Chinese military aircraft made a record 380 trespasses into the island’s “defense zone” during 2020, a spokesperson for the Taiwanese Defense Ministry revealed.
Defense Ministry’s Shih Shun-wen said the Chinese incursions, which were conducted by bombers, jets and surveillance aircraft, happened in the southwest of Taiwan’s air defense identification zone over at least 110 days.
Analysts believe the main objective of these incursions was to conduct “real-life” military scenarios in preparation for actual “combat” against Taiwan.
Shih agrees, adding that the Chinese aircraft aimed “to test our military’s response, to exert pressure on our aerial defense, and to squeeze the aerial space for our activities.”
China has conducted such incursions in Taiwanese airspace in previous years, but not nearly so many. In 2016, for example, it held six long-distance training missions around Taiwan, and 20 in 2017. The surge this year suggests an intensified desire by the Chinese to “antagonize” the Taiwanese.
Beyond airspace violations, China’s navy has also been skirting dangerously close to Taiwan’s waters. Few weeks ago, China deployed its newest aircraft carrier, the Shandong, accompanied by four warships, through the sensitive Taiwan Strait. The Taiwanese Navy had to conduct 1,223 missions to intercept Chinese vessels in 2020. That’s 400 more than the previous year.
China has said such trips are “routine.” But their timing often indicates otherwise. Last year, for example, some incursions came during Taiwan visits by high-level United States officials. Taiwan split from China in 1949 after a civil war saw the defeated nationalist forces driven from the mainland by the brutal Communist regime of Mao Zedong.
Ever since, China has considered Taiwan a “breakaway” province and has vowed to put it under Beijing’s power by any means necessary. But U.S. political support of Taiwan, as well as weapons sales and security assurances, has so far prevented China from using “force” to conquer the island.
The Chinese are incensed by U.S. officials’ visits to Taiwan, and they are demonstrating their ire with these maritime incursions.
Examining both the sea and air trespasses, the Institute for National Defense and Security Research, a military think tank, said tensions between Taiwan and China are “now at their highest since the mid-1990s.”
Taiwan has lived under the “threat of invasion” by mainland China for decades. It still relies on the U.S. to keep from being assimilated into China, but in recent decades, America’s commitment to the cause has come into question.
In 1998, at the urging of Chinese officials, former U.S. President Bill Clinton became the first U.S. president to publicly “oppose” Taiwanese independence. China has been boldly applying more and more pressure ever since—especially in recent times.
The people of Taiwan fear for their future. They feel betrayed. China has dramatically increased its “aggression” toward Taiwan. No one should “fail to see that Taiwan is destined to become a part of mainland China.”
Perhaps the U.S. will make another weapons deal with Taiwan as it did late last year. It might even send more officials on high-level visits.
But it is clear that Beijing has an unwavering “determination” to reclaim Taiwan.