China shows force to intimidate Taiwan

145 Chinese planes in four days entered the Taiwanese air identification zone in intimidating maneuvers intended to weaken the morale of the inhabitants of the island claimed by Beijing and defended by the United States.

Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen at the launch of a new Taiwanese Navy vessel on September 9, 2021.

“If Taiwan were to fall, In four days, 145 Chinese fighter planes took off in the direction of Taiwan, the island whose return Beijing claims under its control, willy-nilly or by force. These Chinese jets, unprecedented in number, entered the Taiwanese aerial identification zone, forcing the island’s aviation, in turn, to take off to be ready, just in case … 

These are not violations of Taiwanese airspace proper, which would be an act of war, but repeated intimidating maneuvers designed to send a clear message to the Taiwanese: you are at our mercy! And to be explicit, the «Global Times», the nationalist newspaper of the Chinese Communist Party, writes: «It is not a question of a guard of honor but of fighting forces. The People’s Liberation Army organized the siege of Taiwan and demonstrated force as it did in Beijing in 1949 ”.

There is obviously an element of psychological warfare in this ranting, both those of the planes and those of the zealous editorial writers of Beijing; but as always with China, we would do well to take these threats seriously, the conquest of Taiwan is the most precious objective for the Chinese number one Xi Jinping, who would make him history as the architect of the completion of the reunification of the former Middle Kingdom.

Several elements in recent weeks mean that Beijing could not fail to retaliate, starting with the creation of AUKUS, this United States-United Kingdom-Australia alliance that has been talked about so much, and which is rightly perceived as directed against China. 

The offensive also aims to weaken the morale of the Taiwanese, in the wake of the departure of the Americans from Afghanistan and the fall of Kabul. Beijing’s message: don’t count on the Americans, they won’t come to your aid …

If Taiwan were to fall …

It is in this context that Tsai Ing-wen, the President of Taiwan, democratically elected by the 23 million inhabitants, published this Tuesday a column on the American site Foreign Affairs, in which she launched an appeal to the world: «if Taiwan was to fall, she wrote, the consequences would be dramatic for regional peace, and for the democratic system. This would show that in the rivalry of values ​​at the global level, authoritarianism would have the upper hand over democracy ”.

US support for Taiwan is not automatic, however. There is no treaty of alliance between the United States and Taiwan because Washington recognizes only one China, that of Beijing, that was reaffirmed last night. This strategic ambiguity explains the very high volatility of this friction zone.

As explained by Jean-Pierre Cabestan, author of a book with the explicit title “China, war or peace tomorrow? «(Gallimard, 2021), the main question is whether Beijing will take the risk of a war for Taiwan, knowing, he writes, that» Taiwan no longer has the means to resist a Chinese armed offensive on its own. Only a massive military engagement by the United States could, in the event of war, save the island ”.