China flies into a storm over the ‘Taiwan question’

Close to 150 PLA military aircraft pierce the island democracy’s air defense zone

China is playing a “dangerous” game by flexing its “military muscles” against Taiwan.

In a move that will escalate tension in the Indo-Pacific, the airforce arm of the People’s Liberation Army continues to pierce the defense zone of the democratic island.

Close to 150 fighters and bombers have been involved in a series of saber-rattling exercises since Beijing marked China’s National Day on October 1.

The show of force saw PLA jets invade Taiwan’s air space near the Pratas Islands.

“There is no doubt about the future of the situation across the Taiwan Strait. The initiative of when and how to solve the Taiwan question is firmly in the hands of the Chinese mainland,” state-run Global Times stated in a combative commentary.

The facts:

  • The four-day incursions included J-16 and Su-30 fighters.
  • Anti-submarine and early warning aircraft were also used.
  • So were nuclear-capable H-6 bombers, the New York Times reported.
  • Taiwan scrambled combat aircraft when its airspace was threatened.
  • Missile systems were also deployed to monitor the PLA fighters.

A warning from history: China considers Taiwan a renegade province and has vowed to take it back by force if necessary. An uneasy peace has existed since the Communist Party defeated Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalist government, or Kuomintang, in 1949 after years of civil war on the mainland. Chiang and the remnants of his army escaped to Taiwan.

Fast forward: Since the end of the 20th century, the island has become a vibrant democracy and a global high-tech power. At the heart of Taiwan’s economic success story is a booming semiconductor or chip industry. 

Fighting talk: “If China is going to launch a war against Taiwan, we will fight to the end, and that is our commitment. The defense of Taiwan is in our hands,” the island’s Foreign Minister Joseph Wu told ABC or the Australian Broadcasting Corporation at the weekend.

Allied response: “The United States is very concerned by … China’s provocative military activity near Taiwan, which undermines regional peace and stability. We urge Beijing to cease its military, diplomatic and economic pressure and coercion against Taiwan,” Ned Price, a spokesman for the US Department of State, said in a media statement.

China Factor comment: The unthinkable is now being discussed. President Xi Jinping’s Communist Party regime might just decide the time is right to invade Taiwan. That scenario would have been dismissed as ridiculous a decade ago but not anymore. In April, Admiral Philip Davidson, the former head of the US Indo-Pacific Command, told the US Congress that Xi appeared to be accelerating his plan to take Taiwan.