China flies into a war of words and a Taiwan storm

Beijing pushes back at the United States and its NATO allies after a flurry of summits

As the countdown begins before the balloons go up on the Communist Party’s centenary bash, China is ramping up the pressure on Taiwan.

At least 28 People’s Liberation Army Air Force fighters and bombers pierced Taiwan’s air defense identification zone, or ADIZ, earlier this week. 

It was a record number of incursions amid rising tension in the Taiwan Strait that separates the mainland from the island democracy.

Massive military exercises, involving amphibious landings by the PLA and Navy, have only further strangled already strained relations between Beijing and Taipei.

“We will never tolerate attempts to seek independence or wanton intervention in the Taiwan issue by foreign forces, so we need to make a strong response to these acts of collusion,” Ma Xiaoguang, a spokesman for China’s Taiwan Affairs Office, said.

His comments were a rebuke to NATO and the G7 of advanced nations for accusing President Xi Jinping’s government of destabilizing the South and East China Seas and inflaming the Taiwan situation.

What is at stake:

  • China considers Taiwan a renegade province.
  • Beijing has threatened to reunite it with the “motherland” by force if necessary.
  • In the past 25 years, the island has become a thriving democracy with a diverse independent media sector.
  • In comparison, China is a de facto one-party state with smaller rivals kowtowing to the CCP’s right to rule.
  • As for the country’s state-run media, it remains a propaganda tool of the government and the Party elite.

Red menace: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has already warned the CCP against invading Taiwan. “It would be a serious mistake for anyone to try to change that status quo by force,” he said in an interview with the NBC television network back in April. 

Ruling the waves: Beijing claims nearly all of the 1.3 million-square-mile South China Sea and, of course, Taiwan. “[That is based on the] long course of history and consistent with international law,” China’s European Union Mission said in a statement earlier this year, echoing Chairman Xi’s core foreign policy thoughts.

Why this matters: Up to US$3 trillion of trade traverses through this highly-contested maritime superhighway. So, the stakes could not be higher.  

Chain reaction: At the same time, Beijing appears determined to dominate the South China Sea by turning sand bars into a chain of PLA naval bases.

Numbers game: The PLA Navy is now the largest in the world. Back in April, Xi commissioned three more state-of-the-art warships as reported by state-run Global Times. They included the country’s first Type 075 amphibious assault ship and a Type 09IV nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine.

Naval task force: In a move to counter China’s “growing military might,” Washington is “considering establishing a permanent” United States “naval task force in the Pacific region,” the Politico media website reported on Thursday, quoting sources.

Delve deeper: The South China Sea might be a global “hotspot,” but Taiwan is considered “the most dangerous place on Earth.” It is also a major high-tech island and a crucial player in semiconductor or chip production. Without chips, there is no technological revolution to combat a range of issues from climate change to clean energy.

China Factor comment: Xi and his Party acolytes are still smarting from the G7 summit in England, the EU-US talkfest in Brussels and this week’s NATO meeting. China dominated the agenda, both economically and militarily. As the NATO communique pointed out: “China’s stated ambitions and assertive behavior present systemic challenges to the rules-based international order.” China response? “Slander!”