China Military Vows to 'Not Lose A Single Inch' of Ancestors' Lands in Asia

China's armed forces have vowed not to cede any ancestral lands, nor annex any new ones, amid the protracted territorial disputes pitting powers against one another in Asia.

"We cannot lose a single inch of the lands we inherited from our ancestors," the Chinese Defense Ministry's Information Bureau said in a statement published Monday in response to a question on China's national defense strategy, "and we would not take a single cent of others' possessions."

The remarks echoed comments earlier made by Chinese President Xi Jinping to then-Defense Secretary James Mattis during a June 2018 visit to Beijing. Tensions have since worsened between the world's two largest economies, expanding the rift in their rival geopolitical views in areas such as Taiwan and the East and South China Seas.

But the Information Bureau said Beijing could both seek to safeguard Chinese sovereignty and keep the peace at the same time.

"China's socialist nature, strategic decision-making on the path of peaceful development, independent foreign policy of peace and the Chinese cultural tradition of 'peace is the most precious' determine that China will unswervingly pursue a defensive national defense policy and insist on never seeking hegemony," the statement said.

"Never expanding and never seeking spheres of influence are the distinctive features of China's national defense in the new era," the statement said.

Since the founding of what Chinese authorities call "New China," or the establishment of the People's Republic by the Chinese Communist Party in 1949, the statement said the country's leadership has "never proactively provoked a war, and we have never invaded an inch of land in other countries."

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A border defense company attached to the People's Liberation Army train in Hami, Xinjiang region in this photo published February 22. The Chinese region has been at the center of international media attention both due to the vocational camps housing scores of members of the Muslim Uighur minority community, and its proximity to a border standoff with neighboring India. Chinese People's Liberation Army

Since the dawn of modern China, the country has battled separatist movements and fought a number of limited border conflicts along its boundaries, including against India, Vietnam and the former Soviet Union. In an ongoing dispute incorporating both of these elements, China continues to threaten forced reunification with Taiwan, an autonomous island led by a government calling itself the Republic of China after losing a civil war with the mainland.

The United States switched international recognition from Taipei to Beijing in 1979, but continues to maintain informal ties and provide military assistance to Taipei despite Chinese protests. The policy was expanded by former President Donald Trump, and President Joe Biden has vowed to continue supporting Taiwan.

Last Wednesday, the U.S. Navy sent the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Curtis Wilbur across the Taiwan Strait to demonstrate "the U.S. commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific." China accused the U.S. of conducting destabilizing moves in the region.

The new U.S. administration has also rejected China's claims to the South China Sea and contested land formations such as the Spratlys and Paracel Islands. The U.S. has conducted "freedom of navigation" operations in the area, sometimes joined by international partners, to challenge China's position.

The Chinese Defense Ministry's Information Bureau accused nations acting in this capacity of "creating tension, interfering in regional affairs, and harming the common interests of regional countries," without naming the U.S. The Ministry said it hoped these countries would instead "make constructive contributions to peace and stability in the South China Sea, and refrain from making trouble and provoking tensions in the region, and will not make troubles or stir up the situation in the South China Sea."

Frictions have also emerged in the East China Sea. Here, Biden's officials have expressed concern over Chinese actions near the Pinnacle Islands, under the control of U.S. ally Japan, which China claims as their own.

The Diaoyu Island and its affiliated islands are China's inherent territory, which has sufficient historical and legal basis," the Chinese Defense Ministry's Information Burea said Monday, using the Chinese name for the island referred to as Senkaku by Japan. "The law enforcement activities carried out by Chinese government ships within the territorial waters of the country are legitimate and undisputed, and will continue to be normalized."

After members of Japan's ruling Liberal Democratic Party suggested the Japanese Coast Guard could use lethal force to fend off Chinese vessels, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin doubled down on claims to what he too called "China's inherent territory."

"China is determined and firmly resolved to safeguard its territorial sovereignty, and will resolutely respond to any provocative and dangerous action against the Diaoyu Island," Wang said.

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This video frame grab taken from footage recorded in mid-June 2020 and released by China Central Television (CCTV) on February 20 shows Chinese (foreground) and Indian soldiers (R, background) during an incident where troops from both countries clashed in the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in the Galwan Valley, in the Karakoram Mountains in the Himalayas. AFP/China Central Television

A new front for China flared up last year as personnel of the People's Liberation Army clashed with Indian troops at the border between China-administered Aksai Chin and India-administered Ladakh. Both sides blame each other for the first bloodshed in this conflict in nearly half a century, with India admitting 20 losses and China acknowledging four.

Though traditionally non-aligned, India has grown close to the U.S. in recent years. The two are joined by Australia and Japan to form the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, which is increasingly seen as a quasi-coalition against China, and the foursome met last week to discuss regional security.

State Department spokesperson Ned Price vowed the U.S. would continue to weigh in on China's domestic affairs, and approach China "through the prism of competition from a position of strength." This included joint action with the Quad and other allies and partners across the globe.

Beijing sees this gathering and the broader attempt by Washington to rally the international community against China's rise as a potential threat.

"The world today has entered a new era of peace, development, cooperation, and win-win outcomes," the Chinese Defense Ministry's Information Bureau said. "The strengthening of the military alliance system against third parties is entirely a product of the Cold War mentality. It has long been outdated and should have been swept into the garbage dump of history."

Rather, the bureau called for an improvement in bilateral relations between the U.S. and China, including in the military realm.

"Sino-U.S. relations are at an important juncture," the bureau said. "Cooperation between China and the United States will benefit both sides, and struggle will hurt both. Cooperation is the only correct choice for both parties."

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A map published by the U.S. Department of Defense shows several territorial disputes involving China, as of January 1, 2020. U.S. Department of Defense