Ominous Weibo post quickly gains traction amid rising tensions with US over Taiwan
A Chinese army group’s post about “preparing for war” attracted hundreds of thousands of approvals on Friday on the social network Weibo. Though it comes as Beijing has warned Washington against provocations over Taiwan, the post may be entirely innocuous – and refer to the upcoming anniversary of the People’s Liberation Army and a line from President Xi Jinping’s speech, according to the state outlet Global Times.
A message containing just two characters in Mandarin was posted on Friday on the Weibo page of the PLA’s 80th Group Army, headquartered in Weifang, Shandong province. It quickly generated over 300,000 positive reactions and nearly 20,000 comments.
The phrase could be translated as “prepare for war” or “ready to fight,” but Global Times said the correct translation was “Preparing for war!”
Xi has previously said that only those capable of fighting can stop battles from starting, and only those prepared for war don’t have to stumble into one, said the outlet, which is the English-language subsidiary of People’s Daily, the official newspaper of the ruling Communist Party of China.
August 1 will mark the 95th anniversary of the PLA’s founding, and the Chinese military is busily preparing to celebrate. However, the Weibo post comes just a day after the phone call between Xi and US President Joe Biden, in which the Chinese leader sent a very pointed message to the US.
“Those who play with fire will perish by it. It is hoped that the US will be clear-eyed about this,” Xi told Biden, according to the Chinese readout of the call. Beijing is firmly opposed to Taiwanese separatism of any kind, Xi added.
Though Biden insists the US policy regarding the island has not changed, he has not denied the rumors that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) intends to visit Taiwan in August.
The Pentagon has reportedly developed a “contingency plan” to send additional ships and fighter jets to the region, while China has threatened the US with “unbearable consequences” should the visit go forward, with some pundits going so far as to advocate attacking Taiwan in response to such a “provocation.”
Beijing officially considers the island China’s sovereign territory, which will be reintegrated in due course. Taiwan has been under the control of the nationalist Kuomintang, who left the mainland with US help after losing the Chinese civil war to the PLA in 1949.