China’s Xi calls for more military innovation

CHINESE leader Xi Jinping (picture) called on the military to make breakthroughs in securing technological advantages amid “international competition”, underscoring Beijing’s efforts to counter US efforts to cut it off from key advanced semiconductors.

China must speed up its push for high-tech independence and improve supply-chain resilience, Xi told a gathering of military delegates to the National People’s Congress on March 8, state media said. The 69-year-old was reappointed as president for the third term last Friday and called for efforts to “systematically upgrade the country’s overall strength to cope with strategic risks, safeguard strategic interests and realise strategic objectives”.

Xi, who leads the world’s largest military in terms of active personnel, has used the annual legislative gathering in Beijing to overhaul the bureaucracy, and boost economic resilience in the face of US pressure. The Finance Ministry announced plans on March 5 for 7.2% increase in defence spending this year — the fastest pace since 2019 — as part of Xi’s push to build a “world-class force” by 2027.

That’s involved strengthening oversight of China’s US$60 trillion (RM262.8 trillion) financial system, creating a new agency to manage data, and restructuring the Ministry of Science and Technology. The government also plans to cut the number of positions in central departments by 5% and redistribute them in strategically important areas.

In his remarks, Xi called for the military to enhance “integrated national strategies and strategic capabilities”, a reference to China’s “civil-military fusion” programme to direct industrial innovation toward war-fighting ability. The effort has fuelled scrutiny in Washington and underpinned calls for sanctions against Chinese companies.

The Biden administration is organising allies to help stop China from further developing its own chip industry and advancing its military capabilities. In October, the US rolled out sweeping export curbs, blocking a host of technology from being sent to any Chinese company.

In January, Dutch and Japanese officials agreed to join the US campaign. The three countries are the world’s top sources of machinery and have the expertise needed to make the world’s most advanced semiconductors. On March 8, Dutch Foreign Trade Minister Liesje Schreinemacher sent a letter to lawmakers saying the nation that is home to ASML Holding NV was preparing restrictions on certain chipmaking machines.

Tensions between the US and China have been mounting recently. On March 7, new Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang accused the US of trying to “contain and suppress China in all respects”. On March 2, China sent the most warplanes near the democratically run island it has vowed to someday govern in nearly two months.

The flights came just after the US approved the possible sale of US$619 million worth of F-16 munitions and related equipment to Taiwan. The main contractors in that deal are Raytheon Missiles & Defence and Lockheed Martin Corp — firms that Beijing sanctioned last month for selling weapons to Taipei.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry criticised the US over the potential arms sale, saying it “seriously damages China’s sovereignty and security interests”. — Bloomberg / pic AFP

  • This article first appeared in The Malaysian Reserve weekly print edition