Taiwan asks for an end to Chinese harassment

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Taiwan asks for an end to Chinese harassment 1

This sort of thing has been happening since the very start of the Biden administration. It started relatively small, just eight bombers and four fighter jets. The message being sent wasn’t subtle. As one PLA military spokesman put it, Taiwan independence would mean war. A Chinese fighter pilot was even more blunt in response to a Taiwanese warning to leave the area he said, “This is all ours.


Ever since, China has been upping the ante by increasing the number of warplanes and ships sent toward and around Taiwan. Sunday the PLA set a new record with 103 planes in 24 hours:

China’s military sent 103 warplanes toward Taiwan in a 24-hour period in what the island’s defense ministry called a recent new high.

The planes were detected between 6 a.m. on Sunday and 6 a.m. on Monday, the ministry said. As is customary, they turned back before reaching Taiwan. Chinese warplanes fly toward the self-governing island on a near-daily basis but typically in smaller numbers. The Taiwan ministry didn’t explain what time period it meant by a “recent” high…

Taiwan’s Defense Ministry said 40 of the planes crossed the symbolic median line between mainland China and the island. They included more than 30 fighter jets as well as midair refueling tanker planes. Taiwan also reported nine Chinese naval vessels in area waters in the previous 24 hours.

The image above shows some of the flight plans of the Chinese pilots. Some fly just over the media line then fly parallel to it before returning to the mainland. Taiwan asked China to stop the aerial harassment campaign.

Taiwan’s Defense Ministry said Monday’s incursion set a “new high” and would pose “severe challenges” to security in the Taiwan Strait.

“The People’s Liberation Army’s continued military harassment could easily cause a sharp increase in tensions and worsen regional security,” it said in a statement, referring to the official name of China’s military. “We call on the Beijing authorities to take responsibility and immediately stop such destructive unilateral actions.”


China shrugged this off:

When asked about the incursion at a news briefing Monday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning said: “Taiwan is part of China. There is no such thing as the ‘median line.’”…

“They are trying to create a new normal — to say they don’t need a special reason. They can display their military might at any time. They want to put constant pressure on Taiwan’s perimeter. One of the things they want to say is that they can blockade Taiwan anytime if they want to,” said Lin Ying-yu, a professor who teaches PLA studies at Tamkang University in Taiwan.

Unlike previous incursions, this one doesn’t seem to be tied to anything in particular except, perhaps, the upcoming Taiwanese election. Polls shows that Taiwan’s current vice president and leader of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Lai Ching-te has a strong lead. That is certainly a problem for mainland China since Lai’s position is that Taiwan in a sovereign nation.

Taiwanese vice president and presidential hopeful William Lai Ching-te has underlined Taiwan’s status as a sovereign nation and said that the world knows that China is to blame for a recent rise in tensions…

“Taiwan holds regular elections for our president, vice president, legislators, officials, mayors and local government leaders, and they serve the people, so I think this shows that it is a fact that Taiwan is a sovereign country,” Lai said. “This is a fact, this is the truth.”


So Lai’s popularity may be once reason China is upping the harassment campaign. But despite the increased heat around the issue, China probably is not ready to try to invade. A story in the Telegraph suggests they probably won’t until their situation improves in West Africa:

One limitation on Xi is that an attack across the Taiwan Strait might well be seen by China itself as bringing a recalcitrant province to heel, but in the Western world it would be seen rather differently. It is likely that at least some supplies of raw materials into the Chinese economy would be cut off if it does happen…

China is reliant upon imports of iron ore: that’s the only way it can continue to develop. The imports come mainly from Australia, and a war over Taiwan would interdict that…

But there is one other source. The last – last known at least – vast hematite deposit is in Guinea in West Africa.

China has been investing in this area but the amount of ore needed won’t be available for transport until the end of 2024 at the soonest but the author suggests a more realistic goal might be 2028. In any case, that would allow China to invade Taiwan without blowing another big hole in its already struggling construction industry. It’s just speculation really, but might be something Xi Jinping is thinking about when he plans a reunification-by-force timeline.