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China Ramps Up a War of Words, Warning the U.S. of Its Red Lines

作者:admin 2020-10-06

“Never underestimate Chinese people’s determination to safeguard national security,” the editor of Global Times, Hu Xijin, wrote on Twitter last week, after a ceremony commemorating the return of the remains of Chinese soldiers who died in South Korea.

Mr. Hu, whose views are not official but echo those of the country’s hawks, has been regularly warning the United States that it risked starting a war with China. In his latest unsubstantiated claim, he warned that Mr. Trump could launch a drone attack on Chinese bases in the South China Sea.

As always, China’s Communist Party has the ability to dial up propaganda — and to dial it down — to suit its domestic and geopolitical goals.

China, for example, has been far less bellicose in its statements about India this summer, despite the lethal clashes along their border. With the United States, however, the tone has sharpened significantly as the Trump administration has moved almost daily to take on the Chinese — from closing the Chinese Consulate in Houston to banning TikTok and WeChat.

Chinese propaganda often uses martial language and images. The fight against the coronavirus was declared a People’s War. Mr. Xi, too, evokes the idea of a warlike struggle to overcome threats. Last month he listed five conditions that China would “never accept,” including any effort to divide or bully the Chinese people.

The flurry of videos released by the People’s Liberation Army, though, has left little doubt about its message. At least two have included the chorus “if war broke out today,” including one for the secretive submarine service — with details of equipment and geography blurred out. They have been viewed millions of times.

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China Ramps Up a War of Words, Warning the U.S. of Its Red Lines  第2张
A clip originally posted on Weibo by the People’s Liberation Army’s Eastern Theater Command.

Another video was even more explicit. It featured a bombing run with an H6 strategic bomber, zeroing in on a satellite photograph of a runway at Anderson Air Force Base in Guam. After briefly going viral, the post was removed without explanation.

The new propaganda campaign has also emerged amid the increased military activity.

This summer, China and Taiwan each held annual training exercises that simulated attacks across the Taiwan Strait. In one video, released by China’s Eastern Theater Command, troops rehearsed a landing on a beach on Hainan, the island off China’s southern coast whose geography is similar to Taiwan’s.

Since then, China has repeatedly tested Taiwan’s defenses with air and sea patrols. Twice last month, squadrons of fighters and bombers crossed the unofficial median line over the Taiwan Strait, which both countries have largely observed for decades.

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Credit...Taiwan Ministry of National Defense, via EPA, via Shutterstock

China’s tone boiled over with two visits by American officials, including one in August by Alex M. Azar II, the secretary of health and human services, who was the most senior official to visit since the United States recognized the People’s Republic of China in 1979.

Chinese officials repeatedly denounced American support for Taiwan, saying it nurtured pro-independence sentiment on the island. Beijing seems particularly alarmed by a renewed political debate in Washington about whether the United States should explicitly state its willingness to defend Taiwan from a military attack. The Global Times editorial suggested that a higher-level visit, by the secretary of state or defense, would give China reason to respond with force.

A harsher tone has spread not only in state media, but also among Chinese academics and analysts with government-linked think tanks who influence policy debates.

Zhu Songling, director of the Institute of Taiwan Studies at Beijing Union University, said in a telephone interview that the Trump administration was testing “China’s bottom line.” “The United States has been playing the Taiwan cards too often and with too much intensity,” he said.

An editorial by the Council for the Promotion of Peaceful National Unification recounted the wars in Korea, in India in 1962 and in Vietnam in 1979 to warn that China would not be intimidated. “The United States, India, and Vietnam have all experienced strategic misjudgments in their military contests with China, and they have paid irreparable prices,” it said.

Shen Dingli, a professor of international relations at Fudan University in Shanghai, argued in an article that the risks of conflict over the island were rising. He said, in a telephone interview, that China could deter Taiwan and the United States from underestimating its resolve by declaring its willingness to use force if pushed.

“The United States unfortunately may mislead Tsai Ing-wen to misjudge the strategic situation,” Professor Shen said. “In an extreme situation, every country has a right to shoot first.”

Others are pushing back against escalatory rhetoric, warning that it could become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

“The ‘wolf warrior spirit’ is contrary to Chinese traditional culture,” Yuan Nansheng, a former Chinese diplomat who is now with the China Institute of International Studies, wrote in a paper published in late September. “If it entraps public opinion, the consequences will be worrisome.”

Claire Fu and Chris Buckley contributed research and reporting.

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