China becomes bolder with Taiwan after the US failure in Afghanistan
A record number of Chinese fighter planes pass Taiwan. Do the tensions lead to war?
A record number of Chinese fighter planes flew past Taiwanese airspace on Monday. This military harassment is not new, but it is becoming increasingly dangerous. Why are tensions so high?
No less than 56 bombers and fighter planes flew past Taiwan on Monday. That was a new record after three consecutive days of falling records: Chinese military harassment began on October 1, The National Day.
According to the United States, in a few days the Chinese Air Force carried out 814 flights around Taiwan: fighter jets fly through the defense zone of Taiwan. Salient detail: when a Chinese pilot was warned over the radio that he was coming too close to Taiwanese airspace, he responded with a curse.
Since 2020, Chinese fighter planes have been regularly piling along Taiwan, which considers China to be an apostate province. In the eyes of Chinese president Xi Jinping, Taiwan is a stubborn child who refuses to come home and makes wrong friends. Such as the US, which has been supplying Taipei with weapons for many years, so that the island can defend itself against a Chinese attack in anticipation of possible American assistance.
In August, U.S. President Joe Biden approved his first arms supply of $ 750 million. Biden has also rewritten the geopolitical map of Asia with Aukus, a defence pact with the United Kingdom and Australia against the Chinese expansion drive.
At the moment, the American, British, Dutch, Japanese, Canadian and New Zealand Navy are practicing at the Japanese island of Okinawa: this show of power is worrying Beijing. Certainly because Australia and Japan are more strongly involved in the Taiwan issue.
Taiwan is strategically located in the so-called ’first chain’, a ring islands stretching from Borneo in Indonesia to northern Japan. This sea area is crucial for shipping and therefore for World Trade. That is why Taiwanese president Tsai Ing-wen wrote on Tuesday in the American magazine Foreign Policy that a Chinese attack on Taiwan has ‘catastrophic consequences’ for the whole world.
The international concern about Taiwan’s plight has so far not translated into additional concrete support for the island, as most governments do not want Chinese reprisals. However, now Australia feels strengthened by Aukus and Japan alludes to a more active attitude towards Taiwan, as military escalation around.
That is Why Foreign minister Toshimitsu Motegi announced that Japan is considering ‘other options ‘ than looking at the tensions with dismay. A foretaste is the recent Japanese decision to cooperate with the Taiwanese coast guard.
To the dismay of Beijing, which is used to governments who, for fear of Chinese reprisals, are walking on eggs in their contacts with Taiwan. US government officials were forbidden to meet their Taiwanese colleagues, until a year and a half ago Washington began encouraging ministers to visit Taiwan. Since then, the gate has been blown. This week, a group of French political coryphees, including a former minister of Defence, is going to Taiwan.
In Chinese eyes, this is a disguised recognition of Taiwan’s independence. The French visit coincides with Taiwanese national day on 10 October, so Beijing is already warning president Tsai with those flights; if she says or does anything that looks like a formal step towards independence, the people’s Liberation Army is on the move.
Do these tensions lead to war?
Not so fast. In the words of Taipei and Washington this is ‘grey area in warfare’: the Taiwanese army is exhausted by those flights, with which Beijing tests Taiwan’s reaction speed.
What’s dangerous is the increasing risk of accidents in such overcrowded airspace, but for Xi there is too much at stake to escalate an incident into war. Leaving democratic Taiwan undisturbed means giving up territory, so that is political suicide, but attacking Taiwan Xi prefers to do only when victory is guaranteed.
At this stage, the rise of China is not served by a broader military conflict with the US and possibly Japan, but in the long term the situation looks more grim. Xi has promised his people that China will be resurrected in 2049. That means reunification of Taiwan. Either voluntarily or by force.