52 fighter jets and bombers today, sixteen yesterday and almost forty in the days before. Rarely has China had so many military aircraft fly past Taiwan in a short period of time. “This was an unprecedented weekend in every way,” says Ceit correspondent Sjoerd den Daas.
There were many more bombers than usual. It was also striking that the military exercises were also in the evening and at night. In more than a year, China has never let such numbers of military aircraft fly near Taiwan.
By the way, the aircraft did not enter the airspace of Taiwan. They flew through the so-called Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ), which is the zone within which aircraft must identify. Taiwan partly overlaps with China‘s ADIZ.
One more step
“The events of the past few days are one step further in Beijing’s strategy to seek out borders and then blur them,” said Ties Dams, specializing in China‘s geopolitics at Clingendael. “In a few months, another bold step will follow.”
end, President Xi has one goal: he wants to reintroduce Taiwan. For that, China, for example with military exercises, is always testing how far it can go with provocations. Because the US is holding Taiwan military hand over head.
“China is becoming more and more assertive and testing the Americans’ response,” says Rob de Wijk, founder of think tank The Hague Centre for Strategic Studies. Of course, Washington has condemned the passing of Chinese fighter jets along Taiwan. But the big question is how high the two superpowers, and therefore European countries, are willing to run into the conflict.
For President Biden, tackling China is a spearhead of his foreign agenda. According to De Wijk, the military and political chess game of Taiwan cannot be separated from rising tensions in the South China Sea, which China largely claims as property. American or Chinese army exercises are held there too.
“If China now attacks Taiwan or seeks a direct confrontation in the South China Sea, it risks nuclear weapons war,” says De Wijk. Xi won‘t want to run that risk, nor will Biden. “But the Chinese have something we don’t have: patience. They‘re not going to strike until they’re sure the Americans can‘t or won’t do anything more.”
An attack on a NATO Member State equals an attack on all members: Article 5 of the Organisation‘s Charter. Washington does not have such an explicit binding treaty with Taipei, the capital of Taiwan, but a commitment has been made that they will help the island. There’s nothing to suggest that the US is dropping its ally in the years to come. In the long run, that aid ultimately depends on the relationship of strength between China and America.
In this video, correspondent Sjoerd den Daas explains why China is showing more and more of its muscles:
China could invade Taiwan within six years, as East Asia‘s top US commander warned early this year. Yet, according to analysts, the likelihood of an armed conflict in the short term is not so high, explains correspondent Den Daas.
“We do know that China wants to have incorporated Taiwan in the medium term, preferably before 2049 if the People’s Republic exists for a hundred years. But Beijing is currently focusing on a mix of provocation and harassment. At diplomatic level, Taiwan is further isolating, and also economically trying to use Taiwanese dependence on China to increase pressure.”
From the inside, Beijing is also trying to destabilize the island with around 24 million inhabitants. According to Dams, there is a wide spread of cyberattacks and dissemination of disinformation. “You can see that the Taiwanese are divided to some extent about the relationship with China. Beijing likes to exploit that. That way, it works towards a scenario where an invasion is no longer needed.”
the end, Xi wants to join the rebellious island to the motherland without a hit, Dams continues. But with every military exercise, there is a small chance that a confrontation will occur accidentally. “That makes the issue a very important potential source for a conflict between the United States and China.”