President Xi Jinping on Friday warned of China’s military resolve to defeat “invaders”, speaking on a 70th anniversary for the Korean War, the only time Chinese forces have fought the United States.
In a long speech, heavy on patriotism and flecked by anecdotes of heroism by Chinese forces, Xi said victory in the 1950-53 conflict was a reminder that his nation stood ready to fight anyone “creating trouble… on China’s doorstep”.
Beijing frequently uses war anniversaries to fire thinly covered warnings to the US of the military strength of the “new China”.
The Korean War is a key foundation story for the ruling Communist Party.
Friday’s anniversary comes as the party is called out by US President Donald Trump, in a bitter row spanning trade, tech, human rights and the status of Taiwan, which China says is an inviolable part of the mainland.
Without explicitly naming the US, Xi loaded up with the historical precedent of the Korean war and took swings at modern day “unilateralism, protectionism and extreme egoism”.
“Chinese people don’t create troubles, nor are we afraid of them,” Xi said to applause.
“We will never sit back and watch any damage to our national sovereignty… and we will never allow any force to invade or divide the sacred territory of the motherland.”
On Wednesday, the Pentagon announced it had agreed to sell over one billion dollars’ worth of missiles to self-governing Taiwan, the sharpest potential flashpoint with US forces.
– ‘Sacrifice’ – The Korean War was the first and so far only time Chinese and US forces have engaged in large-scale direct combat.
According to the Chinese government, more than 197,000 Chinese soldiers died during the three-year war, which saw the US-led United Nations coalition pushed back to the 38th parallel bisecting the Korean Peninsula, after China weighed in on the side of North Korea’s communist army.
The war, essentially fought to a bloody stalemate, is hailed in China as a victory and an example of resilience and spirit against a more advanced foe.
“When China was very poor, it didn’t surrender to US pressure,” an editorial in the nationalist Global Times said this week.
“Today, China has grown to be a strong country, so there is no reason for China to fear the US threats and suppression.”
Xi and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un have met five times since March 2018, even as nuclear negotiations between Washington and Pyongyang have hit a standstill.