Encircled, outnumbered and facing a blockade. China’s military drills are designed to scare and stun the people of Taiwan, and the democratic island’s allies.
Officially, this is the ruling Communist Party’s narrative. A Chinese version of “shock and awe” with a Mandopop, Top Gun-style soundtrack.
Add “Wolf Warrior” howls to stir the “masses” and you have a dangerous cocktail of propaganda and pomposity.
State-run Global Times led the pack after US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s short stopover in Taipei this week prompted a collective fit of nationalism from the Party.
“The exercises [China is conducting] are unprecedented as PLA [People’s Liberation Army] conventional missiles are expected to fly over Taiwan for the first time [and] forces will enter the area within 12 nautical miles of the island,” the English-language newspaper reported.
“The so-called median line will cease to exist, experts said, noting that by surrounding Taiwan, the PLA is completely blockading the island, demonstrating the Chinese mainland’s absolute control over the Taiwan question,” Global Times said.
Loose lips sink ships:
- The flotilla includes Type 052D destroyers and Type 056A corvettes.
- Carriers Liaoning and Shandong have also “sortied from their homeports as part of the retaliatory measures to Pelosi’s visit.”
- J-20 stealth fighter jets have been scrambled for the live-fire drills.
- The four-day exercise in six exclusion zones will also “encircle” the island, which Beijing regards as a renegade province.
- DF-17 hypersonic missiles have been deployed.
Eagle eye: Looming just beyond the horizon will be the Ronald Reagan carrier group and the Tripoli, an amphibious assault ship, as the Chinese operation unfolds in the next few days.
Delve deeper: Taiwan is a major manufacturer of advanced semiconductors with TSMC, the king of the chips. It is also one of the most vibrant democracies in the world and a blueprint for what China could be in the 21st century.
Risk factor: “Previously, the Chinese Communists carried out military exercises at a distance, now they’ve become close-up. They’re already at our doorstep,” Chang Yan-ting, a retired deputy commander of Taiwan’s air force, told the New York Times.
Between the lines: “[Pelosi’s] visit will not change Beijing’s outlook, their deep-seated belief about US intentions, or their resolve to use force against Taiwan,” Drew Thompson, of the National University of Singapore, said in a post on LinkedIn.
Perilous path: “The US-China relationship is on a treacherous path, but not because of Nancy Pelosi,” Thompson added.
Big picture: “An actual invasion of Taiwan remains impossible in the immediate future and highly unlikely in the short term, as it would require a logistical trail impossible to hide from [American] or Taiwanese intelligence,” Foreign Policy’s China Brief speculated.
Futuristic peace: “Ironically, one of the best hopes for peace may be the conviction among Chinese leaders that US power will collapse as Soviet power did. Holding on to that idea allows for the indefinite postponement of a risky and costly invasion,” China Brief said.
China Factor comment: In real-time, the next 72 hours are going to be tense. It would help if President Xi Jinping and his Party comrades dialed down the rhetoric.