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Chinese Military Exercises Cause Tensions with Taiwan

Sharwan D’Souza

15th September 2020

A military exercise at Taichung, Taiwan, last month (Source: Ann Wang/Reuters)

Despite the Indo-pacific region continuously suffering due to the pandemic, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has been as active as ever in the far east. According to reports from Financial Times, China’s military, on the 13th of August said that they conducted military exercises near Taiwan to “safeguard national sovereignty” in the face of rising US diplomatic exchanges with Taipei, underlining mounting tensions in the region. These comments were made after the US health secretary, Alex Azar went for an official to visit Taiwan.

Back in early February, the PLA Eastern Theatre Command began sending in fighter jets and bombers around Taiwan. Due to this, and China stepping up its military activity around the island, the Taiwanese premiere Su Tseng-Chang said in late June that Beijing had been “disturbing” the island, according to reports from CNBC. Colonel Zhang Chunhui, the spokesman of the PLA’s Eastern Theatre Command, mentioned in a statement that certain large countries have been incessantly making negative moves regarding the Taiwan issue and sending wrong signals to the ‘Taiwan independence’ forces, and are seriously threatening peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait, according to reports from Financial Times. Beijing claims that democratic Taiwan falls under China’s rule, and has never refrained from using force to bring the two together, according to reports from CNBC.

The relationship between China and Taiwan was unfriendly in decades after Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen was elected back in 2016. This led to Beijing cutting off communications with Taipei. Tsai won a second term this January with a record number of votes.

According to CNBC, analysts say that Taipei’s move to distance itself from Beijing would not sit well with Beijing. In a tweet, Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs asked Beijing to stop threatening Taiwan's military but to instead focus on the ongoing pandemic. Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) stated that the incitement by PLA warships and planes which have repeatedly entered the vicinity of the Taiwan strait in recent years to pursue unification through military force, massively undermine the status quo Taiwan Strait and intensify regional tensions, according to reports from The Diplomat.

Chang Guan-Chung, Taiwan’s Vice defence minister, told in the parliament that if the Chinese Communists were to attempt to make any military “adventure” leading to regional conflict while the pandemic was spreading worldwide, they would be deplored by the world. He added that regardless of what happens, they are ready and have prepared the best for this, according to reports from The Diplomat.

Zhao Lijian, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman said, “Taiwan is a small island. If it wants to fight against mainland China, it is like an ant trying to move a tree”.

(Sources: The Diplomat, CNBC, Financial Times)

Edited by Pratheek S

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