Xi Jinping is 'preparing the Chinese people for war,' Trump-era national security advisor says

H.R. McMaster in 2018.
H.R. McMaster, then the US national security advisor, at a meeting in 2018.Chris Kleponis-Pool/Getty Images
  • Retired Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster on Monday said Xi Jinping was preparing China for war.

  • McMaster said Xi had been increasingly signaling aggression in his speeches about Taiwan.

  • He urged the US to bolster its military presence to try to deter China from moving against Taiwan.

H.R. McMaster, the former US national security advisor, said on Monday that he believed China's leader, Xi Jinping, was "preparing the Chinese people for war."

Speaking on CBS' "Face The Nation," hosted by Margaret Brennan, McMaster said the US should take care "not to fall into the same traps we did with Vladimir Putin" when it came to the threat of conflict with China over Taiwan.

He and several pundits, including Michèle Flournoy, the former undersecretary of defense for policy, were on the show discussing US foreign policy on various fronts, such as dealing with Iran, the war in Ukraine, and China.

McMaster, a retired lieutenant general who served as national security advisor in 2017 and 2018 under President Donald Trump, said the US should take threats from Xi seriously, adding that the leader "means what he says."

"I think we have to be careful not to mirror-image, not to fall into the same traps we did with Vladimir Putin, of confirmation bias and optimism bias," McMaster said.

He added that Xi had been posturing aggressively in recent speeches, telling the Chinese people that it would take sacrifices to restore China to national greatness.

McMaster said Xi had "made quite clear" through his recent statements that he was preparing to move against Taiwan and toward "subsuming" the self-governing island.

"China has become increasingly aggressive, not only from an economic and financial perspective and a wolf-warrior-diplomacy perspective but physically, with its military," he added.

McMaster urged the US to increase its military presence in the Asia-Pacific region. "We talk a lot about relying on our allies and that maybe if we take a step back, the allies will do more," McMaster said. "I think actually the opposite is the case. If Americans just do a little bit more, many of our allies will follow suit and bolster their defensive capabilities and capacity as well."

Xi said in October that China was "striving for the prospect of peaceful reunification with Taiwan" but also repeatedly signaled aggression toward the island while he consolidated his power in the fall.

He opened China's 20th Communist Party Congress by saying his government would "never promise to give up the use of force" to seize Taiwan. In November, Xi urged the Chinese military to be ready for war and outlined a vision for the People's Liberation Army to become a world-class force by 2027.

The Chinese leader also denounced "foreign interference" with Taiwan — a veiled threat against the US that came after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's August visit to Taipei. Beijing, bristling at the visit, responded by announcing a slew of renewed military drills near the island.

Xi Jinping behind a lectern with an arm raised.
Xi Jinping at an inspection of a military command center in November.Li Gang/Xinhua via Getty Images

On the part of the US, President Joe Biden angered Beijing in October when he broke from long-term US policy by saying Washington would defend Taiwan if China attacked it.

The White House later clarified that the president's comments hadn't signaled a change in foreign policy and that the US still opposed "any unilateral changes to the status quo."

Biden's rhetoric then shifted as he met Xi in November for the G20 summit, when the president emphasized cooperation between their nations and peace in the Taiwan Strait.

McMaster didn't immediately respond to a request for comment from Insider via email.

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