Chinese jets violate the Taiwanese airspace

Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen exchanges gifts with U.S. Democrat Sen Ed Markey of Massachusetts during a meeting at the Presidential Office in Taipei, Taiwan on Monday. [AP Photos]

Ever since Russia launched a special military operation in Ukraine in February 2022, there have been discussions on various forums about whether China would also take similar steps to enforce its sovereignty over Taiwan.

 China’s eagerness to launch a Russia-like military operation in Taiwan was evident on August 02, 2022, when 20 of its jets violated the Taiwanese airspace as a mark of protest against the visit of US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi who landed in Taipei on August 02, 2022.

The Chinese Defence Ministry spokesperson stated that China will carry out targeted military operations to counter the visit of Nancy Pelosi.

Only time will tell whether the intrusion of Chinese jets is just another case of airspace violation or a precursor to China’s military operation in Taiwan, but the visit of US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi may be termed as the culmination of the verbal duel that has been going on between the US and China over the last few days.   

In July, China announced that it conducted military drills near Taiwan amid President Joe Biden’s comments that the U.S. would defend the island if Beijing invaded.

Col Shi Yi, a spokesperson for the Eastern Theatre Command of the People’s Liberation Army, said in a statement that the drills were a “solemn warning to the recent US-Taiwan collusion activities.”

The statement didn’t specify exactly where the drills were held, but it did say that the command performed “multi-service joint combat readiness patrols” and “actual combat drills” in the sea and airspace around Taiwan.

Biden said his administration would be willing to use force to defend Taiwan and that the United States stands with other nations to make sure China cannot use force in Taiwan.

During his first trip to Asia as president, Biden said the United States would get involved militarily should China attack Taiwan, seeming to break with a long-held policy of not making clear how the United States might react.

But while addressing the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado on July 20, CIA chief Bill Burns stated that Russia’s experience in Ukraine is affecting China’s calculations over Taiwan on how and when it may decide to invade.

He added that China was “unsettled” after looking at the war in Europe and Beijing is likely to have observed that a quick decisive victory will not be possible with an underwhelming force.

Burns added that the lessons China is drawing include the need to amass an overwhelming force, control the information space and bolster its economy against sanctions.

In the same forum, Qin Gang, the Chinese Ambassador to US said that by increasing close political and military ties with Taiwan, US is blurring out ‘One China policy’.

Responding to a question on CIA chief William Burns’ comment that Russia’s experience in Ukraine is making China rethink a potential invasion of Taiwan, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin urged the US side to face its responsibilities as the one that created the crisis and work actively toward resolving the issue.

He added that the Ukraine issue and the Taiwan question are fundamentally different and urged the US side to abide by the one-China principle and not to interfere in China’s internal affairs. 

Later, in an interview with The Atlantic on July 25, US NSA Jake Sullivan expressed hope that a Russian defeat in Ukraine could save Taiwan from being annexed by China. According to him, part of the American objective in Ukraine is to show that strength and resilience could effectively deter others elsewhere. Sullivan, however, added that China might be learning the wrong lessons from the Russian invasion by better preparing for a potential contingency involving Taiwan than getting deterred.

Refuting American claims of a possible Chinese invasion of Taiwan, China’s Deputy Ambassador to the UN, Geng Shuang, during a meeting on Ukraine at the 15-member UN Security Council, had accused the US of double standards for challenging Beijing’s sovereignty over Taiwan while emphasizing the principle of sovereignty for Ukraine after Russia’s military action in Ukraine.

A spokesperson for the US Mission to the UN, in response, dismissed China’s comment as “an attempt to distract and deflect blame from the reality” and added that Russia’s aggression against Ukraine is unacceptable under any circumstances.

Meanwhile, in a recently held economic dialogue between the US and Japan, both countries affirmed that the coercive and retaliatory economic practices of China force countries into choices that compromise their security, their intellectual property and their economic independence, and referred Ukraine conflict a serious challenge to the international order that is being exploited by China by way of using economic influence unfairly and opaquely to realize strategic interests and to modify the existing international order.