December 19, 2020
FILE – Chinese leader Xi Jinping is pictured between an honor guard during a medal ceremony for World War II veterans at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing in September 2015. | REUTERS
By KYODO News
BEIJING – The Chinese People’s Liberation Army may have set a new goal of ensuring military power equivalent to that of U.S. forces in Asia’s western Pacific region by 2027, sources close to the matter have said.
Beijing’s recent expansion of military activities in the South China Sea and the Taiwan Strait may be part of its efforts to achieve the goal for the 100th anniversary of the foundation of the country’s armed forces in 2027, the Chinese sources said Friday.
A communique adopted at the fifth plenary session of the 19th Central Committee of the ruling Communist Party in late October unveiled that a military goal was set for the anniversary, but the details were unknown.
Claiming sovereignty over almost the entire South China Sea, Beijing has rapidly built artificial islands with military infrastructure in the maritime area — a strategic waterway through which more than one-third of global trade passes.
U.S. warships, meanwhile, have carried out “freedom of navigation” operations there in an effective bid to challenge Chinese claims and actions in the waters.
Fears are also lingering that the communist-led Chinese government will attempt to attain its cherished goal of reuniting self-governed Taiwan with the mainland, by force if needed.
Mainland China and Taiwan have been separately governed since they split amid a civil war in 1949. Their relationship has deteriorated under independence-leaning Tsai Ing-wen, who has served as Taiwan’s president since 2016.
Washington switched its diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing in 1979, but the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump has been trying to boost ties with the democratic island by taking steps such as selling weapons to Taiwan.
China has been steadily enhancing its military capabilities, and President Xi Jinping has pledged to make the country’s forces “world-class” by the mid-21st century.