Chinese President Xi Jinping has reportedly signed a legal order that operationalizes a trial of “military operations” beyond Chinese borders that took effect last June 15. Xi signed this order amid heightened tensions with Taiwan as it continues its coercive and aggressive territorial claims in the region. Previously, China claimed that the Taiwanese Strait belonged to China, much to the anger of Taiwan.
According to a report by state-sponsored news outlet the Global Times, Xi and the Central Military Commission had signed an order to have trials on “military operations other than war.” The order claims to provide the legal basis necessary for Chinese troops to enact military-led operations with regard to disaster relief and humanitarian aid. However, the order also provides the legal basis for the Chinese military to carry out an escort, peacekeeping, development interests assistance, and security-related activities to “safeguard China’s national sovereignty.”
During the trials, the Chinese Armed Forces will carry out methods to ensure that their military forces are standardized and prepared to implement military operations unrelated to war. These activities aim to develop regional stability, prevent risks, handle emergencies, and “world peace.”
These legal changes and updates in operational capacity were aimed at preventing the spillover effects of “regional instabilities” from affecting China. One concrete example they stated was that they could secure important transport routes for vital materials like oil and safeguard their investments overseas.
In a glimpse, this is China trying to standardize its practices and organization just in case calamities, and national security issues hit them. Interestingly, they called these trials part of their “military operations,” a phrase nobody wants to be associated with at the moment due to Russia’s usage of the term. Many were quick to raise their eyebrows at this apparent move from China, seemingly promoting and legitimizing these “military operations” as Russia calls their invasion of Ukraine a “special military operation.”
This news comes after China had signed a security pact with the Solomon Islands, which had become a security issue for Australia in the past couple of months. This is because there have been reports that the security pact would enable China to build a military base on the Solomons, as well as maintain a permanent military presence on the island.
There is no doubt that China and Russia have had a closer relationship during the time of the invasion of Ukraine as they shared similar goals and a shared enemy in the West. While Russia is occupied with their conquest of Ukraine, China has been posturing to “reunify” with Taiwan quite aggressively throughout the past few months, with increased flight activity within Taiwan’s air defense identification zone (ADIZ) and claims on the ownership of the Taiwan Strait.
It is possible that China sees its reunification with Taiwan as a mere continuation of their civil war, thus technically making it a domestic issue in their eyes as Taiwan is just temporarily broken away for Beijing. On the other hand, Taiwan sees itself as fully independent of China, with them having a completely different method of governance and economic system.
A few days ago, China’s Foreign Ministry Spokesman Wang Wenbin stated that the Taiwan Strait is part of China’s territorial waters and its own exclusive economic zone (EEZ). He claimed that there was no such thing as “international waters” in the UNCLOS and that those claiming that the Taiwan Strait is international waters were merely trying to manipulate their claims on Taipei.
In response, State Department Spokesman Ned Price stated that the “Taiwan Strait is an international waterway, an area where high seas freedoms, including freedom of navigation and overflight, are guaranteed under international law.”
In a previous report by SOFREP, China had expressed its willingness to “fight” anybody that dared to support Taiwan’s secession from China. Chinese Defense Minister General Wei Fenghe stated that they would “fight at all costs” and would “fight to the very end” in a fiery statement while refuting Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin’s claims of Chinese aggression in the Indo-Pacific.
“No one should ever underestimate the resolve and ability of the Chinese armed forces to safeguard its territorial integrity,” Wei added.
“We’ll also stand by our friends as they uphold their rights. That’s especially important as the PRC adopts a more coercive and aggressive approach to its territorial claims,” Austin said. “Indo-Pacific countries shouldn’t face political intimidation, economic coercion, or harassment by maritime militias. So the Department of Defense will maintain our active presence across the Indo-Pacific. We will continue to support the 2016 Arbitral Tribunal ruling. And we will fly, sail, and operate wherever international law allows. And we’ll do this right alongside our partners,” he would continue.
The strong rhetoric from China signifies that it is ready to defend and push its goals further toward completion. With matters relating to Taiwan, we currently do not know whether they have real plans for a forced reunification. However, strong indications such as those of legal orders following language used by Russian President Vladimir Putin seem to indicate far worse in China-Taiwan relations.