Conflict & Justice

Why is China's navy preparing for combat?


Chinese President Hu Jintao at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Leaders Summit in Kapolei, Hawaii, on Nov. 13, 2011.


Jim Watson

President Hu Jintao on Tuesday urged China's navy to prepare for combat, according to news reports.

Speaking to the Central Military Commission in Beijing, Hu said the navy should:

 ... accelerate its transformation and modernization in a sturdy way, and make extended preparations for military combat in order to make greater contributions to safeguard national security and world peace ...

China's state-run media, Xinhua, translated Hu's speech to include the president urging the military to "make extended preparations for warfare."

But according to AFP, that's putting a bit of spin on the term "junshi douzheng" in the president's speech, which can be also translated as "military combat" or "military struggle."

Hu's statement comes amid concerns over China's naval intentions in the region. In late November, China announced it would perform naval exercises in the disputed South China Sea, though it claimed not to be targeting any specific countries.

More from GlobalPost: Is the Chinese navy targeting vessels in the South China Sea?

It's the kind of vibrato we can expect after Obama's recent push in Asia to position the US as a Pacific force.

When Obama pledged 2,500 troops to Australia in November, China predictably bristled.

More from GlobalPost: China indignant over US push in Asia

China's People's Liberation Army — the largest in the world with approximately 3 million members — is primarly a land force. Still, China's navy has certainly been growing.

Over the summer, it confirmed plans to develop a "secret" aircraft carrier. Though largely symbolic — China itself said the boat was for research purposes — the carrier's maiden voyage in August was widely read as a show of flamboyance that could stoke regional tensions.

More from GlobalPost: China confirms construction of secret aircraft carrier

Hu's statement can be read in largely the same way.