Top China general hints at likelihood of war with US as Beijing backs huge military boost

General Xu Qiliang, China’s second in command of the armed forces after President Xi Jinping, said an increase in military spending is need to counter the ‘Thucydides Trap’. The term, popularised by US political scientist Graham T. Allison, refers to the inevitability of war when a new global power displaces an existing one.

Speaking in a group discussion alongside the annual gathering of China’s National People’s Congress, Gen. Xu said Beijing’s growth threatens the US.

He told the Politburo: “In the face of the Thucydides trap and border problems, the military must speed up increasing its capacity.

“[We] must make breakthroughs in combat methods and ability, and lay a sound foundation for military modernisation.”

Gen. Xu then noted China’s GDP was equal to more than 70 percent of the US economy, and added: “This means we are already standing on the key position of a new chapter towards strength.”

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Maj. Gen. Richard Coffman, director of the US Army’s Next Generation Combat Vehicle Cross Functional Team, saw the remarks as a clear admission war was “inevitable”.

He said: “The top uniformed soldier in China, chairman of China’s Central Military Commission, stated that war with the United States is inevitable.

“That is the first time China has made that statement publicly.

“If you are the head uniformed general in the Chinese military and you say ‘it’s inevitable,’ what does that mean?

“I think that means that you are willing to strike first because, if it’s inevitable, why would you wait for your adversary to strike first?”

Maj. Ge. Coffman also argued for more military spending, suggesting any war with China would be fought on land as well as sea.

It follows President Xi telling China’s People’s Liberation Army to be ”combat ready” at all times.

According to the official Chinese Communist Party newspaper, the People’s Daily, the President said: “The entire army needs to strengthen its performance so as to do a good job of ensuring a good start to the 14th Five-Year Plan, and of celebrating the 100th anniversary of the founding of the party.”

He then praised the PLA for having “strengthened military training and preparations for war…and basically met its targets for national defence and military development for 2020.”

Xi then added: “We should persist in using combat to guide our work; step up preparations for war…as well as developing a top-level strategic deterrent and joint forces combat system.”

Visiting the US in 2015, Xi rubbished claims war with China was inevitable through the ‘Thucydides Trap’.

He said: “There is no such thing as the so-called Thucydides Trap. But should major countries time and again make the mistake of strategic miscalculation, they might create such traps for themselves.”

This year, US President Joe Biden has admitted Beijing is Washington’s “most serious competitor”.

Admiral Philip Davidson, head of the Indo-Pacific Command, has also submitted a proposal to Congress in early March for $27.3 billion in additional spending for new military construction and to boost cooperation with allies to maintain an edge over China.

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