On the eve of Taiwan’s national day – a sensitive event for cross-Strait relations – China sent a record 56 warplanes into Taiwan’s air defense identification zone (ADIZ) on Monday alone. This brought the total number of such incursions to nearly 150 in just four days. Such military posturing follows a series of events which have seen a number of western countries signal their resolve both to protect freedom of navigation in the region and strengthen ties with Taiwan.
Last weekend, an unusually large armada of 17 warships from six different countries (including the US and Japan) was sent to train in the nearby Philippine Sea. On Monday, Britain sent a warship through the Taiwan strait – a first since 2008. Last month, the announcement of a new trilateral security pact composed of Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States (AUKUS) was viewed by Beijing as aimed against it. The three AUKUS members plan to hold joint military drills this week in the South China Sea, which is sure to further anger Beijing.
More is yet to come. Japan, which has now explicitly linked Taiwan’s security with its own, will hold its first ruling-party-to-ruling-party security talks with Taipei on Friday. In the meantime, a delegation of French senators is due to visit the island from October 4 to 11. And later this month, Taiwan will send a 65-strong delegation to visit several central and eastern European countries – a move which Beijing is sure to find threatening in the wake of its diplomatic clashes with Lithuania.
MERICS analysis: Despite its worrying scale, Beijing’s recent cross-Strait posturing should not be viewed as a radical departure from its ongoing policy towards Taiwan and its surrounding areas. For example, none of the warplanes actually entered Taiwan’s sovereign airspace. China’s ramped-up incursions into Taiwan’s ADIZ are a display of its growing military might and are in large part aimed at demonstrating Beijing’s resolve—both to international and domestic audiences—to reincorporate the island within China’s borders. Beijing evidently feels threatened by the West’s increased cooperation and activity in and around Taiwan. As a Taiwanese government official recently stated, “Once Taiwan gets a little support, they [China] have to react.”
More on the topic: You can read more MERICS analysis about Taiwan, Indo-Pacific and EU China policy here.
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