Documents recently obtained by Kyodo News show that Chinese President Xi Jinping himself ordered military operations in the East China Sea, the first time that evidence has been found that proves what has long been suspected.
China's surging military activity in the East China Sea has caused deep anxiety for Japan, which controls the Senkaku Islands in the body of water. The uninhabited islands are also claimed by China and Taiwan, which call them the Diaoyu Islands and Tiaoyutai Islands, respectively.
The documents show that during a closed-door meeting with members of the Central Military Commission, which is in overall charge of the People's Liberation Army, on Feb. 20 this year, Xi, who is the supreme commander of the world's largest military, said that "some countries have conducted frequent maritime drills in the area seeking to provoke and pressure us."
"Yet our military has regularized patrols in the air and on the sea with a series of military operations deep into the East China Sea and Diaoyu Islands to safeguard our interest in territorial sovereignty," he added.
Such military operations have proven that "if our strategy is appropriate and our actions are pro-active, we could seize an opportunity and even turn a crisis into an opportunity," he said.
Statistics show that China's military exercises in the East China Sea are becoming increasingly routine as the frequency and scale have increased.
In fiscal 2016 ended March 31 this year, Japan scrambled fighter jets 1,168 times to head off aircraft approaching its airspace, with the number exceeding the previous record set during the Cold War, according to the Japanese Defense Ministry.
Taiwan's Defense Ministry also began last year to publicize news, and sometimes photos, of scrambles by its air force amid China's increasing military activity.
Recognizing that "problems" have emerged under "new circumstances," Xi said China is at a critical juncture of developing itself from being "big" to "strong."
"We are now facing a historic opportunity that happens only once in a thousand years," he said. "If we handle it well, we will prosper. But if we screw it up, there will be problems, big problems."
While recognizing opportunities, Xi said that there are also "unprecedented risks and challenges."
Shifting to economics, Xi said some politicians of the West have declared that they are against globalization merely for political reasons, while pinning the blame for problems at home on China, which has been branded as the biggest beneficiary of globalization.
Some countries are likely to be driven by their economic woes to "make a reckless move in desperation" or "flex their muscle overseas as domestic pressure heightens," he said.
On international strategy, Xi said some Western countries have lost their long-standing dominance in international affairs and found their international status in real danger of slipping.
Yet at the same time, some emerging markets and developing countries are on the track of an ascending path, especially China, whose overall national strength is rising, he said.
"The international community increasingly thinks highly of us and wants to hear what China has to say and see what China wants to do," he said.
On development model, Xi criticized Western democracy, saying that many Western countries promote "democratic expansion" and see themselves as the "world savior," while their institution creates not only divisions in society, but also infightings among political parties and endless political scandals.
"It's like the real-life version of the House of Cards," he said, referring to the now-cancelled hit U.S. political drama. "People are gravely disappointed in the Western ruling apparatus."
By comparison, Xi said the leadership of the Communist Party of China is supported by a majority of the Chinese people and socialism with Chinese characteristics is "full of vigor and vitality."
"Many leaders of developing countries I've talked to told me that they are doubtful about the political system of the West and expressed hope to learn about how China has developed itself," Xi said. "It's a trend to 'look east.'"
In short, Xi said China's military must beef up its efforts to resolutely safeguard state sovereignty, security and national interest to realize the dream of "two 100 years" and rejuvenation of the "great Chinese nation."