Taiwan has held its first large-scale live-fire military exercise since 2008, as President Ma Ying-jeou urged troops to remain vigilant of the lingering threat from China.

Ma personally oversaw Wednesday’s drill on the Penghu Islands, which simulated a Chinese attack involving more than 7,000 troops from the army, navy and air forces.

The president called on soldiers to maintain their “sense of crisis” as China builds up its military, according to The Associated Press.

“In the past few years, the Chinese communists have conducted a massive arms build-up in both quality and quantity following fast economic development. In the face of the threat, we have to make some preparations if we are to sustain peace in the Taiwan Strait,” Ma told AFP.

Cross-strait relations have improved over the years since Ma initiated Taipei’s much-touted detente with Beijing. But the recent show of force could mean the leader’s new tough stance towards the mainland.

China still considers Taiwan part of its territory even though the island has governed itself since their split at the end of a civil war in 1949. Beijing has threaten to use force if Taiwan moves to make its de facto independence permanent.