As Xi Jinping awaited the renewal of his presidential five-term for the third time, he vowed to continue his transformative approach to modernize the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and achieve world-class status by 2027.

During the 20th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) opening on Sunday, Xi stressed his intention to reform further the national defense and the military, including “informatization and intelligentization” that would strengthen its armed forces’ capabilities to safeguard the country’s “sovereignty, security, and development interests.” The goal’s timeline corresponds to the centennial anniversary of the PLA’s founding.

“Achieving the goal of a hundred-year struggle to build an army within the scheduled time frame and accelerate the transformation of the People’s Liberation Army of China is a strategic requirement for the comprehensive construction of a modern socialist state,” Xi said, adding that the country is set to pursue an “independent and peaceful foreign policy” and “will never exercise hegemony and expansion.”

The CCP sought to continue intensified troop training and combat readiness throughout the country as part of China’s world-class military modernization. It also aimed to expand overall military governance, as well as consolidate and enhance integrated national strategies and strategic capabilities, Xi explained. Furthermore, the CCP leader stated that he would oversee innovation for the guidance of military strategy and tactics of people’s war throughout his third term, in addition to building a strong deterrence force system, increasing the presence of combat forces in new territories, and strenuously promoting combat-oriented military training.

A Chinese military expert told Global Times that the deterrence force system Xi mentioned may be referring to the strategic nuclear force that the CCP leader said would ensure improvement in the PLA’s capabilities and play a vital role in preventing war.

Xi’s Looming Third Term

From October 16 to October 22, the CCP will be conducting its week-long deliberations on whether or not to reappoint Xi as the head of state and approve the proposed national policy for the next five years. Analysts and close observers of the country have mixed opinions on Xi’s achievements during his two terms, but regardless of his shortcomings, the confidence of the CCP appears not to waver that it threatens to take away its current leader’s crown.

20th National Congress CCP
(Image source: Twitter)

Since inheriting the leadership in 2013, Xi has significantly impacted the overall development of China, which led him to extend his term for another five years in 2017. Since then, he has stood at the top of the chain in Chinese politics in a way his predecessors have not done. But it wasn’t a picture-perfect term, as Xi notoriously extinguished anyone who tried to slightly start a fire, like how he shut down pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong or how he pressed on a “zero-COVID” policy that totaled Beijing’s thriving economy due to its frequent and uncompromising lockdowns. Not to mention the oppression and internment of more than one million Muslim Uyghurs without due process.

The week-long deliberation for this month’s National Congress will also tackle and choose new faces for the CCP’s Central Committee, which is considered the most powerful and responsible for selecting the government’s office bearers among its 2,000 members across the country, including the head of state. Convening the National Congress usually takes place in November, but as Xi favored the preponing the Congress in mid-October, many analysts believe that the incumbent CCP leader is confident of snagging his third term; otherwise, he would not agree on the early session.

US Navy Rearms Destroyer With Anti-Ship Missiles in Western Pacific

In other news, the US Navy looked into exploiting its payload advantage using civilian support vessels last week to patch up its range, logistics, and sustainability gap in the western Pacific.

Between October 4 to 7, the USN demonstrated re-arming the vertical launch system (VLS) aboard the Arleigh Burke-class destroyer USS Spruance (DDG 111) at Naval Air Station North Island and in the San Diego Harbor with the help of an Offshore Support Vessel (OSV) using Military Sealift Command (MSC) fleet experimentation ship MV Ocean Valour. This ensures sustained combat operations in the sea that may require long endurance, especially during a war, in addition to other resupplying logistics such as fuel. Such launch system re-loading has previously been tested, first in 2016 and then again in 2019, using other MSC platforms.

USS Spruance
(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Taylor Crenshaw)

Compared to China, which obviously has the home court advantage in the Western Pacific, the US military leaders in the region sought to resolve this issue, including ammunition resupply and repairs and maintenance that could be tricky amid conflict considering the USN fleet is far from its homeland despite having nearby allies.

According to Eurasian Times, if a short war occurs between China and the US, it has been foreseen that the former might use its ultra-long range Anti-Access/Area Denial (A2/AD) weapons that would deter the latter from coming into its mainland. Furthermore, the Chinese YJ-18 anti-ship cruise missiles (range 540 km) carried by the Type 052 and Type 055 destroyers, as well as the PL-15 Beyond Visual Range air-to-air missile (300 km), are said to outrange the US’ 240-kilometer Harpoons and the 161-kilometer AIM 190D carried by Arleigh Burke destroyers and Ticonderoga-class cruisers. Not to mention Beijing’s “carrier-killer” DF-21D Anti-Ship Ballistic Missile (ASBM), which is reportedly capable of taking down US aircraft carriers due to its unorthodox ballistic path that no defense system can yet intercept.

The former commander of the Indo-Pacific Command (formerly US Pacific Command), Admiral Harry Harris, revealed in 2018 that China’s progress on developing long-range missiles could pose a threat to the S fleet in the pacific, saying: “We are at a disadvantage concerning China today because China has ground-based ballistic missiles that threaten our basing in the western Pacific and our ships.”