Twenty-five Chinese air force aircrafts entered Taiwan’s air defence identification zone (ADIZ) on Monday, April 12, marking the largest Chinese incursion on Taiwan to date.
The latest Chinese mission involved 14 J-16 and four J-10 fighters, as well as four H-6K bombers, which can carry nuclear weapons, two anti-submarine aircraft and an early warning aircraft, Taiwan’s defence ministry said.
Taiwan, which is currently claimed by the People’s Republic of China, has reported repeated missions by China’s air force over the last few months, particularly in the southwestern part of its air defence zone near the Taiwan-controlled Pratas Islands. According to the South China Morning Post, there have been aerial incursions on a daily basis this past month, and it is estimated that they have occurred on at least 86 days this year.
Since Taiwan’s formation, Taiwan has been China’s most sensitive territorial issue and has adamantly expressed it is a geopolitical boundary not to be crossed by foreign countries – most countries have no formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan. Hence, China has in the past justified incursion missions as a means to protect the country’s sovereignty and deal with possible collusion between Taipei and Washington, and it is suspected that the latest mission is in response to the recent United States State Department’s issuance of new guidelines that will enable U.S. officials to meet more freely with Taiwanese officials.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Sunday the U.S. is concerned about China’s aggressive actions against Taiwan and warned it would be a “serious mistake” for anyone to try to change the status quo in the western Pacific by force. Under the Taiwan Relations Act, the U.S. has a commitment to ensure the island “has the ability to defend itself”, and the U.S. acts as a peace and security buffer in the Western Pacific.
Historically, relations between China and Taiwan started improving in the 1980s. Similar to the situation in Hong Kong, China proposed “one country, two systems”, under which Taiwan would be given significant autonomy on the condition of accepting Chinese reunification. However, the offer was rejected. Over the next few decades, tensions remained but were stable, until recently China’s foreign policy has become more aggressive and assertive, while the U.S. has been strengthening its ties with Taiwan and continuously reassuring Taipei of U.S. support. As a result, U.S.-China relations have strained.
President Tsai Ing-wen of Taiwan has largely maintained the status quo in the complex Taiwan-China relationship, while also pushing for an individual Taiwanese national identity separate from China. Both China and Taiwan have modernised and strengthened their military and combat readiness in response to each other, and the rising threat of a Chinese invasion by force is not off the table. However, an invasion would prompt Taiwanese allies, such as the United States and Japan, to also become involved.
The best strategy to prevent war, according to a new Council on Foreign Relations Special Report, is to change and clarify the U.S. strategy to preserve the political and economic autonomy of Taiwan, its free society, and U.S.-allied deterrence, without triggering a Chinese attack on Taiwan. More specifically, the report urges the Biden Administration to affirm it is not trying to change Taiwan’s status and to work with its allies to prepare new plans against a potential Chinese military move with a more visible plan. In this way, we can settle peace between Taiwan and China, and prevent rising tensions with U.S.-China relations through diplomatic means rather than through a destructive war.
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