By Beth Main
Xi Jinping will head a newly created task force created to monitor the dispute with Japan over the Diaoyu/Senkaku islands as tensions continue to build in the East China Sea. The territorial dispute over the uninhabited islands has escalated in recent weeks, with ships and airplanes from both sides squaring off in the disputed territory.
Xi’s direct involvement in the Diaoyu issue is both potentially terrifying and reassuring. Is China’s leader taking charge to ensure that conflict doesn’t break out over the issue? Or is this the commander in chief of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) preparing for war?
In January PLA forces were mobilised in coastal regions and reportedly told to “prepare for war”. The situation calmed down in February however, following bilateral talks.
Xi has close ties to the military, having worked for the general office of the Central Military Commission (CMC) and held military posts in his younger days in Fujian and Zhejiang. Hu Jintao stepped aside in Xi’s favour as head of the CMC following the Party leadership transition in November. Xi recently completed an inspection tour of the PLA.