While the world was watching the debate between Donald Trump and Joe Biden, Chinese President Xi Jinping, counterprogrammed in Beijing. Amid the strong tensions between the two world powers, his televised speech commemorating the 70th anniversary of China's entry into the Korean War (1950-53) sent a message to both presidential candidates and, by extension, to all states. United: China, he came to say, already defeated them when it had everything against it (in reference to the Korean War); Now, in full force, he does not fear a new encounter.
With all the pomp that Chinese protocol allows, in the Great Hall of the Peking Palace of the People – a space reserved for great official occasions – and accompanied by the entire Central Committee of the Communist Party, Xi delivered a speech full of nationalism before an audience of war veterans, military personnel from all branches of the People's Liberation Army, and senior officials. All the public wore a mask; Party leaders, on the podium, no.
"Seventy years ago, the imperialist invaders opened fire on the threshold of a new China," said the president. So, “the Chinese people understood that you have to use a language that the invaders can understand: fight war with war and stop an invasion by force, gaining peace and respect through victory. The Chinese people will not seek a fight but they do not fear it, and no matter what difficulties or challenges we face: our legs will not shake or we will bow our heads ”.
China entered the Korean War on October 19, 1950, when it sent "volunteer" troops to the neighboring country across the Yalu River. It was the first time that the People's Liberation Army had entered the fray since the Communist victory in the Chinese civil war and the proclamation of the People's Republic just a year earlier. It was a litmus test for troops who had to face a foreign enemy without the equipment that the nationalists had taken with them to Taiwan after their defeat. The clashes ended in a draw and, technically, the war is not yet over, stopped only by an armistice. But according to the official account in China, it was a resounding victory for his troops.
The "War to Resist American Aggression and Help the Korean People", as it is officially known, has always been a source of pride in China, although under Xi Jinping the story has evolved. From a combat entry in solidarity with a sister nation, it has become a defense of Chinese territorial integrity and dignity.
In 2010, on the 60th anniversary, the speeches called for avoiding new confrontations and – although also led by Xi, then vice president – the celebrations were much more discreet. This year, the country has launched into commemorating the date in style, with a much more nationalistic message at a time when the rivalry with the United States is at its highest in decades. The Chinese leader this week opened an exhibition on the conflict at the Beijing Military Museum. Chinese television broadcasts a 20-episode documentary to highlight the heroism of those soldiers. This weekend the film will be released in theaters across the country Sacrifice, an account of the hardships of a handful of soldiers in that war. Starring the rambo National war filmmaker Wu Jing is expected to become one of the biggest box office hits this year.
All the events convey the same message that Xi once again stressed in his speech this Friday: "There was a great military disparity between the United States and China," but thanks to the "correct leadership of the Communist Party and the national unity of the Chinese people" that army raggedy he achieved victory. "The victory shattered the legend that the US troops were invincible," insisted the Chinese president, amid the enthusiastic and disciplined applause of his audience.
Not only that. That triumph, Xi came to say, even redeemed the original sin from which the People's Republic arose: the affront of the “one hundred years of humiliation,” the foreign occupations of Chinese soil that followed each other since the Opium Wars in the 19th century. in the throes of the Qing dynasty until the end of the Japanese invasion in 1945. “It washed away the misfortune of being invaded and trampled on”, “never again have the invaders tried to occupy us”, he stressed.
In his speech, the Chinese president also urged to continue the modernization of the Chinese Army – already the second in the world, and the largest in number of ships – to turn it into a "world class" force.
"Any country and any army, no matter how powerful they once were" will be "rejected" if it tries to challenge the international community, added the Chinese president. In an elbow to the United States – one more of those that splashed his speech – he argued that “in today's world, no unilateralism, protectionism or ideology of extreme self-interest can work. Neither does the resort to coercion, blockade or extreme pressure ”. Neither of the two US presidential candidates, fighting their own dialectical war in Nashville, were listening to him at the time. But whoever occupies the White House in the next four years will have to.