"Xi's speech is significant as it outlines the Chinese government's position vis-a-vis the United States."
Seventy years ago, in October 1950, Chinese troops crossed the border into North Korea to assist their fellow Communist neighbor, which was being rapidly pushed back by the combined forces of South Korea and the United Nations. Today, Beijing refers to this as the "War to Resist US Aggression and Aid Korea" and Chinese troops as the "People's Volunteer Army."
China considers its involvement in the war as a "great victory," even if North Korea failed to make any gains after its initial invasion of the South was rebuffed and nearly 200,000 Chinese soldiers were killed in the conflict. In all likelihood, historians say, Pyongyang would have been defeated without Beijing's assistance.
In a speech marking the occasion of China's involvement in what we know as the Korean War, Chinese President Xi Jinping described the US as the aggressor with far superior technologies and weaponry, but was nevertheless repulsed by the combined forces of China and North Korea. He said that even as Chinese troops were outgunned, they managed to defeat their American counterparts.
"After painstaking efforts in the war, the Chinese and Korean armies finally defeated the opponents and also broke the legendary US Army, who were supposed to be invincible," Xi said.
So what can be learned from its involvement in the Korean War?
The Chinese leader, who is also commander-in-chief of the People's Liberation Army, warned that while Beijing wanted peace, it would not back down from a fight. "The Chinese people mean that we should speak to the invaders in a language they understand."
The Chinese leader said their victory in the Korean War was a message to the "suppressed nations and peoples in the world...Any country or any army, no matter how powerful they used to be, standing against the trend of the international community and acting perversely... will surely backfire."
Xi ended his speech with a warning to countries that endorse "unilateralism, protectionism and extreme egoism" that "no blackmailing, blocking or extreme pressure will work. Acting in one's own way and serving one's own interests will not work. Seeking hegemony and bullying others will not work and will lead the world to nowhere but a dead-end."
Xi's speech is significant as it outlines the Chinese government's position vis-a-vis the United States amid tensions between the two world powers across a range of issues in recent years. There's the status of Taiwan, allegations of widespread human rights abuses against Muslim minorities in the western region of Xinjiang, and disagreements over technology and trade.
A front-page commentary in the People's Liberation Army Daily, the official newspaper of China's military, hailed China's "glorious victory" in the Korean War that "left the Americans with the deepest impression that what Chinese people say counts," and that they should respect "China's red lines."
Another editorial in the Global Times entitled "China loves peace, but don’t provoke it" give us an idea of how China looks at the current world situation: "The Chinese people cherish peace and desire stability, but they will never sit idly by while China's sovereignty, security and development interests are undermined, and if such a situation arises, they will certainly deal with them head-on...China will not provoke, but it does not fear provocations. This is the philosophy of the Chinese people and the firm political philosophy of the country...Now, the US is carrying out a containment strategy on China, and is flexing its muscles. We'd like to warn political elites in Washington: Please keep history in mind and do not go further on the wrong path of miscalculating China's national will."
The editorial pointed out that threats and suppression by the current US administration has many facets, such as a technological blockade and the setting up an anti-China alliance. But it also emphasized that when Beijing decided to help North Korea 70 years ago, "at a time when the gap in strength was huge, the Chinese people did not hesitate but struck back and defeated imperialist invaders. Faced with the menace of a strong power, we have no reason to fear."
"The Chinese people want peaceful development. But if external forces just want to make trouble and create crises for us, they are bound to experience the powerful national strength China has accumulated over the years," the editorial said.
The editorial acknowledged that while China has territorial disputes with some of its neighboring countries, such as the Philippines, both sides "have shown their will to manage those frictions, which has reduced the possibility of conflicts. The bigger threat comes from the intervention of big powers from outside the region. A certain external power keeps driving a wedge, with its navy and air force intensifying activity, which adds uncertainty to the region."
The editorial concluded: "China is big, stable, powerful and united. Confrontations with China will only create more problems than solutions for themselves. Certain forces surrounding China should also realize that they will only suffer misfortune and meet a dead-end if they desperately follow external powers in disturbing China."