Chinese President Xi Jinping issued a tough line on national sovereignty Tuesday amid multiple territorial disputes with his country's neighbors, saying China will never permit the loss of "any piece" of its land to outsiders.
Xi's declaration came during a nearly one-hour speech in Beijing marking the 90th anniversary of the founding of the People's Liberation Army, which has formed a key pillar of support for the ruling Communist Party since 1927 and is the world's largest standing military, with 2.3 million members.
"The Chinese people treasure peace and we absolutely do not engage in invasion and expansion. However, we have the confidence to conquer all forms of invasion," Xi told government leaders and current and retired PLA members gathered at the hulking Great Hall of the People, the seat of the legislature that sits beside Tiananmen Square.
"We absolutely will not permit any person, any organization, any political party — at any time, in any form — to separate any piece of Chinese territory from China," Xi said to applause. "No one should expect us to swallow the bitter fruit of damage to our sovereignty, security and development interests."
Xi made no reference to any specific conflicts or disputes during his address, which focused largely on the PLA's growth from a scrappy guerrilla force fighting Chiang Kai-shek's Nationalists and Japanese invaders into one of the world's most powerful, if largely untested, militaries.