U.S. and China enter dangerous territory over Taiwan

By | October 9, 2021

The New York Times reports:

The 25 Chinese fighter jets, bombers and other warplanes flew in menacing formations off the southern end of Taiwan, a show of military might on China’s National Day, Oct. 1. The incursions, dozens upon dozens, continued into the night and the days that followed and surged to the highest numbers ever on Monday, when 56 warplanes tested Taiwan’s beleaguered air defenses.

Taiwan’s jets scrambled to keep up, while the United States warned China that its “provocative military activity” undermined “regional peace and stability.” China did not cower. When a Taiwanese combat air traffic controller radioed one Chinese aircraft, the pilot dismissed the challenge with an obscenity involving the officer’s mother.

As such confrontations intensify, the balance of power around Taiwan is fundamentally shifting, pushing a decades-long impasse over its future into a dangerous new phase.

After holding out against unification demands from China’s communist rulers for more than 70 years, Taiwan is now at the heart of the deepening discord between China and the United States. The island’s fate has the potential to reshape the regional order and even to ignite a military conflagration — intentional or not. [Continue reading…]

The Atlantic Council’s Emma Ashford and Matthew Kroenig discuss the Chinese show of force:

Matthew Kroenig: Have you followed China’s record incursions into Taiwan’s air defense identification zone (ADIZ)?

Emma Ashford: To be honest, it’s hard not to notice the hysteria in Washington about the incursions.

This is mostly just a step up in the same kind of activity the Chinese have been doing for years, but to hear people in Washington talk, you’d think China was about to invade the island tomorrow.

MK: Call me old-fashioned, but I think a genocidal, nuclear-armed power threatening its small democratic neighbor with unprecedented shows of military force is worth a bit of hysteria.

EA: At least you’re being accurate about what these incursions are: They are shows of military force, nothing more. To read the reporting on this, you’d think that China is actually invading Taiwan’s sovereign airspace. Instead, what it is doing is sending planes into the air defense zone, which is basically a buffer zone around a state’s sovereign territory. Taiwan’s ADIZ actually extends over the Chinese mainland, though these incursions are in the part of the ADIZ closer to the island.

But I’d state two caveats: First, ADIZ violation is something the United States and its allies have also done on occasion, when Washington thinks it’s important. Second, and perhaps more importantly, we’ve just learned that the United States has had a special operations unit and a small contingent of Marines deployed to Taiwan for the last year, training the Taiwanese military. When we first learned about the ADIZ violations, they seemed to come out of nowhere. But they may well be a response to this U.S. deployment; the public may not have known about it, but the Chinese government almost certainly did.

MK: China’s threats against Taiwan are not a reaction to the United States; they are an outgrowth of the long-standing desire of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to take control of the island by force if necessary. I agree that an invasion is not likely tomorrow, but China’s recent aggression is still concerning, and it advances several of China’s revisionist goals. At the strategic level, it may help create the impression globally that Taiwan is indefensible and that China already has military dominance over the island and the region. It is useful training for Chinese pilots for a future conflict and helps them probe and plan for Taiwan’s likely air defense response. And it puts a lot of stress on Taiwan’s small air force, as its leaders need to scramble aircraft to intercept the incoming Chinese jets. [Continue reading…]

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