China must increase military spending to prepare for a possible confrontation with the United States, the main generals said, in an unusual recognition of the risk of a clash between the world’s two largest economies.
The two generals – members of the Central Military Commission headed by President Xi Jinping – made the comments during the annual national legislative session in Beijing. CMC vice chairman Xu Qiliang, China’s top uniformed officer, said the country must prepare for a “Thucydides trap,” an inevitable conflict between a rising power and an established power.
“Faced with the ‘Thucydides trap’ and border disruptions, the military must step up efforts to improve its capabilities,” Xu said Friday, though the transcript was not released until later. “The most important thing is internal unity and cohesion and improving overall abilities. If you are strong, you will have long term stability, as well as invincibility.”
Xu’s reference to “border disturbances” may be an allusion to China’s deadly clash with India last year, as well as territorial disputes in China’s South and East Seas. Chinese Defense Minister Wei Fenghe, who also sits on the CMC, said separately that “containment and counter-containment will be the main tone of bilateral relations between China and the United States.”
The remarks represented a rare admission by China of the growing risk of a confrontation with the United States after disputes escalated under President Donald Trump over everything from trade to Taiwan. Chinese leaders have repeatedly downplayed the risk of a Thucydides trap, Xi said in 2015 during a visit to the United States that such a conflict was not inevitable as long as countries avoided miscalculations strategic.
A national security strategy document released last week by US President Joe Biden confirmed Trump’s designation of China as a “strategic competitor.” The strategy seeks less emphasis on using the US military to resolve conflicts and commits to working with “like-minded countries” to forge a common approach from Beijing.
The “Thucydides trap” refers to ancient Greek historian Thucydides’ explanation of the Peloponnesian War as an inevitable clash between a rising Athens and the established regional power, Sparta. The term was coined by Graham Allison, a professor at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, who argued that China would threaten to displace American influence, which could lead to unhealthy rivalry or armed conflict.
Xi pledged to make China a great military power, pledging to complete the modernization of the armed forces by 2035 and build a world-class army capable of winning wars in any theater by 2050. The China is forecasting defense spending growth of 6.8% this year, down from 6.6% last year, the slowest pace in three decades.
Wei, the defense minister, said the struggles over the containment efforts “will last throughout China’s national rejuvenation process.”
“China’s national security has entered a phase of high risk. Tasks are piling up for the defense and military sector,” Wei said, adding that China “needs to strengthen training and preparation for war and improving the strategic ability to conquer powerful enemies “.
(Except for the title, this story was not edited by NDTV staff and is posted from a syndicated feed.)