China ‘Ill-Prepared’ To Annex Taiwan? Top PLA General Unhappy With PLA Amid Boiling Tensions With The US

Recently, General He Weidong, a top Chinese general, said he wanted a crackdown on “fake combat capabilities” in the military, which experts linked either to high corruption in the PLA or not meeting the military standards. 

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According to a report in Hong Kong-based SCMP quoting experts, the comments could relate to the recent exposés on acquisition infractions within the PLA and would have implications on the quality of military hardware and the PLA’s performance on the battleground. Another expert said the General appeared to be referring to the procurement of defective weapons, which could impact the PLA’s combat capabilities.

However, other experts say “fake combat capabilities” could also refer to fake military exercises that do not meet the expected standards but are labeled as successful.

It is no secret that China’s top military ambition is the annexation of Taiwan, where the PLA is anticipated to fight not just Taiwan but also massive American forces supported by Japan. The top commander, according to EurAsian Times experts, could be referring to both as China’s PLA is plagued by corruption and its weapons are massively hyped by the state-sponsored media.

Meanwhile, Taiwan has authorized its commanders to use lethal military force on intruding Chinese warplanes that cross its aerial and maritime territorial borders. China has been sending jets and drones past the ‘median line’ over the last two years in a bid to challenge and wear down the Taiwanese military.

Classifying the military move as a “first strike,” Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense (MND) has authorized commanders to take appropriate action when they deem that an enemy aircraft or ship poses a threat to its sovereign territory.

Beijing’s regular incursions by its jets, bombers, and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) into Taiwan’s Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) and now the median line send a strong message: China considers Taiwan’s airspace its own.

The People’s Republic of China (PRC) has long said Taiwan is a part of the mainland and dismisses its claim as being an independent country. The aerial incursions are an attempt to normalize the narrative that sending planes into one’s sovereign region is not illegal or an act of aggression.

China Gets Bolder

China’s drills have become bolder and more comprehensive since former US Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taipei in August 2022.

The retaliatory exercises saw several firsts. Live-fire drills were simultaneously held at six locations around the island; the first operational use of the J-20 stealth fighter took place, and missiles were fired over the island to land on its eastern seaboard.

Chinese warships and aircraft carriers are also exercising regularly on Taiwan’s eastern seas, a first since it conveys that the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) can now surround the island.

Taiwan, on its part, has enhanced its defenses, developed a series of drones and loitering munitions, and held extensive exercises to prepare for a clash on a scale never seen.

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Image for Representation

‘First Strike’

Taiwan News quoted a statement from the MND, saying “that if enemy aircraft or vessels intruded into Taiwan’s airspace or waters, then commanders are authorized to take appropriate measures to maintain national defense security when all other non-peaceful means fail.”

It went on to say: “When a country is subjected to armed attacks from external sources, it has the inherent right to use force for self-defense, the ministry said.”

Simply put, Taiwanese air defense commanders can now shoot down Chinese drones or aircraft if they deem it fit. This might set the stage for a conflict since China would be forced to retaliate and test its gray warfare doctrine, in which its military does not fire the first shot but acts in a provocative manner that does not warrant a full-scale military retaliation from an adversary.

China also believes that the August 2022 Pelosi visit to Taiwan and the current confrontation with the Philippines over the Sierra Madre post were orchestrated by the US to engineer a conflict and provoke Beijing into reacting militarily. By doing that, Washington would play into Washington’s hands, lose control over the narrative, and trigger a war. The Communist Party of China (CPC) believes it should dictate the two to guarantee a decisive victory.

This might also be why China primarily uses drones like the BZK-005 to cross the median line, where there is no human loss following a shootdown. This allows China to keep probing Taiwan, assert its territorial claims, and maintain the integrity of its gray zone warfare doctrine.

Also, Taiwan firing a missile at a Chinese drone would reveal its surface-to-air missile (SAM) location and provide an advantage to the Chinese air force.

Taiwan is Jittery

Taiwan’s Minister of National Defense, Chiu Kuo-cheng, said that the definition was updated shortly after Pelosi visited Taiwan when the island saw the unprecedented scale and magnitude of the “live-fire military drills around the nation to express its dissatisfaction.”

Chiu said at a Foreign and National Defense Committee session on March 7 that the Taiwan Strait is “on the brink” of a heightened level of alert. The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has ramped up the frequency of its air and naval operations. PLA activities are now creeping closer to Taiwan and have slowly entered gray areas from the north and south,” Chiu added.