Chinese army told: "be well-prepared for a war"

China could be preparing for war, according to the latest directive to the People's Liberation Army

by The Commentator on 18 January 2013 16:51

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China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has reportedly been told to prepare for war in a training directive issued by the General Staff Headquarters, which oversees the entire PLA.

Amid escalating tensions between China and Japan over territorial disputes in the East China Sea, this year's training directive has apparently deviated from a trend of relaying training plans, furthering concerns about an armed conflict.

The directive, translated by the People’s Liberation Army Daily states:

“The PLA and the Chinese People’s Armed Police Force (APF) should focus closely on the objective of being able to fight a winning battle, vigorously strengthen real-combat-like military training, practice and innovate the training mode under information-based conditions and intensify efforts to cultivate new-type and high-caliber military personnel,”

“What has attracted attention is that the directive has called on Chinese forces to be prepared to fight using a particular Chinese term,” said Taylor Fravel, an expert on Chinese foreign policy and security at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

The term, according to a report in the South China Morning Post, is dazhang, which means “fighting wars.” The phrase did not appear in last year’s directive, but appears more than 10 times in this year's edition, which contains fewer than 1000 words.

The South China Morning Post states that the changes in tone could be a result of the rising tensions in waters between China and Japan and may also indicate that there is a different focus for the PLA since the Hu Jintao was succeeded by Xi Jinping in November.

While no direct mention was made of Japan, it is gleaned from a commentary included in the PLA paper that the directive is likely in reference to the East Asian island nation.

Allen Carlson, an associate professor of government at Cornell University, told the Voice of America news website that China could be merely sabre rattling.

“I still think, and perhaps I am wrong, that most of this is bluffing, an extreme form of such an action, and not one that is not without the risk of escalation, but still falls short of an actual declaration of war, and from direct military engagement,” he said. 

Carlson added that China has not engaged in direct military conflict of any sustained kind since 1979 with Vietnam. 

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