China has launched new exercises around Taiwan. Because right now?

China has launched new exercises around Taiwan.  Because right now?


Tensions are rising once again in the Taiwan Strait, with China launching two days of military exercises surrounding Taiwan just days after democracy swore in a new leader long hated by Beijing.

The exercises began early Thursday, in what China described as “punishment” for “separatist acts,” alluding to the election and inauguration of the autonomous island’s new president, Lai Ching-te.

China’s military says the exercises are designed to test its ability to “seize power” over Taiwan.

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Although relations between the two sides have been steadily worsening in recent years, this latest escalation marks a major test for Taiwan’s new leader, whose ruling party has defended democracy in the face of growing threats from its authoritarian neighbor.

China’s ruling Communist Party says Taiwan is part of its territory, despite never controlling it, and has vowed to take the island, by force if necessary. And it has become much more bellicose under Chinese leader Xi Jinping.

Here’s what you need to know.

The Eastern Theater Command of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) said it launched joint military exercises involving the army, navy, air force and rocket force in areas around Taiwan early Thursday morning. .

The drills are taking place in the Taiwan Strait, a narrow body of water that separates the autonomous island from mainland China, as well as in the north, south and east of Taiwan.

They are also being carried out in areas around the outlying islands of Kinmen, Matsu, Wuqiu and Dongyin, located off China’s southeastern coast, the command said in a statement.

Daniel Ceng/AP

Soldiers pose for group photos with a Taiwan flag after a readiness enhancement drill that simulates defending against military intrusions from Beijing in Kaohsiung city, Taiwan, Jan. 11, 2023.

Naval Colonel Li Xi, a spokesman for the command, called the exercises “a strong punishment for the separatist acts of Taiwan independence forces and a serious warning against interference and provocation by external forces.”

As part of Thursday’s exercises, dozens of Chinese fighter jets with live ammunition carried out simulated attacks against “high-value military targets” of the “enemy” along with destroyers, frigates and speedboats with missiles, according to the Chinese state broadcaster CCTV.

On Friday, the Eastern Theater Command said it was continuing exercises on both sides of the Taiwan island chain to “test the ability to jointly seize power, launch joint attacks and occupy key areas.” CCTV broadcast footage showing PLA soldiers moving mobile artillery and missile systems into position, although it did not show any live fire.

China’s military exercises often aim to both appeal to a domestic audience and signal intentions internationally. Chinese state media widely covered the exercises, while the military also posted images on social media. The exercises subsequently went viral on China’s heavily regulated Internet.

Taiwan’s Defense Ministry said it had sent sea, air and land forces to respond to China’s exercises. He expressed regret over “such provocations and irrational actions that undermine regional peace and stability.”

Taiwan has also been closely monitoring Chinese fighter jets and warships that have approached the island. Between 6 a.m. Thursday and 6 a.m. Friday, the ministry detected 49 Chinese aircraft, 19 warships and seven coast guard vessels.

The island’s presidential office said in a statement that it was “confident and capable of defending national security,” accusing China of “using unilateral military provocations to threaten Taiwan’s democracy and freedom.”

But despite Beijing’s major show of force, life continued as normal in Taiwan, whose 23 million people have become accustomed to China’s military threats, even as they have become more regular and prominent in recent years.

“We are not afraid of the Chinese Communist Party and we are confident,” an 88-year-old retiree, who gave his surname Liu, told CNN.

“If the Chinese Communist Party attacks Taiwan, it will not be easy for them to take Taiwan. “The Taiwanese people are not afraid of war.”

The most obvious answer is Lai’s inauguration on Monday.

Lai’s Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), now in power for a historic third term, sees Taiwan as a de facto sovereign nation with a distinctive Taiwanese identity.

Before Taiwan’s elections in January, Beijing had warned that a Lai victory could inflame tensions and spark conflict, repeatedly framing the vote as a choice between “peace and war.”

Taiwanese voters dismissed those warnings, returning the DPP to power, although two opposition parties that favor closer ties with China now have a majority in parliament.

China’s government and state media regularly berate Lai, calling him a dangerous separatist, a “troublemaker” and a “warmaker,” while rejecting his repeated offers for talks.

03:10 – Source: CNN

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His vehement antipathy toward Lai is rooted in his political past, as well as Beijing’s refusal to deal directly with a large section of Taiwan’s leaders.

The 64-year-old former doctor and political veteran was once an outspoken supporter of Taiwan independence, a red line for Beijing.

His views have softened over the years and he now says he is in favor of the status quo, stating that there is “no plan or need” to declare independence as the island “is already an independent sovereign country.” .

But Beijing never forgave him for those first comments, making its position clear with Thursday’s exercises.

Lai has also set the tone for his new administration’s approach to China: he used his inaugural speech on Monday to declare that “a glorious era of Taiwan democracy has arrived” and reiterated his determination to defend its sovereignty.

He also called on Beijing to stop its “bullying” of Taiwan and respect that its people want to decide their own destiny.

What is the relationship between China and Taiwan?

The Chinese Civil War ended with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) taking power on the mainland, establishing the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in Beijing in 1949.

The defeated Nationalist Party fled to Taiwan, moving the headquarters of its government from the mainland’s Republic of China (ROC) to Taipei.

Both proclaimed themselves the only legitimate government of all Chinese territory.

In recent years, Taiwan has downplayed its territorial claims on mainland China and today is a vibrant democracy, with its own military, currency, constitution and elected government.

But most governments in the world do not recognize it as an independent country. Over the decades, it has become increasingly isolated and various governments have shifted diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing. But unofficial diplomatic relations with many Western nations have actually been strengthened in recent years, thanks in part to saber-rattling from China.

Meanwhile, under Xi, China has become increasingly assertive in foreign policy and more authoritarian at home.

China has cut off official communication with Taiwan since the DPP took power in 2016 and has increased economic, military and diplomatic pressure on the island.

At the same time, ties between Taipei and Washington have grown stronger, with increased arms sales and high-level political engagement under Lai’s popular predecessor, Tsai Ing-wen. This has angered Beijing, prompting it to put more pressure on Taiwan and sending cross-Strait relations into a downward spiral.

What is the United States’ position on this?

The United States formally switched diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing in 1979, but has long walked a delicate middle path.

In what is known as the “One China” policy, Washington recognizes the People’s Republic of China as the only legitimate government of China; He also recognizes Beijing’s position that Taiwan is part of China, but has never accepted the Chinese Communist Party’s claim to sovereignty over the island.

The United States maintains close unofficial ties with Taiwan, which have strengthened in recent years. It is obliged by law to provide the island with the means to defend itself and to supply it with defensive weapons.

U.S. lawmakers regularly visit Taiwan and have supported legislation to bolster U.S. support for the island and its defensive capabilities.

But it has historically remained deliberately vague about whether it would defend Taiwan in the event of a Chinese invasion, a policy known as “strategic ambiguity.”

After the January election, the United States sent a bipartisan delegation to Taiwan, where they met with Lai and Tsai, and pledged that American support for Taiwan will continue no matter who wins the next US election.

Beijing also announced sanctions on Tuesday against former US House Representative Mike Gallagher, who led that delegation, citing his “comments and actions” that “interfere” in China’s internal affairs.