Chinese military preparations are extensive and comprehensive to fully blockade and encircle Taiwan in the event it decides to make a military move on the island, according to a recent report.
New and unusual exercises around the island and a diverse range of drills that practice all aspects of a military operation have been reported since former US Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taipei in August 2022. The event permanently altered many aspects of China’s approach to Cross-Strait relations, its ties with the US, and regional and global politics.
A report in Nikkei Asia pointed to new patterns of drone, naval, and combat aircraft maneuvers around the island in terms of location, numbers, frequency, and types that appear distinctly different than the period before the Pelosi visit.
The report follows multiple previous analyses in the EurAsian Times about China’s military preparations for Taiwan that suggested the efforts were concerted to ensure a military recourse succeeds at all costs if it decides to take the option.
The maneuvers following the Pelosi visit itself saw many firsts, including simultaneous live-fire drills at six locations around the island, the firing of ballistic missiles and rockets over the island, which fell over on its eastern coast, and the debut operational employment of advanced fighters like the J-20.
China’s Ire Is At The US, More Than Taiwan
While China still officially promotes the ‘peaceful reunification’ policy, it continues to calculate that a substantial China sympathetic camp in Taiwan can counterbalance Taiwan independence parties. Its perception of the US has, however, become adverse.
Beijing assesses a permanent long-term Washington policy that continues strategic confrontation by breaching ‘red lines’ like Taiwan. Here, it will act short of violating the One China policy by engaging the pro-independence forces, arming Taiwan with weapons, and sending its warships through the Straits and the South China Sea (SCS). China’s military drills can therefore be said to be driven by an aim to deter and convey its willingness for force to Washington rather than Taipei.
Exhaustive Military Drills Around Taiwan
The Nikkei Asia report notes a series of military maneuvers pointing to China’s preparations. It draws attention to the Shandong, China’s first domestically developed aircraft carrier, being dispatched to the Western Pacific for the first time on April 5 for nearly month-long takeoff and landing drills. Before that, in December, the Liaoning, China’s first aircraft carrier, exercised in the waters East of Taiwan.
Also, a Chinese TB001 combat drone flew East of and around Taiwan in April before returning to China’s mainland. According to the Taiwanese Ministry of National Defense, the route was highly unusual. On May 3, a BZK005 reconnaissance drone was also confirmed flying around over the waters off the east coast of Taiwan.
The appearance of Chinese military aircraft in the air East of Taiwan has sharply increased since March. In the period from Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan till February, they were observed three days per month. But the number gradually increased, totaling ten days in April, 12 in May, six in June, and 12 in July.
Russian military activities East of Taiwan have also become noticeable. Two frigate ships appeared in May and continued activities for over a month. The number of Chinese military planes flying around Taiwan, too, has increased, with “more than 30 per day” off late. Chinese military aircraft in the past rarely crossed the ‘median line,’ an effective cease-fire line through the Taiwan Strait. However, following the Pelosi visit, flights crossed it for 24 days.
The Eastern Fleet of the People’s Liberation Army – Navy (PLAN), too, has tested the third ship of the Type 075 amphibious landing helicopter dock (LHD) with weapons trials in the East China Sea. Besides the fleet of hundreds of civilian fishing vessels and maritime militia and some roll-on roll-over (RoRo) to transport tanks and troops, the Type 075s will also contribute to an amphibious landing role.
Videos from the State and its military media show regular amphibious landing exercises, including sending tanks and releasing troops on the sandy beaches, refining all tactics and procedures that would have to be employed in such roles. Given these activities, experts, therefore, consider Beijing to be finalizing preparations for a “blockade of Taiwan” in the near future.
What China Achieves
According to Yujen Kuo, director of the Institute for National Policy Research in Taiwan, quoted in the report, “the sharp increase in the number of Chinese military planes flying around Taiwan means that China is at the stage of mobilization for an immediate invasion of the island whenever necessary.” In other words, if needed, the near-permanent military drills could be fluidly extended into an actual operation to blockade the island.
Diplomatically, China has normalized its incursions into Taiwan’s ADIZ and drills around it by implying that it is not illegal to conduct military exercises within its own territory. Thus, what it does in Taiwan is not illegal. Setting the narrative this way also leads other countries to accept the ‘normal,’ which reduces the number of official objections.