China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Air Force and Navy have sent dozens of aircraft and vessels to the Taiwan Strait after the United States and the Canadian navies sailed two warships through the region last Saturday (September 9).
In the 24 hours leading up to 6 am on Tuesday Taiwan time, at least 22 aircraft and 20 vessels including the Shandong aircraft carrier were deployed by the Eastern Theater Command to the areas around Taiwan, according to the self-governing island’s Ministry of National Defense.
Among them, 13 aircraft entered Taiwan’s southwestern Air Defence Identification Zone (ADIZ). The number of Chinese vessels deployed was the largest ever according to data going back to August of last year, news reports said.
Taiwan said its armed forces have monitored the situation and tasked combat air patrol (CAP) aircraft, navy vessels and land-based missile systems to respond to China’s provocation.
The PLA’s move came after the USS Ralph Johnson and the Royal Canadian Navy Halifax-class frigate HMCS Ottawa sailed through the Taiwan Strait on September 9. The US Navy said it wants to ensure freedom of navigation in the region.
The Voice of the Strait, a Fujian-based radio broadcaster established by the PLA, claimed on Tuesday that the US has recently increased arms sales and military assistance to Taiwan because it wants to replicate its “proxy war” in Ukraine in the Taiwan Strait.
“The US wants to use the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) as its proxy-agent to strengthen its control in Taiwan and try to start a war when the time is right,” the broadcast said, referring to Taiwan’s ruling party. “It wants to use the cruel confrontation between Chinese people across the Strait to reduce mainland China’s strength and suppress China’s development.”
The article said the US “misjudged” the situation while Beijing has the wisdom and ability to stop Washington’s supposed war plan.
US President Joe Biden told news media while visiting Vietnam on Sunday that China’s slowing economy means it less likely China will invade Taiwan in the near term.
“I don’t think this is going to cause China to invade Taiwan. As a matter of fact, the opposite, it probably doesn’t have the same capacity that it had before,” Biden said.
He said the Chinese government is now in economic crisis with high youth unemployment and property market problems.
On the sidelines of the G20 summit in New Delhi, India, between September 10 and 11, Biden had brief conversations with Chinese Premier Li Qiang.
Biden said the US does not wish to hurt the Chinese economy’s growth. Li said that China’s development is an opportunity, not a challenge, for the US and that the two sides should step up exchanges.
“All sorts of comments predicting the collapse of China’s economy keep resurfacing every now and then,” Mao Ning, a spokesperson of the Chinese Foreign Ministry, said on Tuesday. “But China’s economy has outlived them all. What has collapsed is such rhetoric, not China’s economy.”
Mao said the Chinese economy’s strong resilience and fundamentals will remain unchanged. She said China’s development will bring more opportunities to its Asian neighbors and the rest of the world.
On July 28, the Biden administration announced it will provide Taiwan with foreign military financing (FMF) assistance worth up to US$345 million. On August 23, the administration approved a new round of arms sales to Taiwan.
On August 29, it notified the US Congress of its plan to provide Taiwan with a first $80 million tranche of FMF assistance.
Wang Wenbin, a spokesperson of China’s foreign ministry, said on August 31 that the US must stop creating factors that could heighten tensions in the Taiwan Strait, and stop supporting the separatist attempts to seek “Taiwan independence” by force.
On September 6, Cankaoxiaoxi (Reference News), a newspaper published by China’s state-run Xinhua News Agency, cited an editorial published by Chinatimes.com saying that Biden’s recent decision to provide FMF assistance to Taiwan will fuel conflict in the Taiwan Strait. Chinatimes.com is considered a pro-Beijing news website published in Taiwan.
The Cankaoxiaoxi article said that because the US is about to enter its presidential elections season there will be more and more anti-China opinions in the country. It said this is why Biden has to push forward the Fiscal 2023 National Defense Authorization Act he signed into law last December.
At the same time, the article said Biden also wants to avoid provoking China so he has actually minimized FMF assistance to Taiwan. Meanwhile, the article said the DPP stirred the pot by exaggerating the effects of US assistance, using different excuses to buy weapons and praising its own effort in preparing for war.
The article said the DPP’s “wrong mindset” and decisions have become the biggest risks to Taiwan’s safety.
Follow Jeff Pao on Twitter at @jeffpao3