China's People's Liberation Army, or PLA, has been ordered to prepare for war in a training directive issued this week. The order comes from the General Staff headquarters, which oversees the army.
Forces should train to, quote, "fight and win battles," the directive said.
The strong words are in striking contrast to previous ones. Those had focused more on coordination within different branches of the PLA. In particular, the use of the word "dazheng," Chinese for "fighting wars," has not been seen before.
Japan was not mentioned in the directive. But this commentary in the People's Liberation Army Daily conjures up images of the Japanese invasion of China during World War II. It goes on to suggest Japan is gathering other East Asian countries to quote, "contain China."
Some Chinese military officials have urged a quick strike to assert China's sovereignty over the contested Diaoyu, or Senkaku, Islands. This is the metaphor they use: "kill a chicken to scare the monkeys."
But some political commenters think that the talk of war is empty. That's because the Chinese regime has more to lose than gain in an all-out war.
[Lan Shu, NTD China Analyst]:
"The Diaoyu Islands offer very little material interests, except it can hype up nationalism sentiments. The CCP will lose and ten ASEAN countries will immediately team up with the United States and Japan.
China has not engaged in direct military conflict since 1979 with Vietnam. Right now, it also has a host of critical internal matters to deal with.
[Guo Yongfeng, Founder, Association of Chinese Citizens for Monitoring the Government]:
"We cannot even resolve our domestic conflicts and we want to start a war. I don't believe it is likely to happen. If the CCP really wants to fight, it will be like committing suicide."
The war talk isn't an unanimous one either. Senior Chinese officials Jia Qinglin is calling for talks with Japan over the islands without the usual vindictive rhetoric most official Chinese statements about the islands contain.
Japan however says there's nothing to discuss. It has nationalized the islands—after purchasing them from the previous owner last year.