On Sunday, October 16, the Chinese leader gave a speech at the 20th Chinese Communist Party Congress, which is held every five years. Xi Jinping mentioned that the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) must move faster with troop training and develop new strategies to become a world-class superior army.

Xi said, “The use of military power needs to be standardized and used in various ways.” he added, “We need to be able to organize military operations easily, create a secure environment, deter and control risks and conflicts, and win regional wars.”

Xi also stressed the importance of Taiwan to the nation’s rejuvenation and that he aims for peaceful reunification, although he will not under any circumstances renounce the “use of force.”

The PLA has undergone major changes since Xi came to power. With the campaign to clean up corruption within the Party, the PLA also had to go through such a cleanup and several senior commanders were removed from the central leadership.

The training of the PLA is a constant concern for the Chinese leader. In a message issued on January 1, he gave orders to begin the training the military to “welcome the victorious convening of the 20th Party Congress with a prospect of high spirit and first-class training results.”

Xi’s latest speech affirms the importance and necessity of developing a “world-class” military to deal with external, as well as internal, threats. The term “regional wars” mentioned could refer to internal dangers that undermine the “stability” of the nation and also the stability of the Communist Party.

A China specialist at the National University of Singapore, Li Nan, noted that “regional wars” was a good indication that the Chinese military would focus on smaller-scale warfare.

Li commented that the report mentions security before combat and deterrence, which could also signal that the PLA will only resort to war once the CCP has failed to create what it considers a secure situation and adequate deterrence.

On the sidelines of the 20th Congress, several PLA members noted the importance of adhering to Xi’s directives because the country is undergoing “serious national security problems.”

Defense Minister Gen. Wei Fenghe said the military should implement Xi’s thinking on “strengthening the armed forces and improving their ability to win.”

Wei added, “The military should maintain a high degree of vigilance, always prepare for war and resolutely defend the country’s sovereignty, security and development interests.”

A senior commander of the Joint Staff Department of the Central Military Commission said the military needs to support the nation’s development, including improving combat readiness and military equipment.

Xi noted that the nation should implement a “strong strategic deterrence system,” and that the military should develop “new domain forces with new combat capabilities.”

Specialists in China commented that Xi’s “strategic deterrence system” could refer to nuclear deterrence capabilities.

According to a former PLA member, Song Zhongping, this would mean that China would “strengthen its development of strategic nuclear forces” to safeguard its national security. He added, “The PLA should strengthen its ‘nuclear triad’ forces, its combination of land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles, submarine-launched missiles, and air-launched weapons, as well as its ability to respond to a nuclear attack.”

For the past several years, the PLA’s nuclear capability has been a constant cause for alarm for the United States and its allies. Moreover, following Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan, tensions between the two countries increased. U.S. warships sailed into the Taiwan Strait for the first time in August. In September, a U.S. warship and a Canadian frigate sailed through a corridor that is outside the maritime territory of Taiwan and China.

This latest incursion followed Biden’s latest remarks on Taiwan, in which he indicated that the U.S. would defend the island nation if the CCP decided to attack.

Hypersonic missiles, a latent threat

Senior U.S. military commanders pointed out the danger of China’s hypersonic missiles. For Gen. John Hyten, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and No.2 in the Army, the new hypersonic missile capabilities developed by China combined with its hundreds of new missile silos, would strengthen the Chinese communist regime ability to carry out a major nuclear attack on the United States.

Hypersonic missile tests during 2021 alerted the U.S. Hyten told CBS News in an interview, “They launched a long-range missile, it went around the world, released a hypersonic glide vehicle, which glided all the way back to China, which hit a target in China.” When asked if it hit the target, Hyten replied, “Just barely.”

Intercontinental ballistic missiles travel in a predictable line and can be tracked by radar, however, a hypersonic missile travels much closer to the ground, making it difficult to detect.

Hyten believes that if China continues to rapidly develop new silo missiles, it will soon have the capability for a nuclear strike.

In a white paper Xi released for the 20th CCP Congress, the importance of Taiwan reunification and the rapid modernization of the PLA for national security are mentioned. Xi made no direct mention of the United States or the Russia-Ukraine conflict. So, the big question is, to what end does the CCP intend to increase its nuclear power for strategic deterrence? Just for national security or to also compete with the United States and Russia?

The answer to these questions will only be revealed with the development of the international geopolitical events of the most importance to the CCP: The situation in the Taiwan Strait, the competition for world hegemony against the United States under President Joe Biden, and the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

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