China's Xi Calls for 'More Quickly Elevating' Armed Forces

In this photo released by Xinhua News Agency, Chinese President Xi Jinping, also general secretary of the Communist Party of China Central Committee and chairman of the Central Military Commission, attends a plenary meeting of the delegation of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) and the People's Armed Police Force during the first session of the 14th National People's Congress (NPC) in Beijing, on Wednesday, March 8, 2023. (Li Gang/Xinhua via AP)
In this photo released by Xinhua News Agency, Chinese President Xi Jinping, also general secretary of the Communist Party of China Central Committee and chairman of the Central Military Commission, attends a plenary meeting of the delegation of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) and the People's Armed Police Force during the first session of the 14th National People's Congress (NPC) in Beijing, on Wednesday, March 8, 2023. (Li Gang/Xinhua via AP)
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China's Xi Calls for 'More Quickly Elevating' Armed Forces

In this photo released by Xinhua News Agency, Chinese President Xi Jinping, also general secretary of the Communist Party of China Central Committee and chairman of the Central Military Commission, attends a plenary meeting of the delegation of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) and the People's Armed Police Force during the first session of the 14th National People's Congress (NPC) in Beijing, on Wednesday, March 8, 2023. (Li Gang/Xinhua via AP)
In this photo released by Xinhua News Agency, Chinese President Xi Jinping, also general secretary of the Communist Party of China Central Committee and chairman of the Central Military Commission, attends a plenary meeting of the delegation of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) and the People's Armed Police Force during the first session of the 14th National People's Congress (NPC) in Beijing, on Wednesday, March 8, 2023. (Li Gang/Xinhua via AP)

China’s leader Xi Jinping has called for “more quickly elevating the armed forces to world-class standards,” in a speech days after he warned the country was threatened by a US-led campaign of “containment, encirclement and suppression of China.”

China must maximize its “national strategic capabilities” in a bid to “systematically upgrade the country’s overall strength to cope with strategic risks, safeguard strategic interests and realize strategic objectives,” Xi said Wednesday according to The Associated Press.

His remarks to delegates in the ceremonial parliament representing the People's Liberation Army, the military wing of the ruling Communist Party, and the paramilitary People's Armed Police, were carried by the official Xinhua News Agency.

Xi made a series of calls to accelerate the build-up of self-reliance in science and technology, bolster strategic capabilities in emergency fields, make industrial and supply chains more resilient and make national reserves “more capable of safeguarding national security.”

The program laid out by Xi dovetails with a number of national strategies already underway, including the “Made in China 2025” campaign to make China dominant in 10 key fields from integrated circuits to aerospace, and a decades-old campaign for civilian-military integration in the economy.

Xi also mentioned the need for “achieving the goals for the centenary of the PLA in 2027,” a date by which, according to some US observers, China intends to have the capability of conquering self-governing Taiwan, an American ally, by military means.

China has defined the centenary goals in mostly vague terms, such as greater "informatization" and raising the PLA to “world-class standards."

China needs to build “a strong system of strategic deterrent forces, raise the presence of combat forces in new domains and of new qualities, and deeply promote combat-oriented military training,” according to a speech Xi gave last year.

China’s defense budget has roughly doubled over the past decade, allowing it to maintain the world’s largest standing military, with 2 million members, the world’s largest navy by number of ships, and the largest missile and aviation forces in the Indo-Pacific.

His most recent comment came after a speech Monday to delegates attending the annual session of the rubber-stamp National People's Congress, that indicated Chinese frustration with US restrictions on access to technology and its support for Taiwan and regional military blocs in unusually blunt terms.

“Western countries led by the United States have implemented all-round containment, encirclement and suppression of China, which has brought unprecedented grave challenges to our nation’s development,” Xi was quoted as saying by the official Xinhua News Agency.

A State Department spokesperson, Ned Price, responded by saying Washington wants to “coexist responsibly” within the global trade and political system and has no intention of suppressing China.

“This is not about containing China. This is not about suppressing China. This is not about holding China back,” Price said in Washington. “We want to have that constructive competition that is fair” and “doesn’t veer into that conflict.”



Internet Hasn't Been Restored in Bangladesh despite Apparent Calm Following Deadly Protests

Bangladeshi soldiers stand guard at the Supreme Court of Bangladesh, amid the anti-quota protests in Dhaka on July 21, 2024. (Photo by Munir UZ ZAMAN / AFP)
Bangladeshi soldiers stand guard at the Supreme Court of Bangladesh, amid the anti-quota protests in Dhaka on July 21, 2024. (Photo by Munir UZ ZAMAN / AFP)
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Internet Hasn't Been Restored in Bangladesh despite Apparent Calm Following Deadly Protests

Bangladeshi soldiers stand guard at the Supreme Court of Bangladesh, amid the anti-quota protests in Dhaka on July 21, 2024. (Photo by Munir UZ ZAMAN / AFP)
Bangladeshi soldiers stand guard at the Supreme Court of Bangladesh, amid the anti-quota protests in Dhaka on July 21, 2024. (Photo by Munir UZ ZAMAN / AFP)

Internet and mobile data services are still down despite apparent calm in Bangladesh following a verdict that scaled back a controversial quota system for government jobs after weeks of relentless protests that turned deadly.
The government has also declared Monday a public holiday, with only essential services running. This comes after a curfew with a shoot-on-sight order was installed days earlier and military personnel could be seen patrolling the capital and other areas, The Associated Press said.
The South Asian country witnessed clashes between the police and mainly student protesters demanding an end to a quota that reserved 30% of government jobs for relatives of veterans who fought in Bangladesh’s war of independence in 1971.
The violence has killed more than a hundred people, according to at least four local newspapers. Authorities have not so far shared official figures for deaths. On Thursday, communications were cut off as tensions escalated.
There was no immediate violence reported on Monday morning after the Supreme Court ordered the veterans’ quota to be cut to 5%, with 93% of jobs allocated on merit, the day before. The remaining 2% will be set aside for members of ethnic minorities as well as transgender and disabled people.
On Sunday night, some student protesters urged the government to restore internet services. Hasnat Abdullah, a coordinator of the Anti-Discrimination Student Movement, told the Associated Press that they were withdrawing their calls for a complete shutdown, which they attempted to impose last week.
“But we are issuing an ultimatum for 48 hours to stop the digital crackdown and restore internet connectivity,” he said, adding that security officials deployed at various universities should be withdrawn, student dormitories reopened and steps taken so students can return to their campuses safely. Abdullah also said they wanted the government to end the curfew and ensure the country was back to normal within two days.
Students have also demanded some university officials to step down after failing to protect campuses. Sarjis Alam, another coordinator of the Anti-Discrimination Student Movement, said that they would continue with their protests if all their demands weren't met. “We cannot step back from our movement like a coward,” he added.
Another key organizer of the student protests, Nahid Islam, told reporters that the internet shutdown had disrupted their ability to communicate and alleged that authorities were trying to create divisions among protesters. “I am mentally traumatized ... our unity is being destroyed,” he said.
The US Embassy in the capital Dhaka described Sunday the situation as “extremely volatile” and “unpredictable,” adding that guns, tear gas and other weapons have been used in the vicinity of the embassy. They said the Bangladeshi army had been deployed and urged Americans to be vigilant, avoid large crowds and reconsider travel plans.
The protests have posed the most serious challenge to Bangladesh’s government since Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina won a fourth consecutive term in January elections that the main opposition groups boycotted. Universities have been closed, the internet has been shut off and the government has ordered people to stay at home.
Protesters had argued the quota system was discriminatory and benefited supporters of Hasina, whose Awami League party led the independence movement, and wanted it replaced by a merit-based system. Hasina has defended the quota system, saying that veterans deserve the highest respect regardless of political affiliation.
The main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party has backed the protests, vowing to organize its own demonstrations as many of its supporters joined the student-led protests.
The Awami League and the BNP have often accused each other of fueling political chaos and violence, most recently ahead of the country’s national election, which was marred by a crackdown on several opposition figures.