China Sea, while some have suggested that US may use these sensitive spots as a bargaining chip in a trade standoff.
Chinese leader Xi Jinping told the military to ramp up their training and preparations for an all-out war, should the need arise, says a report by the South China Morning Post.
The announcement was made during a meeting of top officials from the Central Military Commission (CMC), which Xi Jinping heads.
“All military units must correctly understand major national security and development trends, and strengthen their sense of unexpected hardship, crisis and battle”, he said, adding that China’s armed forces must “prepare for a comprehensive military struggle from a new starting point”.
“Preparation for war and combat must be deepened to ensure an efficient response in times of emergency”, he said.
“The world is facing a period of major changes not seen in a century, and China is still in an important period of strategic opportunity for development”, he added, according to Reuters.
Xi has engaged in a campaign to boost the People’s Liberation Army’s readiness since he became the president of China in 2012, SCMP reports, adding that in 2019 this effort will intensify.
The two key points of conflict for China are the South China Sea, which Beijing claims almost entirely; and the issue of Taiwan, which China views as a runaway province and seeks to reunify it with the mainland.
The US is the main opponent in both areas. Washington insists on “ensuring freedom of navigation” in the South China Sea, which effectively means dispatching ships and aircraft to patrol the waters, something that has already led to several near-misses between the powers. Washington has also shown significant support for Taiwan, opposing Chinese claims to the island. Despite having no official embassy on the island, the US de facto uses the American Institute in Taiwan for this role.
Earlier in October, the US Navy sailed two warships through the Taiwan Strait in a barely veiled show of power. Several days later, Brent Christensen, the de facto US ambassador to Taiwan, claimed that the US opposes any attempt to determine Taiwan’s future by “other than peaceful means”.
According to Yue Gang, a retired PLA colonel, the United States would do good to use the conflict points as bargaining chips in the ongoing trade war with China, instead of risking a deadly escalation.