However, China is currently engaged in a weeks-long border standoff with Indian forces near the countries’ disputed border high in the Himalayas, with Chinese spokesmen demanding that Indian troops withdraw to avoid a clash potentially worse than the brief but bloody war the two fought in the region in 1962.

China has also long been embroiled in a contest with Japan over East China Sea islands, as well as with five other governments over competing claims to territory in the strategically vital South China Sea. Beijing also threatens to use force to conquer Taiwan if peaceful enticements prove insufficient. China considers the self-governing democratic island Chinese territory.

In his speech, Xi also emphasized that the military’s highest loyalty is to the ruling Communist Party, underscoring the PLA’s key role as regime preserver through crises such as the bloody suppression of 1989 pro-democracy protests at Tiananmen Square. Top Chinese leaders have consistently rejected calls to make the PLA loyal to the government and people instead.

“The people’s army will resolutely safeguard the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party and our country’s socialist system, resolutely safeguard national sovereignty, security and development interests, and resolutely safeguard regional and world peace,” Xi said.

The speech followed a parade Sunday at a training ground on the edge of the Gobi Desert during which Xi donned fatigues and declared that the military has the “confidence and capability” to ensure China’s sovereignty, security and national interests.

Xi, who commands the PLA as chairman of the Central Military Commission, has frequently spoken of his “China Dream” to restore China to a leadership position in international affairs with a modern, far-reaching military force to match.

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