The Chinese military continues military exercises around Taiwan. The Chinese were to carry out the exercises – which they started on Thursday in response to US politician Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan – on Sunday. Today they practice anti-submarine warfare and attacks at sea.
Earlier, the Chinese army fired ballistic missiles into the sea and exercises took place with warships, fighter jets and drones. According to Frans Osinga, professor of war studies at Leiden University, we are dealing with a particularly aggressive operation by the Chinese. ‘Three years ago we saw an escalation now and then, but never this kind of violation of the geographical lines with so many planes and ships.’
Also read | Chinese military drills closer to Taiwan’s coast than ever
Osinga believes that the Chinese have learned from the Russian invasion of Ukraine. “China has seen what happened in Ukraine and what happens when a country really starts to defend itself. Some people say: this should not become the new normal because it is very aggressive. We already saw 32 planes enter Taiwanese airspace in one day last year, but now you see suddenly 131 planes entered Taiwanese airspace. It is outrageously aggressive.’
‘What strikes me is the scale and coordination of military operations,’ says sinologist Henk Schulte Nordholt. “The five areas where they do the exercises are on each side of Taiwan, it’s kind of a circle. I see it as a dress rehearsal for an actual invasion. It won’t happen in the short term, but that’s the message they want to send: We can always do that if you don’t behave.’
Even if China has the resources, according to Schulte Nordholt, it would not be easy to seriously invade Taiwan. “It is not easy to cross the water and take the island. They prefer to do it with intimidation, which Taiwan itself says: let’s reunite with the glorious motherland, then we won’t have all this damage and war. But it’s also a signal to the outside world that: don’t interfere in Taiwan, it’s an internal matter. In that regard, they are also shocked and outraged by a G7 declaration that there is no reason to escalate military aggression in the Taiwan Strait to that degree. They call Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan an excuse to use, but they have to be careful how far they can go’.
Osinga also believes that the visit to Taiwan by Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the US House of Representatives, is being used by the Chinese as a reason to show their power. “A political visit like this is not such a large-scale event, it happens often. It seems that Xi Jinping this as a case belli used to show off his muscles. China regularly conducts exercises, but never in a way that threatens economic supply lines as much as they do now.’
Also read | Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan gives Biden even more trouble
Since yesterday, Taiwan has also brought ships into the Taiwan Strait itself. It is not without risk, argues Osinga. “There are all sorts of possibilities for accidents to happen here. Very deliberately, China’s and Taiwan’s ships have sought each other out, Taiwan is trying to block certain Chinese ships, that is understandable. But Taiwan also has long-range and anti-ship missiles, and the Chinese ships are now within range of those missiles. Taiwan is not a gray mouse in the military field, so there is also a risk for China. And you shouldn’t think that something is actually going wrong there.’