Cast away delusions and prepare to fight!

Cast away your illusions folks, and realize that Beijing is willing to fight a war to re-take Taiwan.

This is my take-away from this past week’s semi-official call to PLA forces stationed in eastern China to be ready for war. Delivered on National Security Awareness day, the title of the missive was a shout out to a slogan of Mao Zedong: “Cast away delusions and prepare to fight!” And the piece, from the PLA Eastern Command’s Wechat account, has set onshore social media afire with speculation (alongside, of course, a huge Taobao sex scandal). Particularly when, as this detailed piece describes, there’s been a ramp up in PLA maneuvers around Taiwan.

I know we’re supposed to watch what Beijing does, rather than what it says, but listening to what it’s saying internally, to its own troops, is essential too. The official outward propaganda is all about peace, continued opening-up and win-win economic development. This piece, in contrast, is all about China’s national humiliation by the West, the glorious future of National Rejuvenation that Xi Jinping is about to deliver, and instilling something approaching paranoia on the part of the troops. (If you’ve not read it already, check out Daniel Tobin’s recent congressional testimony here; it’s an incredibly rich and persuasive piece - and as today’s post reminds us, there’s a lot of Mao in current Party messaging.)

I’m so not a PLA watcher - maybe this piece counts as mild compared to other stuff they put out. For one thing, it does dwell on being prepared - rather than going to war. And for another, it does make the point that it’s only when you’re properly prepared that you don’t have to fight. But still, it didn’t particularly reassure me. Especially when the world is occupied with other stuff. Beijing talks a lot about this moment in history as one of ‘strategic opportunity’; well, I imagine there are plenty today arguing out in the western hills that this month could be one of tactical opportunity too.

And conversely, for my Chinese friends, this is the kind of thing that makes us really scared of where the Party is taking China. It’s playing with fire and there’s a lot of explosives around.

Here’s the piece. And again, I’m a very amateurish translator so there’s plenty of unfelicitous English phrasing here…

Cast away your illusions, prepare for war!

This is the title of a piece by Chairman Mao in the early days of New China. Chairman Mao once said: “We love peace, but fighting for peace is peace too, and compromising when you are looking for peace is bound to fail”.

To view China today, the splitting up of our country is repeatedly bubbling up. Under the guidance of the China Dream, the sons and daughters of China have thrown themselves into all manner of constructive projects for the motherland, pursuing steps to develop the new era. The international influence of China is clearly increasing, it’s become a new trend to “look East”.

This is an era when things happen fast, where there are opportunities everywhere, but it’s also a era with hidden risks and plenty of dangers.

The sons and daughters of China who walk this new historical journey, they carry the weight of a hundred years of our shame of being a poor and weak country, as well as the many ups and downs of our national fate; they face the prospect of our dream of national rejuvenation and magnificent blueprint being closer to realization than ever; and they’re overwhelmed by emotion, a heroic spirit, a feeling of mission, that’s as imposing as the mountains; but they also suffer from a constant insecurity and an alert consciousness, like they know they’re walking on thin ice.

We can never forget, from the start of the 1840 Opium War, the Great Powers used strong boats and devastating cannons to force the then Chinese government to sign the Unequal Treaty, which ceded territory and forced us to pay them indemnities, as well as hundreds of other demands.

In recent years, scholars have examined the reasons for our nation’s sudden reversal in in the First China-Japan war (1984-95) and the Late Qing’s crushing defeat. One of the reasons was that as the war came, our officers and men were unprepared for the unexpected.

If we cast our minds back to the beginning of New China, and look at when the “March of the Volunteer Army” became our national anthem, there’s a phrase in that - “The Chinese nation has reached it’s most dangerous time” - well, there were voices calling this phrase into question and suggesting revisions. But the leaders of our Party and country collectively considered this question deeply and looked ahead, and determined that ‘it would be better to leave this phase, it’s good to remain constantly vigilant’.

How can this not make us all remember to be vigilant: we can never cast away a spirit of being prepared for the unexpected. We can never ever loosen our tight grip on the bowstring of war preparation.

We must squarely face this fact. Some people’s will become numb then their nerves are stretched for a long time; the tension will bend and break some people, like an arrow taut in the bow.

Many people can relax, but soldiers can never relax; many can get numb, but soldiers can never have the least numbness.

“For a long time into the future we are going to have to face important political, diplomatic, security and military risks…and we can never forget that, in the final analysis, military force is our fall back option.” Chairman Xi is positioned on the brink of achieving the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation, and he’s constantly warning the People’s Army, the bearer of our deep culture and military victories.

Achieving a Golden Age of peace and security is the greatest honor for soldiers, but having a “drunk peace and security”, well that’s the Number One enemy of the army. Even though war has its rules, exactly when you fight and with what methods you fight with, that is all completely uncertain. Moreover, in today’s “flash wars” the time and space you have, the latitude you have in which to act, are ever smaller. If you’re not prepared you’ll lose the initial advantage and you’ll come under attack.

The critical thing in having the military initiative is to make sure you’ve done all the preparation before the war starts.

We’ve already entered a new era. This is a “hundred years in which we’ve never seen this level of turbulence before”, it’s an era when extraordinary change is already happening and more is brewing; it’s an era when we’ve never been so close to national rejuvenation; and it’s an era when we’ve never before faced this level of challenges and pressure. The country is currently transitioning from great to strong, this is our strategic opportunity to achieve national strength or remain weak, it’s a time when the meaning of our national security, the time and place, domestic and foreign factors are undergoing deep changes.

In this new era, there are opportunities, but there are also challenges and threats.

As one of the key pillars of a people’s democratic dictatorship, we must ensure we are fully aware that our national security environment is constantly changing, and that the security arena is forever expanding. We need to put the notion of comprehensive national security into our war preparation work and stay clear-headed in recognizing all the unstable and uncontrollable factors in our internal and external situation.

“Only when we can fight a war can we avoid war, to prepare to fight is the only way to not fight, and the less we are ready, the more likely it is we’ll be beaten.”

Today, it is national security education day. And on this special day, we need to remember this slogan “cast away your illusions, get ready to fight”; it means we need to be always ready, that we can never forget war, forget our national shame, and at all times we need to remember that in peace there is always potential danger, and that we need to stay prepared.

Most importantly, as an army and as soldiers, we need to strengthen our preparations for the unexpected, our consciousness of crisis, our consciousness of war, to intensify our military drills and our war preparation, to ensure that as soon as as there is an issue we can act definitively, resolutely and forcefully destroy any enemy who dares to invade.

Here is the Chinese site - and I’ve copied it below for your convenience.


“丢掉幻想,准备斗争!” 这是新中国成立前夕,毛主席发表的一篇文章标题。 毛主席曾说过:“我们爱好和平,但以斗争求和平则和平存,以妥协求和平则和平亡。” 放眼今日之中国,九州大地上热潮迭涌。在中国梦的指引下,华夏儿女投身祖国各项建设事业,追赶新时代发展的脚步。中国在国际上的影响力显著增强,“向东看”开始成为一股潮流。 这是一个快速发展和遍地机遇的时代,也是一个暗藏风险和充满危机的时代。 走在历史新征程上的中华儿女,背靠积贫积弱的百年国耻与沧桑国运,面对前所未有接近的复兴梦想与壮美蓝图,既有心潮澎湃、巍巍如山的豪迈之气和使命情怀,更有如履薄冰、夙夜难安的忧患心态和警醒意识。 我们不能忘却,从1840年鸦片战争起,列强用坚船利炮逼迫当时的中国政府签订以割地赔款为主要内容的不平等条约加起来竟然有数百个! 近年来,一些学者对导致国运陡然逆转的中日甲午战争中,晚清军队惨败教训进行检讨反思时认为,官兵在战争来临前普遍缺乏忧患意识,是其中一个重要因素。 回想起新中国成立伊始,把《义勇军进行曲》确立为代国歌时,面对关于对“中华民族到了最危险的时候”这句歌词的质疑及修改提议,党和国家第一代领导集体深谋远虑地指出,“还不如留下这句话,经常保持警惕的好”。 这些都无不使人深思警醒:忧患意识任何时候都不能丢,备战之弦每时每刻都不能松。 必须正视,笙歌久奏,难免麻痹了部分人长期紧绷着的神经,折弯了一些人如弦上之箭的身姿。 但,谁都可以松懈,而军人绝不能有一丝松懈;谁都可以麻痹,军人绝不能有半点麻痹。 “我们很长一个时期都要面临重大政治、外交、安全、军事风险……千万不能忘记,军事手段始终是保底的手段。”习主席站在实现民族复兴伟业的高度,不断警示着这支传统厚重、战功辉煌的人民军队。 盛世太平是对军人的最高褒奖,但“醉太平”却是军队的头号大敌。战争虽有规律可循,但在何时打响、以何种方式进行往往表现出极大的不确定性。加之已进入“秒杀”时代的现代战争,时间和空间上的回旋余地越来越小,准备不足必然失去先机甚至被动挨打。 充分做好战前各项准备,是掌握战争主动权的关键。 我们已进入新时代。这是“百年未有之大变局”正在发生并酝酿着质变的时代,是我们前所未有地接近民族复兴,也前所未有地面临挑战压力的时代。国家正处在由大向强、将强未强的重要战略机遇期,国家安全的内涵和外延、时空领域、内外因素等方面发生了深刻变化。 新时代,既有机遇,也有挑战与威胁。 作为人民民主专政的坚强柱石,必须置身于国家安全环境变动不居、安全领域不断拓展的时代背景,把总体国家安全观作为部队军事斗争准备工作的重要指导,使官兵看清国家安全形势中不稳定、不可控因素,对内部、外部形势时刻保持清醒认识。 “能战方能止战,准备打才可能不必打,越不能打越可能挨打。” 今天,是全民国家安全教育日。在这个特殊的日子,我们重提“丢掉幻想、准备打仗”的口号,意在警示人们,任何时候都不能忘记战争、忘记国耻,任何时候都要做到居安思危、未雨绸缪。 尤其,作为军队和军人,更要强化忧患意识、危机意识、打仗意识,加紧练兵备战,确保一旦有事便能够断然出手,坚决有力地消灭敢于来犯之敌。 (图片来源于网络)