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China's Xi demands rapid military upgrade to 'world class standards'

Chinese President Xi Jinping warned the National People's Congress on Wednesday that the nation must bolster its military might to "safeguard strategic interests."

Chinese President Xi Jinping has called on his nation's military to bolster its strength to "world-class standards." 

Xi made the comment Wednesday in a speech before the National People's Congress — China's highest legislative body. 

Xi told the Congress of Chinese Communist Party members that the nation must bolster its "national strategic capabilities" in order to "systematically upgrade the country’s overall strength to cope with strategic risks, safeguard strategic interests and realize strategic objectives."

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The comments reflect a growing concern within the Chinese government that its relations with the U.S. could come to confrontational head.

The Chinese government will boost its military spending by 7.2% this year, rising to a total budget of 1.56 trillion yuan.

In U.S. dollars, China's budget now sits at $230 billion, up nearly $16 billion from its budget in 2022. China's Ministry of Finance announced the new infusion of cash in its annual report on Sunday.

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Chinese Minister of Foreign Affairs Qin Gang said Tuesday that his country and the U.S. are heading for "conflict and confrontation" due to American policy.

"If the United States does not hit the brake — but continues to speed down the wrong path — no amount of guardrails can prevent derailing and there will surely be conflict and confrontation and who will bear the catastrophic consequences?" Qin asked. 

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He added, "Such competition is a reckless gamble, with the stakes being the fundamental interests of the two peoples and even the future of humanity."

The U.S. intelligence community warned in its annual threat assessment Wednesday that China is building hundreds of new intercontinental ballistic missile silos, building up its nuclear deterrent capabilities and boosting domestic defense production.

"Beijing is working to meet its goal of fielding a military by 2027 designed to deter U.S. intervention in a future cross-Strait crisis," the Office of the Director of National Intelligence wrote in a report.

The Taiwan issue has become more volatile than ever after it was announced Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen will soon visit New York and Los Angeles on her way to visit Central American allies Guatemala and Belize.

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Her trip is expected to include a meeting with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy — a diplomatic event that echoes former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's norm-shattering visit to the island.

"We are gravely concerned over this and have made serious démarches to the U.S. side demanding clarification," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said Wednesday in a press conference.

She added, "The Taiwan question is the core of the core interests of China, the bedrock of the political foundation of China-U.S. relations, and the first red line that must not be crossed in China-U.S. relations. Separatism for Taiwan independence is as incompatible with peace and stability of the Taiwan Strait as fire with water."

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