Joint military exercises around the island of Taiwan by the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) continued Wednesday with a joint blockade, sea assault and land and air combat trainings, involving the use of advanced weapons including J-20 stealth fighter jets and DF-17 hypersonic missiles after the drills started on Tuesday evening, when U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi landed on the island which seriously violates China’s sovereignty.
Media reports said:
The exercises are unprecedented as the PLA conventional missiles are expected to fly over the island of Taiwan for the first time, the PLA forces will enter area within 12 nautical miles of the island and that the so-called median line will cease to exist, experts said, noting that by surrounding Taiwan entirely, the PLA is completely blockading the island demonstrating the Chinese mainland’s absolute control over the Taiwan question.
The PLA Eastern Theater Command on Wednesday organized its affiliated Navy, Air Force, Rocket Force, Strategic Support Force and Joint Logistic Support Force and conducted realistic combat-oriented joint exercises in the sea and air space to the north, southwest and southeast of the island of Taiwan.
Joint blockade, sea assault, land attack and air combat drills were at the core of the operation, as the exercises tested the troops’ joint operational capabilities, said the press release.
Early warning aircraft and DF-17 hypersonic missiles also joined the exercises, according to a report by China Central Television.
Wednesday’s drills came after the PLA Eastern Theater Command started joint military operations around the island of Taiwan on Tuesday evening.
The PLA will also conduct important military exercises and training activities including live-fire drills in six large maritime areas and their air space surrounding the island of Taiwan, in its north, northeast, east, south, southwest and northwest, from Thursday noon to Sunday noon, the Xinhua News Agency reported on Tuesday evening.
This is the first time the PLA will launch live long-range artillery across the Taiwan Straits, in a move that will demonstrate the PLA’s firm will and strong capability to safeguard national sovereignty and territorial integrity, and thwart secessionist attempts by “Taiwan independence” and external interfering forces, Zhang Junshe, a senior research fellow at the Naval Research Academy of the PLA, told the Global Times on Wednesday.
“If the conventional missiles of the PLA were to be launched from the mainland toward the west of Taiwan and hit targets to its east, this means that the missiles would fly over the island, which is unprecedented,” Chinese mainland military expert Zhang Xuefeng told the Global Times.
He also pointed out that five of the drill zones are set to the east of the so-called median line of the Taiwan Straits, and this means that the existence of the line is denied through the concrete action of the PLA.
Some drill zones are also for the first time set to include areas within 12 nautical miles to the island of Taiwan, but since Taiwan is a part of China, Taiwan’s so-called territorial sea is also China’s territorial sea, Zhang Xuefeng said.
The PLA drills surrounding Taiwan are intended to show that it is capable of blockading the entire island and of resolving the Taiwan question through non-peaceful ways, if the situation becomes irretrievable, observers said.
Threat To Taiwan’s Major Ports And Shipping Lanes
From the designated PLA military drills area, the operations could pose a threat to major ports and shipping lanes in Taiwan, forming a complete blockage. This blockage style could be one of the action plans taken in the future for achieving the reunification by force, Herman Shuai, a retired Taiwan lieutenant general, told the Global Times on Wednesday.
Lock Down Taiwan
Two northern exercise areas designated by the PLA are located off the coast of Keelung Port and Taipei Port, the central exercise area is located off the Taichung Port, the southern exercise area is located off the Kaohsiung Port and the eastern one is located off the Hualien Port. The exercise areas are a “template” for “locking down Taiwan,” Shuai said. “If the PLA exercises take a long time, it will constitute a substantial blockage of Taiwan.”
The PLA’ s drills this time are “comprehensive and highly targeted,” showing the determination of resolving Taiwan question once and for all, Chinese mainland military expert Song Zhongping told the Global Times on Wednesday.
War Plan Rehearsal
The drill should be viewed as a war plan rehearsal, Song said, “In the event of a future military conflict, it is likely that the operational plans currently being rehearsed will be directly translated into combat operations.”
“It means that our battle plan has been made clear to the U.S. and the Taiwan authorities, and we are confident enough to inform them of the consequences of further provocation in this way,” Song said.
Comparing To 1996
Comparing to the Taiwan Straits crisis in 1996, the PLA’s military strength has been greatly enhanced, analysts say.
“In 1996, we didn’t have aircraft carriers, the Type 055 large destroyer, nor hypersonic missiles… Since then our ability to strike, capture and kill has greatly improved and our military options and confidence have increased,” Song said.
Shuai believes that in 1996, Taiwan’s self-defense capabilities were relatively strong, the PLA’s projection capabilities were still insufficient, and the number of amphibious warfare ship was limited. Also the PLA’s Navy Marine Corps as well as Air Force did not have absolute advantages.
At that time, the PLA did not have the capability of completely blocking the island. It only used the method of test-launching missiles to send warnings, but it did not pose any threat to the open seas of Taitung and Hualien, not to mention to U.S. aircraft carriers, Shuai said. “But it is different now. After so many years of rapid development, the PLA, whether it is with the Type 055 large destroyer, aircraft carriers or amphibious landing ship, now fully possesses the strength to blockade the Taiwan Island.”
Not intercepting Pelosi’s flight does not mean a failure of the PLA. On the contrary, the Chinese mainland chose to avoid an incident that could trigger a World War III but instead to take Pelosi’s Taiwan visit as a chance to push forward the progress of reunification, starting with the island-blockading, combat-rehearsing drills that could become routine, analysts said.
To Be Punished
Mainland authorities announced on Wednesday that a number of diehard “Taiwan secessionists”, two funds and multiple companies related to secessionist activities will be punished in accordance with the law.
The Chinese authorities will take punitive measures against the “Taiwan Foundation for Democracy” (TFD) and the “International Cooperation and Development Fund” (ICDF), two organizations that have close ties with diehard secessionists, said Ma Xiaoguang, a spokesperson of the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council.
Enterprises that have donated to the two funds, such as Speedtech Energy, Hyweb Technology, Skyla Corporation, Skyeyes GPS Technology, are to be prohibited from conducting any transactions or cooperation with mainland organizations, enterprises and individuals. The persons responsible for these enterprises are banned from entering the mainland.
Zhang Hua, an associate research fellow at the Institute of Taiwan Studies, the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times on Wednesday that the law on punishing Taiwan secessionists is complete and in place in the mainland.
Taiwan secessionists can be judged according to Criminal Law for splitting the country, destroying the reunification of the motherland and endangering national security, the expert said.
Zhang Wensheng, deputy dean of the Taiwan Research Institute at Xiamen University, told the Global Times on Wednesday that after the reunification, the Chinese mainland can collect evidence against Taiwan secessionists in accordance with criminal law, set up special courts to try them in absentia, and nail all those at large wherever they are.
In addition, the scope of sanctions can be extended to the family members of Taiwan secessionists, which means they will be banned from business exchanges with the mainland and the institutions they work for should also be included in the sanctions list, Zhang said.
Mainland experts said that it cannot be ruled out that more regulations against Taiwan secessionists will be adopted in the future. Considering that the Anti-Secession Law is more of a framework and principle law, the central government could formulate a specific law targeting Taiwan secessionists, similar to the national security law for the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.
Taiwan’s Accusation: A Blockade
The six identified zones surround the island, and occasionally overlap with Taiwanese territorial waters. Some are also very close to key ports and Taiwanese authorities have accused the PLA of in effect conducting a blockade – a very serious accusation.
Taiwan’s ministry of defence said its armed forces are “operating as usual” and monitoring surroundings. “We seek no escalation, but we don’t stand down when it comes to our security and sovereignty,” the ministry said.
Flights and ships were still able to arrive in Taiwan, but had reportedly been advised to find alternate routes.
Preparing For War, Says Taiwan
Taiwan’s military has said it is “preparing for war without seeking war.”
Notices of the exercises identified six areas encircling Taiwan, with warnings for all ships and aircraft to avoid the areas.
A Taiwanese official said about ten Chinese navy ships briefly crossed the median line – the informal line dividing Chinese and Taiwanese territorial waters.
Taiwan also said multiple Chinese air force planes briefly crossed the median line several times on Thursday morning.
Unverified video appears to show live rockets being fired from the China towards Taiwan.
AFP journalists in the border island of Pingtan saw several small projectiles flying into the sky followed by plumes of white smoke and loud booming sounds.
Taiwan’s Maritime and Port Bureau has issued warnings to ships to avoid the areas being used.
The Taiwanese cabinet said the drills would disrupt 18 international routes passing through its flight information region (FIR).
Strengthen Ties, Says China
Earlier today, amid the tension of the live-fire drills around Taiwan, China’s foreign minister, Wang Yi, stressed his country’s efforts to strengthen ties with south-east Asian nations at a meeting with top diplomats from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
The AP reports that in his opening marks, Wang did not mention the situation in Taiwan directly, but instead stressed how China and the ASEAN countries had strengthened cooperation in recent years.
“We have safeguarded the oasis of peace in the face of the turbulence in the international security situation,” he said.
Wang Yi earlier described U.S. House speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan as a “complete farce.”
“The irreversible historical trend of Taiwan’s return to the motherland cannot be changed. Those who offend China will surely be punished,” he said.
He called Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan a “manic, irresponsible and highly irrational” action by the U.S.
Wang said China has made the “greatest diplomatic efforts” to avert crisis, but will never allow its core interests to be hurt.
China’s current and future measures are necessary and timely defensive countermeasures, carefully considered and evaluated, aimed at safeguarding national sovereignty and security, in line with international and domestic law, China’s CCTV cited Wang as saying.
Taiwan’s President Thanks G7
Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen has thanked the Group of Seven (G7) nations for supporting regional peace and stability after the group called on China to resolve tensions in the Taiwan Strait in a peaceful manner.
Tsai, in a Twitter post, wrote:
Taiwan is committed to defending the status quo and our hard-earned democracy.
We’ll work with like-minded partners to maintain a free & open Indo-Pacific.”
Call For Restraint
Foreign ministers from the 10-member bloc have called for “maximum restraint” regarding the Taiwan Strait, warning the situation could lead to “serious confrontation, open conflicts and unpredictable consequences among major powers.”
The bloc, which is currently gathering in Phnom Penh, said in a joint statement that it is “concerned with the international and regional volatility, especially in the recent development in the area adjacent with the ASEAN region, which could destabilize the region and eventually could lead to miscalculation, serious confrontation, open conflicts and unpredictable consequences among major powers.”
“ASEAN calls for maximum restraint, refrain from provocative action,” it added, without mentioning the US or China by name.
The world is in dire need of wisdom and responsibility of all leaders to uphold multilateralism and partnership, cooperation, peaceful-coexistence and healthy competition for our shared goals of peace, stability, security and inclusive and sustainable development,” the ASEAN statement said. It also reiterated “ASEAN member states’ support for their respective One-China Policy”.
USS Ronald Reagan
The US Navy has said the USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier was conducting scheduled operations in the Philippine Sea in the Western Pacific, a 5.7m square kilometer (2.2m square mile) stretch of ocean that includes waters southeast of Taiwan.
“USS Ronald Reagan and her strike group are underway in the Philippine Sea continuing normal, scheduled operations as part of her routine patrol in support of a free and open Indo-Pacific,” a US Navy Seventh Fleet spokesperson said, as reported by Reuters news agency.
Several cyber attacks also struck Taiwan, targeting websites of the defence ministry and briefly taking them offline, the foreign ministry and the presidential office.
On Wednesday unidentified actors also allegedly targeted the ubiquitous 7-11 convenience stores, making all in-store televisions across the island display a message accusing Pelosi of being a “warmonger”.
After Successful Annexation
On Thursday the threats and rhetoric from Chinese officials continued. China’s ambassador to France has said the Taiwanese people would be “re-educated” after any successful annexation by China, in a fiery interview on French television.
The ambassador, Lu Shaye, accused Taiwan’s governing Democratic Progressive party of conducting “extremist” propaganda and turning the Taiwanese people against “reunification” with China.
When asked about previous comments about “re-educating” Taiwan’s population, Lu said: “We will re-educate. I’m sure that …the Taiwanese population will again become favorable of the reunification, and will become patriots again,” he said.
The G7 nations also urged calm, accusing China of “increasing tensions and destabilizing the region”.
“There is no justification to use a visit as pretext for aggressive military activity in the Taiwan Strait,” it said. “We call on the PRC not to unilaterally change the status quo by force in the region, and to resolve cross-Strait differences by peaceful means.”
Led Astray By The U.S.
In response China’s UK embassy accused the G7 of being “led astray by the U.S.”, and told its members to “stop making wrong remarks relating Taiwan, stop interfering in China’s internal affairs, and stop sending wrong signals in any form to secessionist forces seeking ‘Taiwan independence’.”
China Ramps Up Sanctions On Taiwan
The China has suspended imports of several agricultural products from the island of Taiwan.
Taiwan businesspeople who are patriotic and willing to build the motherland and realize the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation are always welcome to develop in the mainland market, experts said.
Starting Wednesday, Chinese customs authorities suspended the entry of citrus fruits including grapefruits, lemons and oranges, two types of fish, chilled largehead hairtail and frozen horse mackerel from the Taiwan region in accordance with the mainland’s regulations and food safety requirements.
Those goods have been repeatedly detected to carry pests or excessive chemicals, said the customs authority.
“The ban on an increasing number of Taiwan fruits and seafood may drag down Taiwan’s GDP by 0.1 percentage point,” Dai Shugeng, a professor of economics at Xiamen University, told the Global Times. He calculated that Taiwan’s GDP will plunge into contraction if the mainland bans all kinds of products, as the mainland’s contribution to the region’s GDP is 21.72 percent.
In order to help create jobs and boost economic growth in the Taiwan region, the mainland has come up with a series of favorable policies in expanding imports from Taiwan since the reform and opening-up, and as a result, Taiwan relies heavily on the mainland market for its agricultural products, Dai said.
According to the Taiwan Council of Agriculture, the mainland has been the largest export market for Taiwan’s agricultural products since 2016. In 2021, the island exported $1.1 billion worth of agriculture products to the mainland, up 10.15 percent from the previous year.
“The mainland’s sanctions on Taiwan will further weigh on the economy that is facing downward pressure, whereas the Tsai authorities will eventually force Taiwan people to pay for her provocative moves,” Wang Jianmin, a senior research fellow with the Institute of Taiwan Economics of the Central University of Finance and Economics, told the Global Times on Wednesday.
The mainland’s import ban would have a tangible impact on local fisheries and processing plants in Taiwan, as seafood products are generally sold at a higher price due to scale demand in the large mainland market, Kuo Chien-hsien, director of the Taiwan Tilapia Alliance, told the Global Times.
A farmer who plants sweet oranges in Yunlin County of Taiwan told the Global Times that the ban would lead to a plunge in orange prices if they cannot sell them to the mainland. “Taiwan people and mainland people are one family. Hope the Tsai government could come up with measures to help we farmers,” he said.
“The sanctions on DPP are just beginning. More sanctions on Taiwan are expected to follow,” Wang said, noting that the central government may come up with more severe punishments, for example, banning Taiwan’s industrial and high-tech products.
Exports of natural sand from the mainland to Taiwan will also be suspended, which is seen as another powerful weapon to add economic and political pressure on the Tsai government over secessionist acts.
It is worth noting that this is the second time the mainland has halted exports of the raw material – widely used in the construction sector – to the region.
Due to environmental protection reasons, the mainland imposed a ban in 2007. However, companies and authorities in Taiwan appealed to the mainland to resume exports of natural sand, as the region’s construction sector as well as the whole economy was impacted due to short supply of the raw material.
Considering economic development and the need to support livelihoods, the central government resumed natural sand exports to Taiwan in March 2008, supplying more than 90 percent of the region’s total natural sand imports, according to statements on the website of Ministry of Commerce.
Wang said the ban on the important material used in the real estate sector may further affect housing prices in Taiwan and thus further lead to inflation.
Recently, Singapore-based DBS Bank cut its estimate of the Taiwan region’s GDP growth rate to 3.4 percent for 2022 from 3.8 percent, citing the impact of rising inflation and monetary policy tightening by the US Federal Reserve, Taiwan-based Central News Agency reported.
Zhang Wensheng, deputy dean of the Taiwan Research Institute at Xiamen University, told the Global Times that the Taiwan authorities are responsible for the pain caused to common Taiwan people, urging the Tsai government to recognize the 1992 Consensus and conduct dialogues to appropriately deal with differences.