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Chinese Military Conducts Large-Scale Drills Encircling Taiwan Following New President’s Inauguration

Chinese Military Conducts Large-Scale Drills Encircling Taiwan Following New President’s Inauguration

Just days after Taiwan’s new president, Lai Ching-te, took office, the Chinese military has launched extensive drills around Taiwan, according to The Wall Street Journal. These operations, described as a “punishment for separatist acts,” signal Beijing’s discontent with Taiwan’s push for independence.

The Eastern Command of China’s People’s Liberation Army announced the deployment of army, navy, air, and rocket forces around Taiwan. These drills are meant to simulate a blockade, demonstrating the potential consequences of Taiwan’s pro-independence stance. A Chinese military spokesperson confirmed this via the official Xinhua news agency.

On Thursday, Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense reported detecting 49 Chinese military aircraft, 15 navy vessels, and 16 coast-guard vessels in areas surrounding Taiwan. The drills are set to last for two days, creating a formidable display of China’s military capabilities.

During his first military event after taking office, President Lai visited a marine brigade in Taoyuan. He vowed to protect Taiwan’s democracy and freedom amidst external threats, indirectly referencing the Chinese drills. Lai, seen by Beijing as a staunch advocate for Taiwanese independence, faces significant pressure as he navigates these tensions.

Beijing claims Taiwan as part of its territory, despite never having ruled it. While China states a preference for peaceful reunification, it has not ruled out the use of force. This has long been a critical issue in Sino-U.S. relations, with the U.S. legally obligated to aid Taiwan in the event of an attack. Any significant shift in the status quo around Taiwan could escalate into a direct confrontation between the two global powers.

Chieh Chung, a PLA analyst at Taiwan’s National Policy Foundation, indicated that the drills simulate various stages of an armed invasion, including blockade operations. This exercise allows the U.S. and its allies to assess China’s military progress, while Beijing aims to refine its joint operational capabilities.

On Chinese social media, a state broadcaster account highlighted the drills as a preparation for potential blockades, particularly around the strategic port of Kaohsiung. This reflects concerns that China might opt for a gradual strangulation of Taiwan rather than an outright invasion.

Despite the aggressive posture, there are signs China seeks to manage the escalation. The current drills, lasting only two days, are shorter than previous high-profile exercises. For example, Beijing conducted four days of drills and launched ballistic missiles near Taiwan following then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit in August 2022, and three days of drills after a meeting between then-Speaker Kevin McCarthy and Taiwan’s president in 2023.

In his inauguration speech, Lai carefully balanced his stance, pushing back against Beijing’s claims while remaining open to engagement. However, Beijing interpreted his language as a departure from previous Taiwanese leaders, criticizing him for advocating Taiwan’s independence.

Ben Lewis, co-founder of PLATracker, noted the significant scale of the drills, expecting continued Chinese air and naval activity. Amanda Hsiao, an analyst at the International Crisis Group, suggested that China’s forceful approach might backfire, reinforcing Taipei’s firm stance due to deep-seated distrust of Beijing.

The drills underscore the delicate balance of power in the region and the ongoing struggle between Taiwan’s democratic aspirations and China’s territorial ambitions.