Taiwan: planes, ships… China is no longer loosening its grip around the island

Taiwan United States this new visit which does not pass in

Tensions build as air incursions increase. In Taiwan, this gigantic neighbor continues to annoy the ruling political class, which urges China to put an end to its “provocative actions”. According to the Taiwanese Ministry of Defense, 55 Chinese warplanes have flown over Taiwan in the past 24 hours. An announcement which comes less than a day after around a hundred devices were detected around the island, leading the island to accuse China of “military harassment” which could “easily” lead to a “rise in tensions and a deterioration of regional security.

“Between September 17 and 18 in the morning, the Ministry of Defense detected a total of 103 Chinese planes, which constitutes a record in a recent (period) and poses serious security problems on both sides of the Taiwan Strait and in the region,” the ministry said in a statement.

According to Taipei, which continues to claim its independence from China, half of the 55 warplanes detected in the last 24 hours have crossed the median line of the Taiwan Strait, which separates the island from the China, and entered the air defense identification zone (ADIZ) of the southwest and southeast of the island state. Accusations brushed aside by Chinese government spokesperson Mao Ning, who insists that Taiwan belongs to China. And he agrees that “the so-called median line does not exist”.

Relations deteriorated since 2016

These incursions come even though Beijing has been increasing its shows of force against Taiwan for several months. So much so that the Middle Kingdom no longer hides its ambitions for reunification, not ruling out resorting to “force if necessary”. Statements which raise fears of the outbreak of a conflict between the two Indo-Pacific neighbors.

It must be said that since the election in 2016 of pro-independence president Tsai Ing-wen, relations with China have continued to worsen. A resurgence of tensions which is partly explained by the rapprochement of the independent island with the United States, carried out by the 66-year-old leader since her accession to power. A companionship far from being to the taste of Beijing which considers that in the name of the principle of “one China”, Taiwan is not supposed to maintain diplomatic relations. Especially since Beijing’s China was recognized by the United States in 1979.

Military intimidation and trade sanctions

Thus, in response to the meeting between Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen and the Speaker of the American House of Representatives Kevin McCarthy in California, Beijing conducted military exercises last April simulating an encirclement of the island. A reaction considered, however, more moderate than that which followed the visit to Taipei in August 2022 of Nancy Pelosi, then President of the House of Representatives in the American Congress. But in both cases, these movements are above all a way for the Chinese government to raise the threat of an invasion in the event of Taiwan becoming too close to the United States.

Chinese military aircraft in Taiwan’s air defense zone

© / afp.com/John SAEKI

In addition, military intimidation is compounded by trade sanctions. In reaction to the same visit by Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan, China suspended the import of certain fruits and fish, as well as the export of sand to the island. Raw material necessary for the manufacture of concrete and asphalt, and for which Taipei depends mainly on China.

More recently, Washington’s authorization of arms sales to Taiwan aroused the ire of Beijing, which announced on Friday September 15 that it had placed American defense industry giants Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman under sanctions. “Despite China’s strong opposition, the US government is determined to provide weapons to Taipei, which seriously undermines China’s sovereignty and security interests,” the spokesperson for the Chinese government said. Chinese diplomacy, Mao Ning. All that remains is that by multiplying threats and provocations, China and Taiwan are dancing on the edge of a volcano.