China Sends Record Number of Aircraft Over Taiwan

This past weekend, China sent a record number of military aircraft over Taiwan. According to CNN, between Friday, October 1st and Saturday, October 2nd, 77 Chinese warplanes were detected in Taiwan’s defense zone. This record number of incursions falls on China’s National Day which celebrates 72 years since the founding of the People’s Republic of China. This number of military aircraft sightings is somewhat alarming as “Chinese President Xi Jinping has refused to rule out military force to capture Taiwan if necessary.”

Chieh Chung, a security analyst with the Taipei-based National Policy Foundation says “It is very worrying…This puts a lot more pressure on our military, and the more they reach into our airspace, the greater the risk of some kind of accident.” The United States stands with Taiwan, as a spokesman for the U.S. State Department says China’s actions are “destabilizing, risks miscalculations, and undermines regional peace and stability.” So far, Beijing has made no comments. 

China and Taiwan have a long and complex history. During the Chinese civil war of the 1940s, remnants of the Kuomintang government fled to Taiwan when they lost the war. While China continued to assert its dominance from afar, the newly-established Taiwan forged its democratic process, held its elections, and established a system of government separate from Beijing. In the 1980s, China began to ease its stringent rhetoric regarding leadership over Taiwan, proposing a “one country, two systems” approach that would keep Taiwan under China’s rule but give it some political autonomy. Even though Taiwan rejected this proposal, tensions lessened in the coming decades.

Taiwan has held sovereignty for almost 70 years and has never been governed by the Chinese Communist Party. In this regard, China’s belief that it reserves power over Taiwan is unfounded. To fully allow Taiwan the autonomy it deserves, the international community should allow diplomatic recognition by officially designating it a country. The United States fails in this recognition, and only 14 of the 193 countries in the UN currently acknowledge Taiwan as fully autonomous, despite the island nation having its “own constitution, democratically elected leaders, and about 300,000 active troops in its armed forces.” This change in political status could shift the relationship between the Chinese and Taiwanese governments, perhaps allowing for better diplomatic relations in the long run. Clear political boundaries may also prevent further Chinese aggression toward Taiwan in front of an international community. It would make more sense for other countries to condemn China in the event of military demonstrations that communicate belligerent attitudes.

While this aircraft demonstration may be nothing beyond a military exercise, the context of China and Taiwan’s tenuous relationship does create grounds for worry about what it could lead to in the future. If China continues to flex its military power to Taiwan in this threatening manner, it is only a matter of time before conflict could break out as a result. The international community needs to take a firmer stance against China’s aggressive and confrontational behavior towards Taiwan.