August 16, 2022

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Explainer: Why is China conducting exercises on Taiwan?

Explainer: Why is China conducting exercises on Taiwan?

Beijing (AFP) – China conducts live-fire military exercises In six unilaterally declared regions surrounding Taiwan in response to the visit of US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi To the island that Beijing claims to be its territory.

China warned aircraft and ships to avoid the areas during the exercises, which will continue until Sunday. The exercises appeared to be a rehearsal for a possible blockade and invasion of the island that would almost certainly attract Taiwan’s main backer, the United States, along with America’s allies including Japan and Australia.

China’s two-million-strong military is the largest in the world and has more ships than the US Taiwanese armed forces can compare with numbers, but it has vowed to resist coercive measures to impose Chinese Communist Party rule on the island’s self-governing democracy. .

“It will take some painstaking diplomacy to re-establish a stable equilibrium,” said Chris Templeman, a professor of political science at Stanford University. “I don’t know how this showdown will eventually turn out, but I think we’ll have it for a rocky few weeks.”

Here is a look at the issues surrounding the escalation of tensions.

What is China doing in the seas and sky around Taiwan?

China says it has begun exercises involving warplanes, naval ships and missile strikes in six regions surrounding Taiwan. Those are located within 20 kilometers (12 miles) of the island’s coast, which may be a violation of Taiwan’s territorial waters. Beijing provided few details, but described the exercises as punishment for the United States for allowing Pelosi’s visit, even though President Joe Biden did not have the authority to stop her from traveling to the island.

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The live-fire exercises are a test of the military’s ability to perform tasks under conditions very similar to actual warfare. In this case, it was designed to show the level of force China could unleash against Taiwan if Beijing decided to honor its pledge to take control of the island and punish those who support its independence.

The exercises are believed to be the largest and most threatening to Taiwan since Beijing launched missiles into the waters north and south of the island in 1995 and 1996 in response to a visit by then US President Lee Teng-hui. China regularly sends warplanes into the Taiwan Air Defense Identification Zone, and has at times crossed the middle line of the Taiwan Strait that divides the two sides, but it has stopped short of direct raids or attacks that could lead to a regional conflict.

Why is China taking these measures and what does it hope to achieve?

China has declared with increasing force that Taiwan must be brought under its control, by force if necessary and in defiance of Washington and other supporters of democracy on the island. Pelosi’s visit came at a particularly sensitive time as Chinese President and Armed Forces Commander Xi Jinping prepares to seek a third five-year term as leader of the ruling Communist Party. Xi has not named a successor, and he has amassed enormous powers despite criticism over his handling of the economy, due in part to his hard-line approach to COVID-19 and a marked decline in relations with the West.

Xi said Taiwan’s fate cannot remain turbulent indefinitely, and US military officials have said China may seek a military solution within the next few years. China’s constitution incorporates Taiwan into its national territory and its 2005 anti-secession law threatens invasion if the prospects for peaceful reunification are “completely exhausted,” which is seen to apply in the event of a formal declaration of independence or foreign intervention.

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China insists that Taiwan accept its claim that the island is part of China, and its only legitimate government is in Beijing. In the face of Chinese military threats and a determined campaign to isolate Taiwan diplomatically, islanders overwhelmingly support the status quo of de facto independence. These sentiments have been further reinforced by Beijing’s harsh crackdown on political rights and freedom of expression in Hong Kong, which China has long touted as a model for its future rule of Taiwan.

What was the reaction of Taiwan and the United States?

Taiwan put its army on alert and conducted civil defense exercises. While its air force, navy, and armed forces of 165,000 are a small fraction of China’s size, it has been augmented with high-tech weaponry and early warning systems designed to make a Chinese invasion as difficult as possible. The Russian invasion of Ukraine, tacitly supported by China, was a wake-up call for Taipei, which is now looking to overhaul its training and tactics.

Several other US naval and military assets are currently deployed in areas near Taiwan, including the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan and its battle group. Washington has comprehensively rejected China’s claims that the Taiwan Strait is sovereign Chinese territory and reserves the right to sail through Chinese outposts in the South China Sea, despite Chinese protests.

What are the risks and how long do tensions persist?

It remains unclear whether China will seek to keep tensions at a high level even after the end of the current round of exercises. Spokespeople from the Departments of State and Defense, the Cabinet Office of Taiwan Affairs, and other departments pledged that President Tsai Ing-wen’s administration and the US government would pay for Pelosi’s visit, but did not give details on how and when that goal would be achieved. .

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After the visit, White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan told NPR that “the possibility of some kind of accident is real,” given the scale of the Chinese exercises.

We believe that what China is doing here is not responsible. “We believe it unnecessarily escalates tensions,” Sullivan said.

Templeman, a professor of political science at Stanford University, said the temporary long-term approach between Washington and Beijing is “seriously challenged” by both sides.

Washington has backed away from Beijing with high-profile visits, loosening restrictions on official communication and arms sales.

“Washington as a whole has become less concerned about offending China and less respectful of Beijing’s demands regarding Taiwan,” Templeman said.