Taiwan: What lessons can be learned from Chinese military exercises around the island? | World

Despite appeals from Western countries and Japan, China confirmed on Monday (8) the continuation of its military exercises around Taiwan, still in response to the visit of US congresswoman Nancy Pelosi to the island claimed by Beijing.

On Sunday, the Taiwanese Transport Minister indicated that flights and navigation could now gradually resume in six of the seven “temporary danger zones” – that is, where Beijing has been carrying out military maneuvers on an unprecedented scale since Thursday.

According to observers, these maneuvers offer just a taste of what could become the norm in the Taiwan Strait.

Taiwan’s military has announced that it will carry out military exercises with live ammunition this week, simulating a defense of the island against a Chinese invasion. In a statement, Taiwan’s foreign ministry condemned the continuation of Chinese maneuvers that undermine the status quo in the Taiwan Strait and increase tensions in the region.

The Taiwanese will train next Tuesday and Thursday in the Pingtung region in the far south. The exercises were already scheduled and are not a response to Chinese military maneuvers. “In the face of military intimidation created by China, Taiwan will not fear or retreat, and will more firmly defend its sovereignty, national security, and free and democratic way of life,” Taiwan’s foreign ministry said in a statement.

On Sunday, Taiwan’s Prime Minister Su Tseng-chang said “China’s brutal use of military force is undermining regional peace and stability.” According to Chinese state television CCTV, ballistic missiles flew over Taiwan this week for the first time. To prove how close they were to the coast, the Chinese military released a photo they said they took of one of their warships over the weekend, showing a Taiwanese navy building just a few hundred meters away.

China uses live ammunition during activity near Taiwan — Photo: Eastern Theater Command/Handout

Lesson to learn: Taiwan cornered

The Chinese People’s Liberation Army was able to test the firepower of its air and sea forces. Some observers believe that China has developed its military assets so much that a “blockade” of Taiwan now seems possible.

This is the first time the Army has extended its exercises to eastern Taiwan, so as to encircle the island – a very strategic area for incoming supplies. It is also from this side that possible US military reinforcements would arrive in the event of an attack.

The lesson to be learned in the event of war is that Beijing will be able to prevent any entry and exit from Taiwan by ships and planes, civilian or military. The 23 million inhabitants would therefore be trapped.

Should the Taiwanese expect other maneuvers of this magnitude in the future? Yes, because these full-scale drills are likely to become the norm, observers say.

If today Beijing’s military capabilities are still inferior to those of the United States, China is putting the means to achieve it. According to the Pentagon, Beijing’s goal would be to achieve enough firepower to overcome any resistance to an invasion by Taiwan by 2027.

Reply to Democrat’s Visit

The day after Nancy Pelosi, the United States’ number three and Speaker of the House of Representatives, left Taipei, the Chinese army launched vast “live fire” maneuvers in six large areas around Taiwan. The exercises were supposed to end at noon on Sunday (04:00 GMT), according to the Chinese maritime security administration. But the maneuvers continue.

“The People’s Liberation Army (…) continues to conduct practical joint exercises at sea and in airspace around Taiwan, focusing on joint anti-submarine and maritime assault operations,” the Chinese Army’s Eastern Command said, in this Monday.

In recent days, the Beijing Army has been carrying out the biggest military exercises in its history in this area, sending fighter jets, warships, drones and firing ballistic missiles. Due to its scale, the exercises drew criticism from the heads of diplomacy of the G7 (United States, Japan, France, Germany, Italy, Canada, United Kingdom), who considered that “there was no justification for these ‘aggressive’ manoeuvres.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken called the Chinese reaction “total disproportion”. Especially after China suspended a number of Sino-US discussions and cooperation, including on climate change. Along with his Japanese and Australian counterparts, Blinken also issued a statement urging China to halt its military exercises.

“Troublemakers” Questioned on Monday, Wang Wenbin, a spokesman for China’s foreign ministry, stressed that Beijing’s reaction was “legitimate, rational and legal”. “This is a warning to troublemakers as well as a lesson to supporters of Taiwan independence,” he said during a regular news conference.

“We urge the United States to do some soul-searching and rectify its mistake as soon as possible, as well as stop playing Taiwan’s card to prevent [o desenvolvimento da] China,” he added.

China considers Taiwan as one of its provinces that has not been able to reunite with the rest of its territory since the end of the Chinese Civil War (1949). Against any initiative that gives international legitimacy to the Taiwanese authorities, Beijing discourages official contact between Taiwan and other countries.

US officials visit the island frequently, but China considers the visit by Pelosi, one of the highest-ranking figures in the US state hierarchy, a major provocation. The trip, the first by a senior US official to the island since 1997, was seen by Beijing as a violation of its sovereignty and a stimulus to the island’s independence.

Nancy Pelosi, during a meeting with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen (Photo: Taiwan Presidential Office / AFP Photo)

What do the Chinese think?

China’s outrage over US congresswoman Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan has sparked nationalist fervor among some Chinese netizens, but opinions on the streets are more mixed. It’s hard to get a general idea of ​​what the Chinese think, as the authorities strictly control Internet discussions, with a system of censorship that erases the most negative posts about government policy.

Experts believe that the population is overwhelmingly in favor of reunification with Taiwan and would not accept the island’s independence under any circumstances.

The most extreme netizens are calling for a war, but on the streets the people AFP spoke to are more moderate and expect a return to calm. “It doesn’t worry me too much because I don’t think there will be [uma guerra]. Whoever uses force first will make a mistake,” said Zhao, a Chinese man who provided only his surname.

The Chinese government considers Taiwan – where Chinese nationalists took refuge when Mao Zedong and the Communists took power in China in 1949 – as a province that will someday be reunited with the rest of its territory, by force if necessary. This objective is shared by a large part of the population.

“Many Chinese hope that someday there will be reunification with Taiwan. It’s an idea we’ve been taught since we were children and considered politically correct,” explains Zhao, 29. “But there are few deep debates on the subject, as the internet doesn’t allow for a variety of opinions and debates in real life easily end up in fights,” she adds.

For David Sacks, a researcher at the American think tank Council on Foreign Relations, Pelosi’s visit came at the worst time for Chinese President Xi Jinping.

The president wants to forge, in front of his compatriots, an image of strength and stability for the 20th Congress of the Communist Party, which should, with no surprises, grant him a third term. “It is likely that Xi felt he had to act, for fear of appearing weak or impersonating someone who has no control over the (Chinese-American) relationship, which is the most important for China,” explains Sacks, interviewed by AFP.

Protesters protested against the visit of Nancy Pelosi on Wednesday (3) – Photo: Peter Parks/AFP

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