Chinese air intrusions over Taiwan challenges US military might in Indo-Pacific

Published on Oct 05, 2021 03:33 PM IST

If China is allowed to capture fortress Taiwan uncontested, Senkaku Islands and so called South Tibet are next in line.

The ramping up of aerial intrusions by China over Taiwan’s air defence identification zone is a message to US allies in the region.
The ramping up of aerial intrusions by China over Taiwan’s air defence identification zone is a message to US allies in the region.
By, Hindustan Times, New Delhi

The Chinese provocative actions against Taiwan this month to demonstrate its military clout before an exercising armada of US-UK-Japan warships in the vicinity are seen part of psychological operations by Beijing to challenge the West over self-declared control of Taipei.

The Chinese ramped up aerial incursions over Taiwan’s air defence identification zone (ADIZ) with 149 sorties by PLAAF fighters and nuclear capable bombers in the first four days of October to apparently demonstrate it military capacity to take over Taiwan by force. The aerial intrusions came at a time when aircraft carriers USS Ronald Reagan, USS Carl Vinson, HMS Elizabeth along with Japanese, Australian, New Zealand and Canadian ships are exercising between Taiwan and the coast of Okinawa.

While the region appears to be on the edge, top diplomats see the provocative maneuvers by China against Taiwan directed at the domestic audience rather than serious war threat to Taipei. With China facing a slew of domestic challenges, including a biggest real estate company drowning in debt to power crunch, inflation, and slowdown in manufacturing sector, the military response is aimed at diverting attention of the public and fire up nationalistic sentiments.

Beijing watchers believe that the aim of the recent aerial intrusions is to wear down the Taiwanese by conveying the signal that no one will come to support of Taipei if China decides to militarily take over the strategic islands. The ramping up of aerial intrusions - 27 per cent increase from the number of flights in the previous month - is also a message to US allies in the region particularly Japan and Australia, who are key partners in Quad grouping.

While Taiwan has not responded to the Chinese aerial aggression, time is really running out for the principal players in the South China Sea. The rising military clout of PLA, particularly in the sea dimension, is posing a threat to the US domination of Indo-Pacific as well as forcing Japan to move towards shedding of its pacificist doctrine. The window for China to seize Taiwan is also limited by the Japanese desire to match Beijing militarily. If China outmaneuvers US on Taiwan, then the credibility of the latter will take a further hit after the withdrawal disaster in Afghanistan.

With state sovereignty, territorial integrity, and national reunification as part of declared Chinese core interests in 2011, it is logical to assume that Chinese Communist Party (CCP) objectives after Taiwan are Senkaku Islands and so-called South Tibet land dispute with India. These are credible threats as the Chinese position on the Indian borders has not moved an inch after the definition of the 1959 line by former premier Zhou En-Lai. Breaching of Taiwan red line by China will open the Pandora’s box. Is Quad prepared for such eventuality?

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    Author of Indian Mujahideen: The Enemy Within (2011, Hachette) and Himalayan Face-off: Chinese Assertion and Indian Riposte (2014, Hachette). Awarded K Subrahmanyam Prize for Strategic Studies in 2015 by Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (MP-IDSA) and the 2011 Ben Gurion Prize by Israel.

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