Regional tensions rise over China’s Taiwan threats

There are signs of significant escalation compared to Beijing’s previous military posturing and drills

Chinese state television CGTN recently reported that numerous Chinese fighter jets had carried out simulated strikes around Taiwan, carrying live missiles. 

These naval maneuvers, described as a response to perceived separatist actions by the democratic island’s independence forces, have raised regional tensions.  In turn, Taiwan has mobilized its military forces in response to these drills.

The timing of the military exercises is significant, as they occurred just days after Taiwan’s new President Lai Ching-te assumed office. 

He has since urged mainland China to cease such threatening actions, which Beijing perceives as a challenge to its authority over Taipei.

Lai’s recent remarks, particularly referring to Taiwan as the Republic of China, have been interpreted by Beijing as provocative, signaling its intent for independence. 

Taiwan Strait

Beijing, which views democratically governed Taiwan as its territory and denounces Lai as a “separatist,” decried his inauguration speech. 

He urged Beijing to stop its threats and said the two sides of the Taiwan Strait were “not subordinate to each other.”

When comparing these drills to Beijing’s previous military posturing, there are signs of significant escalation, analysts have warned. 

A Navy J-15 fighter takes off from the Liaoning carrier. Photo: PLAN

These exercises mark the first time China has explicitly simulated various stages of armed invasion against Taiwan, including blockade and assault maneuvers on offshore islands. 

The “Joint Sword 2024A” operation suggests a potential series of further drills, raising concerns of continued escalation.

During the past four years, China’s military has conducted near-daily exercises around Taiwan, with significant war games held near the island in the past two years. 

A senior Taiwan official, speaking on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter, stated that this time, China is essentially “putting a name” on its routine activities rather than significantly escalating them. 

Simulated attacks

These drills involve crossing the Strait’s median line, previously an unofficial boundary, and conducting simulated attacks on Taiwanese and foreign vessels, the official pointed out.

Assessing the risk of further escalation, analysts suggest that while immediate military action is not imminent, the possibility of additional exercises remains. 

Su Tzu-yun, a research fellow at Taiwan’s premier military think tank, the Institute for National Defence and Security Research, noted their scope was considerable when compared to previous operations as they included the outlying islands. 

China’s navy has conducted live-fire drills in the South China Sea. Photo: PLA

He explained that this was intended to showcase China’s capability to control the seas and deter foreign forces from intervening, adding:

The political messages here outweigh the military ones.

Still, Beijing’s future actions will depend on various factors, including Taiwan’s response, international reaction, particularly from the United States, and the impact on regional security and stability.

From the island’s perspective, the focus is on observing China’s actions to better prepare for any potential conflict. 

International tension

While a concrete solution remains elusive, Taiwan’s security apparatus is closely monitoring the situation to adapt its strategies accordingly. At the same time, international tension persist. 

Yet with both sides unwilling to back down, the situation remains volatile, with the potential for further military posturing and heightened regional anxiety.

With reporting by DW News and Reuters.

IndraStra Global is a “Strategic Information Services Company,” primarily focused on data-driven academic research.

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The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy of China Factor.