China launches major military exercises around Taiwan – Eurasia Business News

By Anthony Marcus, for Eurasia Business News, May 24, 2024

On the morning of May 23, forces from the Eastern Zone of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Combat Command began large-scale exercises around Taiwan. This was reported by the Ministry of Defense of the People’s Republic of China. Exercise Joint Sword 2024A will run until May 24 and will involve infantry, air, naval and missile forces. The army will be located near the islands of Kinmen, Mazu, Wuquyu and Dongyin, which are under the control of Taiwanese authorities.

In April 2023, China had already conducted military and naval exercises around Taiwan.

A Chinese Defense Ministry press release quoted a command spokesperson as calling the drills a “severe punishment” (from Chinese translates as “punishment serving as a lesson for the future”) for “the actions separatists from supporters of Taiwan independence. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said the measures were taken to protect the country’s national sovereignty and territorial integrity and were a signal to separatist forces and a warning to external forces.

Statements posted on the Republic of China Ministry of Defense page on Taiwan at X (former Twitter) on May 23 assert that there is no desire for conflict, but a desire to ensure the security China. There is no official data on the combat units involved in the exercises. According to open Source data, the Taiwanese Ministry of Defense successfully tracked 31 warships of the PLA Navy and 49 fighters (long-range radar detection and control aircraft Su-30, J-16 and KJ-500).

The exercises began days after the inauguration of the new President of the Republic of China in Taiwan, Lai Qingde, on May 20. The New York Times and other American media characterize Beijing’s actions as a direct reaction to this event. In particular, Chinese authorities may be unhappy with Lai’s inaugural speech, in which he spoke of the Taiwanese “nation” and its reluctance to submit to the PRC.

In response to these statements, Director of the Information Office of the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China, Chen Binhua, said that Lai ignored the feelings of the “majority of islanders.” who are committed to peace and development. But it is worth mentioning that the new leader of Taiwan avoided the word “independence” in his speech and adhered to the term “sovereignty” of the Republic of China (which, however, in his opinion, means that the island n is not controlled by the PRC). Lai also mentioned his willingness to negotiate with Beijing instead of confrontation, but to do so they must, in his words, “respect the choice of the Taiwanese people.”

According to the Center for Election Studies at National Zhengzhi University, which studies Taiwanese residents’ opinions on a possible solution to the island’s status question, in 2023, a third of its residents – 33% – wanted maintain the status quo forever (in 1994, this figure was 9.8%). The number of supporters of an imminent declaration of independence did not change during the studied period: in 1994 it amounted to 3.1%, in 2023 – 3.8%. As for supporters of early reunification with the PRC, their number decreased from 4.4% in 1994 to 1.2% in 2023, while the share of those who are convinced of the need for a gradual transition to a official declaration of independence, having reached a maximum in 2020 (25.5%), fell to 21.5% in 2023. Those in favor of postponing the decision on the status of the island amounted to 27 .9% in 2023 and 38.5% in 1994.

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China demonstrates its assessment of the current political situation in Taiwan. Previously, Beijing constantly maintained such a level of tension, which somewhat decreased after the meeting between Chinese President Xi Jinping and US President Joe Biden in November 2023. At the same time, the new President Lai did not say anything about unusual in his inauguration speech.

It is not excluded that a war for Taiwan could begin at any time, such exercises could be the starting point. But for now, based on the available data, we can conclude that China is sending a political warning. The current exercises are not much different from those that Beijing usually conducts in the region. The consequences of these maneuvers were, for example, in 1996, when China fired missiles at navigation zones adjacent to the port of Kaohsiung, and in 2022, when civil navigation was disrupted.

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The United States is calculating the risks of a possible conflict, which is why it is working to develop unofficial military cooperation with Taiwan. One of the main problems for Washington in terms of Taiwan’s combat capability remains delays in the supply of weapons and the exposure of the US fleet to Chinese anti-ship missiles and other anti-access weapons.

Official relations between the Chinese central government and the island of Taiwan broke down in 1949 after Kuomintang forces led by Chiang Kai-shek, defeated in the civil war against the Chinese Communist Party, found refuge on the island . Commercial and informal contacts between the island and mainland China resumed in the late 1980s. Since the early 1990s, the parties have been in contact through non-governmental organizations – the Beijing Association for the development of cross-Strait relations and the Taipei Cross-Strait Exchange Foundation.

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