Chinese leader Xi Jinping told the military to ramp up their training and preparations for an all-out war, should the need arise, says a report by the South China Morning Post.
The announcement was made during a meeting of top officials from the Central Military Commission (CMC), which Xi Jinping heads.
"All military units must correctly understand major national security and development trends, and strengthen their sense of unexpected hardship, crisis and battle", he said, adding that China's armed forces must "prepare for a comprehensive military struggle from a new starting point".
"Preparation for war and combat must be deepened to ensure an efficient response in times of emergency", he said.
Xi has engaged in a campaign to boost the People's Liberation Army's readiness since he became the president of China in 2012, SCMP reports, adding that in 2019 this effort will intensify.
The two key points of conflict for China are the South China Sea, which Beijing claims almost entirely; and the issue of Taiwan, which China views as a runaway province and seeks to reunify it with the mainland.
The US is the main opponent in both areas. Washington insists on "ensuring freedom of navigation" in the South China Sea, which effectively means dispatching ships and aircraft to patrol the waters, something that has already led to several near-misses between the powers. Washington has also shown significant support for Taiwan, opposing Chinese claims to the island. Despite having no official embassy on the island, the US de facto uses the American Institute in Taiwan for this role.
According to Yue Gang, a retired PLA colonel, the United States would do good to use the conflict points as bargaining chips in the ongoing trade war with China, instead of risking a deadly escalation.
"Over the coming year, the US might use Taiwan and the South China Sea as bargaining chips to get what it wants from China with regards to the trade war", he said, according to the South China Morning Post.