Taiwan warned that China will ratchet up the military pressure it has been applying in recent years, a view that comes as Beijing sailed a record number of warships near the island.
(Bloomberg) — Taiwan warned that China will ratchet up the military pressure it has been applying in recent years, a view that comes as Beijing sailed a record number of warships near the island.
China sent 20 naval vessels into waters near Taiwan in the 24 hours leading up to 6 a.m. Tuesday, the Defense Ministry in Taipei said in a post on X, the website formerly known as Twitter. The figure is the most in data going back to August last year.
The vessels include the Shandong aircraft carrier, which Taiwan said earlier was traveling southeast of the island.
Speaking Tuesday on the sidelines of a press briefing in Taipei to release a Defense Ministry strategy report, Major General Huang Wen-chi indicated Taiwan could expect to see similar moves by the People’s Liberation Army in the future.
“The PLA pressure will continue and we think the pressure tomorrow will be larger than today,” he said. “As of now, we haven’t seen any goodwill from the Chinese Communist Party.”
China has tried to squeeze Taiwan since President Tsai Ing-wen took office in 2016, mostly because she rejects its claim over the democracy of 23 million people. That campaign takes many forms, including military intimidation, diplomatic isolation and disruptions to trade. Last month, China suspended imports of Taiwan mangoes, saying pests were found in shipments.
See: War With China Is the Threat That Defines Taiwan’s Next Election
The suspension came days after Beijing announced naval and air force drills as a “stern warning” to what it called Taiwan independence forces. It had reacted angrily to the transit of Taiwan Vice President Lai Ching-te through the US, condemning his remarks about Taiwan’s status in an interview with Bloomberg Businessweek.
Taiwan’s mangoes are mainly grown in the island’s south, where the ruling Democratic Progressive Party has strong support and came before a presidential election in January next year. Lai is leading in polls for that race, running on a promise to continue many of Tsai’s China policies.
Taiwan’s status is one of the main sources of tension between China and the US, the island’s top military backer. China has held major military drills around the island twice over the past year after Tsai met separately with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and his predecessor, Nancy Pelosi.
The US has criticized China for holding such exercises, calling them “provocative.” President Joe Biden has repeatedly said the US will defend Taiwan from an attack, though he said during a visit to Vietnam on Sunday that China’s economic downturn could diminish any inclination by Beijing to invade.
When asked about Biden’s latest remarks, Huang said that while China’s economy has slowed, its defense spending has grown significantly in recent years.
“Therefore, Taiwan’s military has to make the best preparations,” he said. “We can’t drop our guard against the CCP just because of other factors or comments of foreign politicians.”
The US has been reinforcing its ties with nations such as India, Australia and the Philippines to counter China’s influence and potentially help in any conflict. Bloomberg News reported last week that India is studying possible responses to a potential Chinese invasion of Taiwan following discreet inquiries from the US on how the South Asian nation could contribute in the event of a war.
See: Biden Doubts China Able to Invade Taiwan Amid Economic Woes
In a separate report to lawmakers last month seen by Bloomberg News, Taiwan’s Defense Ministry warned that China’s ruling Communist Party may “push forward the process of solving the Taiwan issue” during President Xi Jinping’s third term, which runs to 2027.
General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has said that while China may want to be ready for an invasion by that year, its military isn’t prepared yet.
Taiwan’s Defense Ministry pointed to the fact the party wrote the “one country, two systems” model into its constitution in October last year. Beijing uses that approach to govern Hong Kong, and has said it can be applied to the island that sits some 100 miles off the Chinese coast. It also cited a speech Xi gave in March when he said that “reunification” was the will of the whole country.
Among other points made by the Taiwan Defense Ministry in the annual report to lawmakers:
- The lineup of Beijing’s top military body, the Central Military Commission, shows it prioritizes people with experience in handling Taiwan matters and combat
- By 2035, the Chinese air force wants to extend its fighting range to the “second island chain” — a roughly north-south line in the Pacific that runs through Guam, where the US has military bases
- The PLA’s rocket force wants to establish precision strike capabilities in an area that includes Japan, Taiwan and the Philippines by 2027. Xi has recently purged the command that manages the country’s nuclear arsenal, without explanation
–With assistance from Kari Lindberg.
(Updates with Major General Huang Wen-chi’s comments on Chinese economy.)
More stories like this are available on bloomberg.com
©2023 Bloomberg L.P.