Marking the 90th anniversary of the People's Liberation Army, China's president has vowed to "defeat all invasions." Xi also pledged to expand an ambitious modernization program of the military.
China will never allow its sovereignty to be compromised, said Chinese President Xi Jinping on Tuesday during a ceremony marking the 90th anniversary of the People's Liberation Army.
"The Chinese people love peace. We will never seek aggression or expansion, but we have the confidence to defeat all invasions," Xi said.
Beijing has raised tensions in the region with its increasingly assertive stance in territorial disputes. In the South China Sea, it has built military facilities on artificial islands and taken control of territorial waters claimed by the Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam, Taiwan and Brunei.
Relations between Beijing and Taiwan in particular have soured over the past year after the self-ruled island elected President Tsai Ing-wen from a pro-independence party. His nationalist predecessor had pursued a China-friendly course. Now, Taipei has rebuffed the "one China policy" that governed relations since the early 90s.
"We will never allow any people, organization or political party to split any part of Chinese territory out of the country at any time, in any form … No one should expect us to swallow the bitter fruit that is harmful to our sovereignty, security or development interests," Xi added.
The Chinese president said that over the past five years, the country's military has successfully "remodeled" its power structure as well as its public image.
When Xi rose to power in 2012, he vowed to modernize the Chinese military, considered the largest in the world. Since then, Beijing has sought to overhaul its technological capabilities and invest in new equipment, including stealth fighters and aircraft carriers.
"To build a strong military, China must unswervingly adhere to the Party's absolute leadership over the armed forces, and make sure that the people's army always follows the Party," Xi said.
Although it has been decades since China last fought a war, the government insists that its ambitious modernization program for the military is to adequately defend its economy.
As part of the 90th anniversary celebrations for the People's Liberation Army, Xi presided over an elaborate military parade on Sunday at a remote training base in China's Inner Mongolia region.
ls/rt (Reuters, AP, dpa)